If I had a Favorite Place

Daddy Oct 13, 2014 · 4-min read
If I had a Favorite Place

I could see it extending just above the treetops, looking out across at it from a mountain temple. The stone tower stood in solitude on a hill unaccompanied by such crowds as were around me then. There was something unsettling about it and how the trees surrounding it were so tightly-knit that it seemed like the tower was rising from the sea. My goal became to go there, up close, no matter what I'd have to climb through to get there.

Not knowing exactly how to get there, I struggled to tell the man driving a three-wheeled cart where to go until at last, the gravel road ended. I set out on foot up a ruddy dirt road and came to the lot of a large, vacated building in some way connected with the reservoir. By a stroke of luck, I managed to spot a quivering trail not made by more than dozen feet and followed it over an embankment. The path led through the forest, which somehow had a healthy bed of grass beneath the dense canopy above, and I continued along trying to discern it from the routes of dried streams and other indentions. Soon the hill became steep enough on both sides that the trail was no longer needed to navigate, but I still wasn't sure where it led or if it was just a goat path back to a small farm.



It was as if it were yesterday: the late evening had dispersed much of the day’s heat, and the seamless hum of innumerable insects was all one could think about. The capacity of their vibrations created a soundscape, or rather a soundtrack, to something that was as unreal and dramatized as finding oneself in a movie. The trees ahead blocked upward sight as the base of the stone tower suddenly came into view along with several carved posts capped with animal figures swaying like buoys in the tall grass. The sun had broken through at an angle to magnify the sight in a glow of yellow, yet all remained in a stillness amidst that eerie droning.

The tower only grew as I approached, and there was nothing to suggest that it had any recent visitors. Ropes of vines hanging down the front of it made it feel, in some ways, as if discovering Angkor Wat or a Mayan temple, though perhaps on a much humbler scale.



Several of the platforms of its upper tiers had collapsed into a piles around it, inscriptions surpassed the extent of my Chinese, and a headless soldier stood propped against a tree. The pagoda had been mysterious enough at a distance but was only more so standing there in front of it.

Returning with a friend who could call for help if need be, I braved to make my way up onto the tower’s first tier by climbing a group of stairs in the miniaturized space. Getting to the second tier required exiting a hole and scuttling around the exterior ledge a quarter of the way around before ducking back into an entryway. There was a second set of stairs leading to the third tier, and I repeated this until making my way to the fourth, though as the tower narrowed, it only became more precarious. However, I can only imagine how incredible it would have been to have gone to the sixth or seventh level when it was first built.



I’ve since considered this to be my favorite place (if I had one), and though it doesn’t have the beauty to rival the peaks of the Himalayas or the craftsmanship of the temples of Kyoto, it was something that I’d discovered myself. Anyone could see it from the adjacent mountain as I had, but few had come this close much less been brave enough to climb up inside it. Visiting one last time before my year in Fuqing ended, the hillside forest beside it had been stripped bare by loggers, and the soldier lay flat on his back. The impression, however, of my initial experience there was strong enough to return the denseness of the trees and all of the feelings that accompanied the air of that first evening. It’s my favorite place not because of anything I can convey through pictures but because it’s something that is tied within.


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Technophobe gracing tech companies in the Global 500, Fortune 500, a Kickstarter unicorn, and several little dinky places. Bike touring is my sanity factory.