Remembering Bond


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, November 06, 2004 was originally posted on November 11, 2004.

DAY 385:  Udaipur, the former capital of the Mewar Kingdom, named after its founder Maharaja Udai Singh II, gets plenty of tourism, as it is arguably Rajasthan’s most romantic destination with its scenic palaces — palaces perched on mountaintops overlooking palaces that look like they are floating in the middle of a lake.  Even for a “palaced out” guy like me, the “City of Sunrise” was a great feast for the eyes, a place Let’s Go says has “somehow managed to retain a number of fairy-tale qualities” — it’s no wonder it served as the perfect exotic locale for Roger Moore as James Bond in 1983’s Octopussy, a proud fact that the city of Udaipur proudly clings onto.  I remember seeing the movie 21 years before, but upon my arrival, nothing looked familiar or was coming back to me.  (Then again Octopussy wasn’t on my repertoire of 80s movies I’d seen over and over and over again, like Ghostbusters.)

Being a tourist draw, I had been warned of Udaipur’s aggressive touts and rickshaw men that came with the territory.  My overnight bus brought me to the private bus stop and from there I hopped on an auto-rickshaw to the Hotel Gangaur Palace, another reasonably-priced ($5) heritage hotel converted from an old haveli or mansion.  The rickshaw man took me right there without trying to lead me to another place for a commission, although the touts by the hotel tried to get me into another. “Just come and see.  If you like it I’m happy.  If you don’t like, I’m happy.”

“Yes, I know because you get commission either way.”  I moved on and checked into the Gangaur Palace, where I was expected since I’d called ahead with a reservation.

The rooftop of my haveli hotel had a pleasant restaurant overlooking Lake Pichhola, which was pretty dried up in the heat of the dry season.  During monsoon season, the lake I’m told, is especially beautiful and sparkling.  In early November the water was at drought levels, so much that one could almost walk to the “secluded” Lake Palace in the middle.

After settling in I took to the palace closer to my neighborhood, the City Palace, Rajasthan’s largest, constructed in the 16th century.  Nowadays it is part residence of the current maharaja (with no power), part luxury hotel, and part museum, which is how most people saw its interior.  I expected it to be just another City Palace, but I was quite impressed; it was the best of the city palaces I’d seen thus far. 

After walking through the main gate and the palace door and the starting point of the museum, I joined the other tourists following the arrows that pointed out the designated route through the maze of corridors and stairwells of the palace.  They led us to the different rooms, many restored and maintained with their original bright colors.  Stained glass windows and mirrors made some rooms look like disco clubs, while others had the classic royal Indian feel, sporting mosaics of royal peacocks.  There was a great balance between interior views and views of the outside, with the windows and verandas looking out, and the several courtyards on the palace grounds

Along the way were many signs with catchy phrases promoting some big shrine to Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu deity (i.e. “You Do Best!  He Does Rest!!  Meet Ganesha at Zenana Mahal”) and it really got me curious.  That’s gotta be some incredible shrine to Ganesh.  In the end, it turned out to be nothing but a gift shop at the end of the tour.

THE STREETS OF UDAIPUR WERE ALIVE and in preparation mode for the coming of Diwali, the festival of lights.  Tinsel, garland and saffron flowers were hung all around and I could definitely feel the festive mood in the air.  Festive vibe yes, James Bond vibe, no; still, nothing was looking familiar to me.  (Then again I was only nine when Octopussy was in theaters.)

I strolled over to the Jagdish Mandir, Maharaja Jagat Singh’s 17th-century temple erected in honor of Jagannath, an avatar of Lord Vishnu.  There a “guide” showed me around and pointed out everything despite me telling him I was fine and that I could wonder on my own.  He shoed me the reliefs on the tower wall depicting scenes of the Kama Sutra (so he said) and the four corner shrines around the temple for other deities, including Kali.  He tipped me on some information, that I should come back that evening at 6:30 to see the prayer ceremony, followed by music and dance.

I continued my stroll around the city, beyond the clock tower, stopping by the book stores to browse for more reading material and entertaining the street boys with feigned interest in paintings and artwork — Udaipur is famous for it’s traditional painting school.  I walked along the lake shore and saw the Jag Mandir palace from afar, the other impressive structure situated on another island in the middle of Lake Picchola.  Over the centuries it served as a refuge from war for the maharaja, as well as a refuge for British women and children during the Mutiny of 1857.  Nowadays during the lake’s prime time, boat cruises would have been available to cruise around for exploration, but the water levels were too low to do such a thing.  From what I was seeing, the only boat traffic on the lake was from the small boats that simply cruised along a narrow area between the city docks and the Lake Palace, bringing clients back and forth from the exclusive five-star hotel which the Lake Palace had been converted into.

