Sue Johnston’s Shangri-La Review: Orient Express
SUE JOHNSTON’S SHANGRI LA: Monday 15th February, BBC1, 10.35pm ALERT ME
Sue Johnston, better known to us as Barbara from The Royle Family, recently went on a quest to discover the mystical and elusive land of Shangri La.
To those not in the loop, Shangri La is a fictional place said to be like heaven on Earth. Sue had dreamed of this utopia since she was 16 and now she finally had the chance to set off to find it.
Inspired from the book Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Sue travelled from South West China to the peaceful mountains of Tibet. It was a journey that would not only showcase the most breathtaking scenery but would change her in more ways than she imagined.
Recreating the journey of explorer Joseph Rock, Sue visited monasteries and local communities absorbing the wealth of peace and tranquility that throws our own lifestyles into harsh light. She was searching for a particular mountain that was discovered by Rock and featured prominently in the novel, but I suspect she found more than she bargained for along the way; her own Shangri La.
Watching Sue experience China so late in her life was a bit like watching your nan go off on an adventure. It was odd to see her going half way around the world looking for a place that doesn’t really exist but was inspiring nonetheless.
The scenery is beautiful and China looks the way it does in your imagination (well in mine, at least); tranquil and small contrasted with imposing mountains and lush green valleys. It’s worth it to watch this show in HD to see the immense Tiger Leaping gorge and the crystal serenity of Lugu Lake in all their glory. The icing on the cake is the elusive snow capped mountain that Sue seeks, it’s figure takes up so much of the skyline it hardly seems possible.
Sue tends to be overly emotional but you can hardly blame her; alone in a strange country on a life changing journey, who wouldn’t get a bit teary eyed? The film is really about Sue and her search for happiness more than it is about China. It’s an interesting expedition but lacks a cultural exploration that might have explained why she’s so in love with the East.