Trinidad. Erik Trinidad.

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This blog entry about the events of Sunday, November 07, 2004 was originally posted on November 14, 2004.

DAY 386:  The centerpiece of Udaipur is the famous Jag Niwas, more commonly known as the Lake Palace, the one-time summer residence of the royal family when simply being crammed in a boat on Lake Pichhola wasn’t good enough.  “I think I want a palace built in the middle of the lake,” the maharaja probably said.  And so it was made.  “It’s good to be the maharaja.”

In 1983, the Lake Palace was the home of double-agent Octopussy in the James Bond film of the same name, a secret lair where she lived and trained an all-female army of acrobatic death vixens.  Coincidentally, it was at this palace that James Bond conveniently showed up one night, made out and slept with Octopussy within minutes of their introduction.

“Is it really that easy?” one guy at the movie screening the night before asked the girl at the other table.

“No, no,” she replied in some European accent.

“It’s because he’s James Bond,” I interjected.  “And he’s staying at a nicer place.”

“Ah, that’s it,” he said.  “I’m just a poor man.”  (He was staying at a guesthouse cheaper than the haveli I was staying in.)

Nowadays the Lake Palace is an exclusive luxury hotel on Conde Nast Traveler‘s Gold List, with rooms costing a small fortune per night.  The only way to be allowed on the island is to be a guest rich enough for its luxuriously high rates, or make reservations to have a meal there (also at luxuriously high rates). 

For kicks, the night before I called up the Lake Palace to try and get a reservation for the lunch buffet that day (slightly cheaper than dinner).  The man on the phone turned me down with the excuse that they were booked solid for lunch because a big group was coming in for a private function. 

Oh well, I thought.  I wouldn’t have spent the money anyway; lunch was Rs. 1000 — roughly the cost of four nights accommodations — and while Let’s Go said it was worth the splurge, I felt I shouldn’t since I was coming down to the end of my funds.  But that didn’t stop me from trying to get to the Lake Palace anyway.


INSPIRED BY ROGER MOORE AS MR. BOND in Octopussy, I gave myself the mission of the day to try and get on the premises without having to pay anything.  I saw in the movie screening the night before that Agent 007 snuck onto the island by floating in a one-man submarine in the shape of a crocodile.  Damn, I sort of forgot to pack that.  I could have tried walking there since the lake was dried up enough that it was possible if you went the back way, but I had heard from other backpackers who tried without any luck.  They were simply turned away from official-looking guardian henchmen of the hotel management.  The Lake Palace, for the budget traveler, was every bit impenetrable as it was in the movie.

I was going to go to the official city docks to try to charm my way in, Bond-style, but before doing so I decided to give the restaurant a buzz just for kicks.  “I called yesterday trying to get a reservation and I know you are full because of a big group.  I was just wondering if there were any cancellations or anything, an opening for one person,” I inquired.

“You can come,” said the man on the phone.  It was a different voice than the one I heard the night before.

“Really?  They said it was full for lunch.”

“No, you can make a reservation.  When will you come?”

“Uh, can I come now?”

“Yes.”

Wow, that was easy.  I gave my name, then put on my best clothes (the pants without a hole in it, a button down shirt with worn out collar hidden by propping it upward, and my beat up hiking boots) and walked over to the docks.  I regretted that I made the reservation; sure I’d get to see the Lake Palace, but I’d also have to pay for it, which wasn’t in my mission directives or good financial sense; four nights accommodations for the price of one meal — and I wasn’t even hungry because I just had breakfast.


THE LUXURIOUS LAKE PALACE EXPERIENCE STARTED on the mainland with a fancy stone gateway worthy of a Bond film leading to the dock.  Women in royal-looking sarees greeted guests as royal-looking ushers escorted new clients with parasols.  I walked over to the desk.  “Hi, I have a reservation for lunch.”

“Name?”

“Trinidad.  Erik Trinidad,” I said.  It came out pretty organically given the secret mission at hand. 

He led me to the end of the pier where I boarded the small boat with some members of that big group going to the island for a private function.  They were Americans from the Miami Ski Club, a group of well-off retirees that went around the world for luxury adventures, most of them (but not exclusively) ski trips. 

“So where exactly do you go skiing in Miami?” I asked.

