When I set off on my travels round the world one thing I wasn’t expecting was to end up visiting not one, but two Bond Villain Lairs! You know how they always look so exotic and remote?
Earlier this week news went viral of Sir Roger Moore’s passing. With this in mind I thought now would be a good time to write about the Bond Villain lair’s I had visited. However, after my usual so and so is dead text to my parents, Mum kindly pointed out he died two years ago. I’m not sure what was more weird – my Mum knowing this, or that it appeared on the BBC news on my News app and then trended on social media. Ah well. RIP Roger.
Khan’s Palace, Octopussy (1983)
I haven’t watched many of the older James Bond films, but Octopussy is one for some odd reason I have seen about five times (maybe it was shown every Easter along with The Great Escape and The Sound of Music?). Despite the number of times I’ve seen it, all I remember is Roger Moore travelling across the lake in a plastic mechanical crocodile. Weird. So when we arrived in Udaipur in Rajasthan, India little did I remember that the city was one of the main settings for Octopussy. It wasn’t until we were walking along the lake and seeing signs outside cafes advertising that they show Octopussy on a daily basis that the penny dropped.
The Monsoon Palace built in 1884 sits on the top of a hill overlooking Udaipur, more commonly known to Bond fans as Khan’s Palace. The choice for one of our evening activities was take the cable car up a mountain the other side of Udaipur for stunning sunset views of the city OR take a car up to the slightly dilapidated semi-abandoned Bond Villain lair. Ummmm, let me think about that for a minute…
The once opulent nine storey mansion is now owned by the government and overlooks the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary which was established in 1987. It seems to be a very popular setting for tourists, locals and wanna be music video stars. It’s quite run down and there isn’t much access to the inside. There is a small exhibition on the history that you can visit, otherwise it’s just a nice setting to hangout for the sunset and imagine 007 inching round the top of the building, climbing through open windows to make his way down to the basement to spy on the baddies conversations.
Silva’s Island, Skyfall (2012)
Nagasaki in Japan was the second city, after Hiroshima to be attacked by an American atomic bomb. My interest in dark tourism brought me here after visiting Hiroshima, the first city where the atomic bomb was dropped. However, the area is also home to the island Gunkanjima, also known as Battleship Island. It was once one of the most densely populated islands in the world, housing over 5,200 coal miners on it’s small 16 acre land. Open from 1887 through to 1974 the island has haunting stories about the forced labour of Korean and Chinese POWs during the second world war resulting in thousands of deaths. Then the coal reserves ran out and the mine closed in 1974 with the workers being forced off the island. The island has sat in ruins since it’s closure.
The island reopened in 2009 but it can only be visited on an organised tour. Health and safety on the island only allows you to walk around the outskirts of part of the island as the buildings are structurally unsafe and left to disrepair but the boat does circle round the island to get a full 360 view, albeit having to have a good zoom on your camera. If only I could have been one of those professional journalists or photographers granted full access. Instead I was shuffled onto the island with 100 other tourists, majority all seeming to be Japanese but luckily the headset guide does have an explanation in English, and then shuffled off and back to the mainland to collect the next 100 visitors.
Despite watching Skyfall several times also, I don’t remember Gunkanjima, I guess I’m not an avid Bond fan… but it does come in handy with it being a famous movie location now as I can reference it when I try to explain to friends where one of my favourite parts of Japan was. It works!