THE OTHER MAJOR PALACE IN THE AREA that was actually open to the general public was the Monsoon Palace, the third royal palace for the royal family, this one 5 km. away from town on top of a mountain of the Aravelli Range, constructed at such a height to avoid the flood waters of the monsoon season.  An auto-rickshaw guy took me there, beyond the gate of the national park it was a part of, and then up the bumpy zig-zag to the palace on the peak just in time for sunset (picture above).  From the vantage point of the palace, I saw the sun glow its red, pink and orange hues over the mountains for a group of camera-toting spectators, both foreign and Indian.  Inside the palace was another museum, this one focusing on the ecology of the region instead of the same old maharaja history thing.

BACK AT THE JAGDISH MANDIR TEMPLE, I went to see the evening prayer session.  Women in saris and men in plain clothes came in to pray in the ceremony led by a Hindu Brahmin with a really big turban.  The prayer was followed by singing and clapping with the beating of drums and the ringing of bells, but I didn’t stay too long since I was starting to feel my presence was getting a bit obtrusive.  (I was the only tourist there at the time.) 

It was about seven o’clock anyway, the time of evening when almost all of the restaurants in town did the obligatory nightly screening of Octopussy (the restaurant of my hotel played it along with another movie) for the ever-changing but continual audience of tourists.  Over a mutton curry and some masala chai, I watched the 1983 James Bond film with a small group of others and everything finally came back to me.  The Lake Palace was the secret lair of the double agent known as Octopussy; the Monsoon Palace was the headquarters of the evil bad guy Kamal Khan and his Indian henchman Gobinda.  There was an auto-rickshaw chase down the road where my hotel was, and even a big rickshaw stunt in front of the Jagdish Mandir temple.  It was fun to see the movie after walking around its set all day long. 

As long as Udaipur continues to proudly boast its former glory as the setting of Octopussy, I’m sure people will come to its palaces and to its nightly VCD screenings at least once — no matter how tired the restaurant waiters may be sick of having seen it over seven thousand times.

Next entry: Trinidad. Erik Trinidad.

Previous entry: Holy Rats and Camel Humps

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Comments for “Remembering Bond”

  • Entries coming slowly but surely…

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

  • Sweet!!!!

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

  • Erik - you want some e-books?

    Posted by Liz  on  11/11  at  06:22 AM

  • the jealousy continues >

    I am meeting with a John and Melissa you met up with in Japan. - Showing them a great beijing duck place down the street from my university.

    Come back to CHINA! I want to hang out some more.

    Are you still thinking about Texas next year?



    Posted by e;lisa  on  11/11  at  08:17 AM

  • The same can be said on an Island called PiPi in Thailand where they play “The Beach” over & over again to cater to the tourists since the film was filmed there. If you get a chance you should still go though; great views, beautiful beaches and nice snorkling.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  01:47 PM

  • I love Octopussy. My favourite Q gadget is in that movie… The Aligator submarine!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  01:58 PM

  • Tower pic…nice….so nice and detailed…..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:09 PM

  • The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap)....Deep in the heart of Texas…. (peeween herman rocks)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:22 PM

  • LIZ: Has started asking you for $3.95 a month?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  03:18 PM

  • TdOt - no… not yet.  I’m an anonymous downloader though (didn’t sign up) so maybe that’s why

    Posted by Liz  on  11/11  at  03:55 PM

  • hi Erik.
    happy travels.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/12  at  08:33 AM

  • E;LISA:  Hey, that’s great… see what happens when Blogs meet?  Texas, for sure…  Haven’t been there yet…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  07:47 AM

  • SIMF2P:  Don’t worry; I think the hole in my leg will have healed by that time.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  07:52 AM

  • TD0T:  Wow, that’s for the unexpected donation!  That rocks!  Your new mailing address has been noted…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  07:54 AM

  • SEBASTIAN:  Hey hey, let’s get dangerous….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  08:01 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM MAHABALIPURAM!  (Try and say that three times fast!)  Actually, I’m just here as part of a day trip from Chennai on the southeast coast of India, where I am based for the next couple of days. 

    Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while.  I was busy with Diwali celebrations (exploding firecrackers and practicing the Hindu ceremonial puja) right up until the time I hopped on a 26-hour train ride to Chennai to meet up with my friend CHRISSY from New York who just started working at an NGO here.

    I promise to get something up (hopefully more than one entry) within the next 24 hours… 

    The adventure continues…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  08:08 AM

  • Just read the news… NO, not O.D.B.!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  08:15 AM

  • And O.D.B. seemed to have such a healthy lifestyle too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  04:07 PM

  • including the food from McDonald’s in philly where he was caught after escaping rehab….

    shame on you, when you step to da old dirty bastard….brooklyn zoo….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  04:15 PM

  • Old Dead Bastard

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/13  at  04:31 PM

  • I love sunset pictures - always and forever. Sunrises are nice too… smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  05:05 AM

  • Wow, the connection is slow here in Chennai…  Bare with me folks…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/14  at  06:43 AM

  • Totally recognized some Octopussy sites. Very cool. It’s nice to know that at least some movies are filmed at least partially on location (like IJATTOD, Gladitor, Octo). Have there been others on your trip that I’m not remembering?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  09:07 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 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.

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Next entry:
Trinidad. Erik Trinidad.

Previous entry:
Holy Rats and Camel Humps


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