“Anywhere but,” answered the older guy with a sort of cockiness and attitude of Howard Stern.  His name was Brian and he was soon making fun of my tattered shoes.  “You’re gonna need to get new shoes before they let you in,” he mocked me.  And so began the Bond-esque introductory conversations 007 has with men of wealth and power in a place like that, although we were all in casual clothes and not tuxedos and fancy dresses.

“So what brings you here?” one woman asked.  I told them of my Global Trip and my cover as a freelance journalist from New York.  “Which way are you going?” she asked.

“The way that you earn a day.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know how when you cross the International Date Line and you lose a day but then you gain it back?” I said.  “I’m only gaining a day.”  Yes, I found the way to cheat the rotation of the earth.

“So who have you written for?”

“The New York Post, Globe Trekker...  You know the Travelers’ Tales books out of San Francisco?  I’m in one of theirs.  I was also a weekly travel columnist at Lycos…”

“What’s your name, so we can look for it?” one woman asked excitedly.

“Erik Trinidad.”

“That’s a great name.” 

We docked on the island after a two-minute cruise on the narrow channel and were escorted by the ushers with parasols again, all the way to the main entrance where some other tourists were posing for photosThe palace gave off a first impression that lived up to the hype, a true luxury palace with fine marble and exquisite decor, all placed with an obvious anal-retention.  In lieu of Octopussy’s voluptuous female assassins was fine furniture in the parlor, a bar serving up drinks (shaken, not stirred) and a sunny open courtyard in the middle of the lobby. 

The lunch buffet was served in another big open courtyard full of fountains and artificial, but very scenic ponds.  I went there and asked a waiter where I was to sit for my Party of One.  He led me back to the lobby because the fountain courtyard (picture above) was for the private function only and I was to dine in a separate restaurant.  “Please wait here.”

While waiting to be seated, Bea, one of the older women of the Miami Ski Club that I met on the boat, saw me loitering around, secretly taking photos with my little spy camera.  “Will you join us?” she asked.

“Is that okay?”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” she replied.  “I’m sure plenty of people would want to meet you.”

“Sure if it’s no problem.”  She went to ask her tour leader Mr. Singh if it was okay to “invite a journalist from New York to join [them],” and he obliged with no hesitation. 

The all-you-can-eat buffet was included on their tour package and for them it was just another meal for the affluent group, although I heard it was a pleasant change from the meals they’d been having on the train.  The Miami Ski Club was just one group of four traveling together on the Palace On Wheels train, a luxury holiday train converted from former cars for maharajas.  Anyway, I joined my fellow Americans at a table in a covered but airy room away from the hot Indian sun.

“This is Mr. Trinidad,” Bea introduced me to the table.  Mr. Trinidad, ha.  I love how the formal introductions keep the James Bond vibe going.  “He’s a journalist from New York on a round-the-world trip.”

After filling my plate with colorful (but toned-down-for-tourists) dishes of fish, chicken, mutton and vegetables in delectable Indian curries and sauces cooked up by professional gourmet chefs, I sat down at the table with the older and wealthier crowd — people who probably would have been in the background of a James Bond scene anyway.  They gave me the head of the table as their guest, where I chat mostly with Bea and Brian.  Also at the table were other members of Miami’s democratic elite, including an old seventy-something reserved man named Stanley who was some sort of a real estate mogul in New York City — who probably wasn’t doing too well in the market since he got up and left after eating and stiffed Brian with his beer tab.

I put on the charm and entertained my hosts with tales of travel and the perils of freelance journalism, although it seemed they were most impressed simply with my name. 

“With a name like Trinidad, you’re bound to get noticed more than…” Brian started.

“...the John Smiths,” I completed.

“Is that a trade name?” Bea wondered.

“Everyone thinks that,” I told them.  True, most people I’d met, including the Austrians I met in Bikaner, thought it was just a cool sounding fake pen name.  “It’s a Scandinavian-spelled first name, an Italian middle name and a Latin last name.”  Hey, I guess I do have the name of an International Man of Mystery.  Suddenly “James Bond” sounds kind of plain. 

First servings turned to seconds and then dessert.  I was fairly content especially since I got the whole thing for free.  I celebrated and splurged on a pricey 250 rupee beer with Brian.  Mission accomplished, Miss Money Penny.

“Thirty’s a good age to start over,” Brian told me as we touched on my plans for my return back into normal metro New York society.  “It helps if you find a rich woman.”

