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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Octopussy, a short story from India.

James Bond Octopussy Monsoon Palace

Octopussy, a short story from India.

In March 2004 I was 25 years old. With not a care in the world, no particular place to be and zero commitments to speak of, I packed up a rucksack and headed off to India. The future lay sparkling and I thought it would last forever.

——

‘‘Hey, you want Bond?’’ asked the goofy man, shoving a paper menu into my hand. ‘‘Yes! shaky shake but not stirring’’ he continued, directing his questionable charms to Holly and Lindsay. It was the third time in as many minutes that we’d been accosted by a restaurant tout championing delicious home-cooked dishes, ice-cold beers and around the clock screenings of the classic James Bond movie Octopussy. In fact, just about every restaurant in town offered up exactly the same deal.

The thirteenth instalment of the 007 film series had been mostly shot on location in Udaipur back in 1983. Director John Glen had made great use of the city’s misty and atmospheric Lake Pichola, while there were also stunning exterior shots of The Monsoon Palace.

The beautiful city of Udaipur

Octopussy, a short story from India.

Photo courtesy of Geri. 

It’s no surprise Hollywood came calling. I could see for myself what a beautiful city Udaipur was, while the locals were clearly proud of their place in film history. ‘‘Try our Q salad!’’ said another young hustler through a grin of rotting teeth as we sauntered down a street packed with restaurants. Elsewhere, a further hopeful recommended his ‘‘Moneypenny Masala’’, which he described as ‘‘super sexy spicy!’’

Octopussy, a short story from India.

Octopussy James Bond Udaipur India

Eventually, we settled on a rooftop restaurant with gorgeous views of The Monsoon Palace, an ethereal 19th century royal household hovering atop the rocky Aravalli Hills. First we ordered two pitchers of Kingfisher, then a round of creamy chicken curries. As we ate, Octopussy played out before us on a huge projector screen.

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a James Bond fan. Still, it was quite the experience watching the film, especially the palace scenes. After all, we had the same breathtaking views unfolding directly behind us from the rooftop. Spellbound, I found myself shifting my gaze from the screen… to the mountain… and back to the screen again. Roger Moore James Bond Octopussy.

‘‘I hear the island is exclusively for women’’ said Vijay, Bond’s trusty Indian ally. ‘‘Sexual discrimination, I will definitely have to pay a visit’’, quipped Bond. A ripple of laughter cascaded around the restaurant which, I have to admit, was infectious. And the more Kingfisher we consumed, the funnier it all became.

By the time the end credits had begun to roll we’d made a unanimous group decision. Fuelled by the heady combination of alcohol, Bondmania and the considerable magnetism of Udaipur itself, we decided to head out to the palace and see the old joint for ourselves.

Roger Moore James Bond Octopussy

“Sexual discrimination?”

Hailing a rusty old tuk-tuk, we clunked through the city streets before arriving at an open road. This, the driver informed us, was the gateway to our steep ascent. It wasn’t long before we were puffing slowly upwards, our vehicle making heavy work of the climb. I couldn’t help but wonder how Bond would’ve fared in the movie if he’d had to escape the bad guys in a pathetic tuk tuk like this. As if in answer, we suddenly fizzled to a stop halfway up the mountain.

‘‘Please helping push’’ said our driver, without a hint of embarrassment.

Monsoon Palace Udaipur

The Monsoon Palace, Udaipur.

Photo courtesy of Tommy.

For a moment all we could do was stare back at him with a collection of our most uninspired expressions. ‘‘Just to top of next part’’ he pleaded. ‘‘Then everything Ok’’.

Thus the five of us pulled together to shove the sorry machine forward, the fierce afternoon sun beating down on our backs. By the time the road levelled out at the next ridge we were all ripe with sweat, but laughing nonetheless at the absurdity of it all. Hopping back on, I was relieved to see our chariot crank back into life. Then… ever… so… gradually… we crawled to a sluggish finish a kilometre or so later. The driver did not get a tip.

Short story Udaipur India

Octopussy, a short story from India.

The Monsoon Palace, once a grand old structure of white glimmering marble, was now in a state of total disrepair. Nevertheless, the place still channeled an alluring air of mystery. Here and there, between the sculpted courtyards, it was possible to imagine how opulent the palace must have been back in 1884 when it was built for Maharana Sajjan Singh of The Mewar Dynasty. 

Peering down from its crumbling balconies, there were magnificent views over the ochre-shrouded Lake Pichola. The city itself looked similarly picture perfect. Not a trace of movement below as we took in a breathtaking sunset.

Octopussy, a short story from India.

Monsoon Palace Udaipur India.

The Monsoon Palace, Udaipur.

Photo courtesy of soylentgreen23.

