Reminiscing in Shangrila

About 20 years ago a very good friend of ours (Sylvie) obtained a concession for some land just south of Puerto Vallarta, near Las Animas. It was right on the beach, with a primary home that was more like a tree house, and a few other thatched roof homes that were used when friends visited. Power lines ran close by so there was electricity, water was obtained by running a hose up a nearby creek, and the home itself was completely open to the elements; no doors (except for the bathroom) and no windows. You could only get there by boat, or walk in for about an hour along a coastal path from Boca de Tomatlán.

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Sylvie at the beach
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Some of the regular crew at Shangrila, about 1998

Sylvie and her daughter Morgan, along with Flo and I and the kids (Ali and Jeff, aged about 4 and 9 at the time), spent many weekends and holidays at Shangrila, as Sylvie called it, living in the jungle and living a little like Robinson Crusoe.

Sylvie had the place for 3-4 years and over this time other friends of ours built homes close by, who also had kids, and so it was kid’s heaven. We enjoyed swimming, snorkeling, horseback riding on the beach, and with our ski boat the “French Kiss”, skiing and boarding. As adults we had a good time as well, often partying late into the night once the kids went to bed. If we ran out of rum or tequila we’d flag down one of the passing panga water taxis and they’d get pick up a bottle at Boca, put it on our tab, and then as they went by again, without stopping, they’d throw the bottle to us and we’d have to swim out to get it!

Flo, Ali, Sylvie & Morgan at Shangri-la

Recently we went back to visit the place. It is now a small boutique hotel called Casitas Maraika, meaning more people as hotel guests and visitors who came by boat and drop anchor out front. It seems to have become a new “hot spot” along this coast, a little more upscale and hippyish than Las Animas next door.

We also returned in 2010 on the anniversary of Sylvie’s passing, with Morgan, Ali and their good friend Camilla, to release flowers in front of Shangrila. At the time the Mexican actor Diego Luna was staying at the hotel, although we didn’t know it at the time, but when the girls released the flowers he thought that three fans had discovered where he was and were releasing the flowers into the water for him!

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Alison, Camilla and Morgan at Shangrila in 2010
Jeff with his girlfriend Laura, and Flo, at what once was Shangrila, in 2016

Because of the lack of accessibility by road, and that most of the land on this coast cannot be sold, development, fortunately has been curbed. But it is still quite different from when we had most of it to ourselves. And some of our fondest memories of Sylvie will be of the time we shared with her and Morgan at Shangrila.

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