“Like you’ve been looking for?” Bea joked.

“I know!  C’mon, they don’t have to be rich, just equal,” he joked, apparently pretty well off.  “Or just meet me halfway!”

Their tour leader Mr. Singh was signaling their time to go to the City Palace and lunchtime was over.  Brian got up and threw me a lei made of saffron-flowers for the coming Diwali celebration.  “If you can’t get laid, take this,” he called out.

The most surprising thing about meeting the Miami Ski Club was that, despite all my references to James Bond and Octopussy in this entry thus far, they had no idea that the movie ever took place in Udaipur — probably because they were on a package tour with no need for a guidebook that would have clearly spelled it out for them.  On the way back to the mainland, they were amazed when I told them about Udaipur’s significance in Hollywood cinema.  “You have to put that in your story,” one woman excitedly said.

“Yeah, sure.”


MY NEXT DESTINATION WAS MUMBAI and with most of India off for the Diwali holiday, most of the trains were booked solid already.  The alternative was to take a 17-hour overnight bus.  Much to my dismay, the sleeper buses from Udaipur were canceled indefinitely and the only way would be via a regular bus, although the travel agents boasted they were “the best buses, Volvos.  Swedish buses” with reclining seats and air conditioning.

“Do they play movies?” I asked.  They laughed.

I arrived at the private bus office that afternoon and met the only three other travelers getting on that bus from Udaipur, three foreign backpackers:  Allie and Kaz, a young couple from England, and Ander, a young Korean woman in between jobs who just got laid off from a company in Delhi and was traveling through India before starting a new job in Beijing.  While waiting for the bus to arrive we were entertained by a street boy who impressed us with an impromptu magic show. 

When the bus came, we knew we had all been had; the “best bus” wasn’t really the best; in fact it had no air-conditioning and the seats, although reclinable, weren’t the most comfortable in the world.  Above all, the bus apparently didn’t have any shocks because the entire ride violently vibrated like we were driving over logs, even though outside the window I saw the road was smoothly paved.  The bus made unexpected rest stops that lasted longer than expected, dragging out the total ride time.  The worst part of it, at least for Kaz, was that, waiting around and being white and blonde surrounded by Indian men, she was constantly gawked at with obvious stares.  (Then again, with her blonde hair in a braided pigtails, she did look like a young Gweneth Paltrow from Sliding Doors, with a more curvaceous figure.)

The violently bumpy ride through the night got us “shaken, not stirred,” and it really put a damper on my subtle yet inviting, James-Bond-inspired advances to make out with Ander sitting next to me.  She never reciprocated like they do in a Bond movie though and I left it alone — as the girl said the night before, it’s not that easy — besides, somehow she managed to actually sleep through the rowdy ride.  In the meantime, there were plenty of saffron leis around for Diwali.






Next entry: My New Beat

Previous entry: Remembering Bond




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Comments for “Trinidad. Erik Trinidad.”

  • first!  awesome stories erik

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  12:57 PM


  • too getting lei’ed ... Cheer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  01:06 PM


  • =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  01:33 PM


  • Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?! And at Octopussy’s secret layer no less!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  01:57 PM


  • I want to live in that palace.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  03:04 PM


  • mmmmm, curvaceous Gweneth Paltrow….

    *raising fists over head* 
    Curse you Trinidad!  No Photos!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  03:50 PM


  • “It’s good to be….the maharaja”.  Erik I don’t know if you’ve been gone too long to know about that show on E! or if that was intentional.  It’s a dumb show but picturing it with the maharaja, and maybe some personal assitants and bling, made me laugh…

    Got the Mt Everest postcard - thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  04:32 PM


  • ooo, free dinner in Octopussy’s palace, not bad…
    the best scam I ever did was showing up in Rome for Easter 2000 (Jubilee year) with no place to stay after trying for two weeks, and getting a booked up hostel to find me a room somewhere else by convincing them they had lost my reservation…  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  04:59 PM


  • curried octopussy would be lovely…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  08:19 PM


  • i mean octopus… grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  08:19 PM


  • free fancy lunch? Someone’s looking out for you.

    Posted by Alyson  on  11/15  at  06:01 AM


  • Erik Trinidad… International Man of Mystery. I like that. You should get it printed on business cards.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  09:24 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


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