Exiting the complex sometime later, we bumped into a Canadian solo traveler called James. He was certainly happy to accept our offer of a shared ride back into town. Since setting foot in Udaipur, the poor guy had been pummelled with endless Bond gags by the locals. “James? Ha ha!! Like Bond yes? James Bond!!’’ It hadn’t been funny the first time around. Now, a few days later, he was fully prepared to commit murder.

——

With Udaipur’s unique 007 experience out of the way, we came to discover a handsome and bewitching city. And so a series of dreamlike days unfurled. One afternoon, we took a self-guided tour of the city’s art studios. It was fun chatting to the artists and learning about their backgrounds. Somewhere along the way, I even picked up a framed painting of Lake Pichola.

Art studio Udaipur India.

Octopussy, a short story from India.

One morning we joined a meditation session at Jagdish Temple. On another, Allan and I embarked on a boat cruise across the lake to Jag Mandir Island. The tiny island was gorgeous, protected by a row of sculpted elephant guardians. Known as the Lake Garden Palace, it dates back to 1551 and served as a royal summer residence. It is now home to a 5-star heritage hotel with just seven luxury suites. 

Jag Mandir Island.

Jagmandir Island on Lake Pichola Udaipur

Jag Mandir Island, Udaipur.

We were all sitting at dinner on yet another rooftop restaurant when the girls informed Allan and I that they were heading northeast to Dehra Dun. They’d had a great period of travel, Lindsay explained. But now it was time to roll up their sleeves and head off for an extended period of volunteer work at an orphanage. 

On the big screen before us, Octopussy’s right hand woman Magda was gazing up at Bond with an aching look. ‘‘I don’t know how to say goodbye’’ she said. ‘‘Actions speak louder than words’’ replied Bond, with a silky wobble of the head. Oh lord, I remember thinking, it’s probably time we move on too. You know, just to get away from this movie. 

Octopussy Roger Moore Maude Adams.

Octopussy, a short story from India.

‘‘Safe travels!’’ shouted Holly, rolling down the window to their compartment. ‘‘See you later!’’ waved Lindsay as I responded with a raised hand. There was a rippling wave of metallic clangs as carriage doors closed across the platform like falling dominoes. Moments later, their train was pulling away and I caught one last glimpse of Holly fishing around in her bag for something. I never saw either of them again. 

‘‘Mumbai?’’ asked Allan cheerfully, the two of us speeding back to the guesthouse in a rickshaw. Once again it was time to be practical. We had to pack up… check out… collect laundry and pick up our bus tickets. ‘‘Yup…’’ I replied, looking out at the passing traffic… ‘‘Mumbai’’.

‘Octopussy’ is the ninth installment of my short story series Incidents In India.

I‘ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

34 Comments

  • Octopussy – a short story from India. | natty4t's Blog

    […] Octopussy – a short story from India.. […]

    June 7, 2015 - 6:36 pm Reply
  • Bonded

    where do i sign up for the Moneypenny Masala?

    June 16, 2015 - 7:52 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    It’s funny how you come to appreciate a movie more if you’ve seen some of the areas used for filming. The Monsoon Palace looks beautiful. I couldn’t help but laugh at how you had to get out and help push the tuk-tuk up a steep part of the hill. Of course.

    January 21, 2022 - 10:36 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Only in India, eh? Visually, Udaipur was the most beautiful city I saw in India. How I wish I’d had my current camera back then, as I have a very limited and somewhat woeful collection of shots from my stay there.

      January 21, 2022 - 10:39 am Reply
  • pedmar10

    The movie gave notice to India!!!

    January 21, 2022 - 11:24 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yup, as movie location claim to fame goes, James Bond is a big one. Thanks for reading!

      January 21, 2022 - 11:44 am Reply
      • pedmar10

        Indeed you are welcome.

        January 21, 2022 - 12:09 pm
  • kagould17

    Roger Moore’s Bond was campy comedy and the innuendos and double entendres certainly would not fly in the current Me Too moment. I can see why they would play the movie to showcase their scenery though. I think we have all looked back at previous trips and wished we had the good camera we now have (and digital tech). But, maybe the faded old photos make the trip memories seem all the more special. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Happy Friday. Allan

    January 21, 2022 - 2:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, Roger Moore’s Bond is ridiculous really when viewed today. Worth some chuckles I guess, but not too much more. I think the old photos do possess a charm that cannot be replaced.

      February 2, 2022 - 7:22 pm Reply
  • Marla

    Great story, Leighton! Did you know that the movie was a big thing there before arrival? Or did you think you’d entered the Twilight Zone with everyone making random quotes?

    January 21, 2022 - 4:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha, we knew about it, but perhaps not the extent that the locals embraced it. And of course tried to profit from it. Thanks for reading Marla!

      January 21, 2022 - 4:29 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    I’m the same that I tend to get into a film more if I visit the location where it’s been shot. I’m probably one of the few people who isn’t a fan of Bond films as the rest of my family are. The Monsoon Palace looks grand from your photos even if it had fallen into a state of disrepair. Another riveting instalment Leighton.

