Whenever we visit cities, among the first things we notice is how populous and labyrinthine they tend to be. These qualities often open up many opportunities for us to capture compelling slices of life.

The mountain town of Larung Gar in Sichuan, China is no exception, as we can see in this interesting travel photography series by Paris-based Florian Delalee. If you enjoy exploring and photographing unusual destinations, the sights he captured will surely intrigue you.

Larung Gar is just one of the fascinating places that Florian has visited around Asia since he moved to Shanghai for work. Aside from travel photography, he also dabbles in landscape and portrait photography to break the monotony of his desk job. A quick look at his portfolio tells me about his passion for capturing the vibe of both city life and the countryside charms. But what caught my interest in his Larung Gar series are his descriptions of the place and how he captured the densely packed population in the area.

Kingdom of heaven

Florian first noted that Larung Gar is specifically located 4000 meters (over 13,000 feet) above sea level in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He also described the town as “as close as possible to the kingdom of heaven.” I find that detail alone enough to whet any intrepid traveler’s appetite for adventure.

He also mentioned that around 40,000 monks and nuns call Larung Gar home. A quick research told me that this is likely to be a generous estimate. Still, his photos effectively show us how there can be easily around 4,000 – 5,000 (or up to 10,000) residents living in the hillside town. The slopes are filled with boxy houses from corner to corner, and I like how Florian demonstrated the sheer scale of it all from different viewpoints.

Eyes on the patterns

Every city has its own visual identity and notable landmarks. For Larung Gar, it’s the dizzying pattern formed by the houses surrounding the temples and larger buildings scattered around the town. It’s a little difficult to tell how big the houses are, but we can see that they are mostly uniformly rectangular in shape, and roughly the same size. They’re all painted in the same brick-red hue, while the windows are outlined in white.

These details come together to create a striking effect, like giant Lego bricks stacked and packed tightly against the sweeping slopes.

I especially love how Florian was able to show us how everything looks more dramatic at night. With the golden glow of the street lights and the windows, it’s when Larung Gar reveals a big city vibe in place of a quaint mountain mood. I just wish he was able to photograph more of these night scenes.

According to recent reports, the town was recently closed to foreign visitors. So, it turns out that Florian’s photos from his visit last year is a rare glimpse at daily life in this extraordinary part of the world. No one knows if and when it will ever open its doors to travelers again, so looks like we’ll have to be content with beautiful snaps like these for now!

Make sure to check out Florian Delalee’s Behance portfolio to see more of his work.

All photos by Florian Delalee. Used with Creative Commons permission.