    January 21, 2022 - 6:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I’m with you on Bond. In fact, I’m yet to see any of the Daniel Craig instalments that people say are so good. I’ll get round to it I guess. Cheers, Marion.

      January 21, 2022 - 6:24 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Now I’m going to have to watch the movie again. I can barely remember it. Loved how you juxtaposed watching the movie with the view of the palace behind you. Really wish you had your current camera. I’d like to see some of these sights. A least your descriptions stimulate the imagination.

    January 21, 2022 - 6:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Maybe… just maybe… I’ll go back one day and make photographic amends.

      January 21, 2022 - 6:59 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Now that is what Hollywood needs is a Bond movie with a tuk tuk that he has to get out and push up the hill as he is being chased by the bad guys. It would certainly add a little more drama to the movie 🙂 But there’s no question why they picked that as the backdrop to such a movie- so beautiful!

    January 21, 2022 - 7:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha the imagery of Bond pushing the tuk tuk us too much. Glad you were amused by this Meg and that Udaipur’s natural beauty caught your eye.

      January 21, 2022 - 9:08 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    This was a very entertaining description of your time in Udaipur. I like the way they made a whole industry out of Octopussy. I could go for a little Moneypenny masala with the current Moneypenny.

    January 21, 2022 - 7:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha I’m so out of touch with Bond that I had to Google who Moneypenny is these days. I will let Naomi Harris know of your interest 😉

      January 21, 2022 - 9:12 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    I had forgotten about all the Octopussy bars etc in Udaipur. We did go to Monsoon Palace though and were quite disappointed. It was in poor condition and they charged almost as much as City Palace. I don’t like Bond either, but maybe I’ll have to have a look at the movie. We’ve tried to watch most of the ones done in Asian places we visited. Maggie.

    January 21, 2022 - 8:17 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right Maggie, there is so much more they could have done with the palace in term of honouring its history. I wonder if it’s just as run down now? Or even more so perhaps…

      January 21, 2022 - 9:20 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    In the early ‘80s, though, Bond was everything. Nowadays, a new Bond film is still a big deal, of course, but they are just a small part of the larger Hollywood tentpole ecosystem alongside shock-and-awe superhero spectacles, and whatever Fast and the Furious instalment is being shovelled at us. Yet another great story 🙂 Aiva

    January 21, 2022 - 8:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Well I’m with you on Marvel and Fast and Furious. It all bores me to tears. However, I did once have the experience of interviewing a certain Mr. Paul Walker for one of the F&F instalments. He seemed like an ok guy and, of course, just a short while later he met his untimely demise. I digress, thanks for your contribution Aiva.

      January 21, 2022 - 9:18 pm Reply
      • ourcrossings

        Come on, Leighton, you can’t just tell me that you had a chance to interview Paul Walker and not spill any beans 😂

        January 22, 2022 - 9:44 am
      • Leighton

        Ha ha you know, the most interesting thing is that I interviewed him. And what happened next. The interview itself was really typical: He likes fast cars, he loves the thrill of speed, it was great working with The Rock, blah blah blah. Those guys were in cruise control for interviews.

        January 22, 2022 - 10:25 am
      • ourcrossings

        🤗🤗🤗

        January 22, 2022 - 6:13 pm
  • Rebecca

    I’ve only seen two James Bond films, and both were Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the dashing hero. Any case, it’s incredible just how much Udaipur milks 007 for tourism; it’s almost as if without James Bond, there wouldn’t be much to see there (although definitely not true based on the sites you checked out). Goes to show just how much influence the West has on the East, and how the East monopolizes it!

    January 22, 2022 - 4:46 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I can’t help but wonder what Udaipur’s Bond shtick looks like now in this pandemic era with very few tourists. I’m guessing a lot of those places are simply gone.

      January 22, 2022 - 9:31 am Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    This Monsoons Palace was a great place where visited. I have never seen that movie but will try find it.

    January 22, 2022 - 10:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      January 22, 2022 - 10:35 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    I might be the the odd one out here … love James Bond! I enjoy the dry humour in the movies and all the great places he gets to visit (must admit, I was a bit disappointed in the latest film). You had yet another great story here Leighton – almost created your very own Bond movie … but I’m afraid pushing the tuk-tuk up the hill, isn’t very Bond-like 😁.

    January 24, 2022 - 6:33 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Corna, I’m happy to have a pro-Bond commenter to balance out the thread. One day I shall have to watch the Craig films…

      January 24, 2022 - 9:10 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    Well Moneypenny Masala is a new one haha! I wonder if a James Bond film from 40 years ago is still fuelling their economy – I admire their enterprise!!!

    January 24, 2022 - 1:23 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      If the pandemic hasn’t killed all those places off, I’m guessing the restaurateurs of Udaipur are still pedaling the Bond routine. Thanks for reading Hannah!

      January 24, 2022 - 4:05 pm Reply

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