As Spectre – the latest James Bond blockbuster – hits cinemas, Steve McKenna guides us to 007’s famous film locations and tells us how best to experience them. If you need a license to chill, this is it.
Dr No – Ocho Rios, Jamaica
It’s arguably the most unforgettable Bond moment: Ursula Andress, playing shell-diver Honey Ryder, emerges from the crystal-clear Caribbean sea, clad in a white bikini, singing the dulcet tune Under the Mango Tree – only for her reverie to be rocked by 007 (a super-suave Sean Connery, in his first outing as the British spy). After a brief stand-off on the palm-fringed beach, the pair are soon entwined, rushing to evade Dr No’s henchmen.
This balmy scene supposedly pans out on the baddie’s private island but filming actually took place in a secluded cove on Jamaica’s north coast. Known as Laughing Waters, this hideaway – seven kilometres west of Ocho Rios – isn’t usually open to the public as it’s part of a private complex (which hosts weddings and other special events). But a clutch of Ocho Rios-based operators run trips to the beach, including GoldenEye (goldeneye.com), a high-end resort that has mushroomed around the former holiday villa and writing retreat of Ian Fleming, who penned all the original Bond novels and stories here. Its Jet-Ski Safaris trace the waterfall-studded coastline and include a seafood picnic lunch at Laughing Waters, where you can do your own Honey Ryder impression in this lush, postcard-perfect setting.
Looking for a beach read? Try Matthew Parker’s Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born – Ian Fleming’s Jamaica. Apparently, Fleming, a former British naval intelligence officer, named his protagonist after American expat and Caribbean ornithologist James Bond. Two of Fleming’s heroines – Domino from Thunderball (1965) and Solitaire from Live and Let Die (1973) – are named for rare Jamaican birds.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – The Alps, Switzerland
Glamorous girls, flash cars, high-tech gadgets, lethal weapons, double entendres – these are just some of the requisite elements for a Bond flick. Then you have those nefarious villains and their spectacularly located lairs.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond – played by then relatively unknown Australian actor George Lazenby – is airlifted into the Swiss Alps, where his cat-stroking archenemy, Blofeld, runs Piz Gloria, a mountain-top allergy “research clinic”. (It’s really a base for brainwashing attractive young women to carry out bacteriological warfare.) Masquerading as a genealogist, Bond is compromised when he’s caught canoodling but manages to escape Blofeld’s goons after a thrilling ski chase.
Perched at 2970 metres, atop the Schilthorn mountain, this breathtaking landmark endures as a tourist attraction, with Bond fans especially in their element.
An interactive exhibition has 007 memorabilia and Bond-inspired adventures (you can ride helicopter and bobsled simulators). Tuck into the 007 Breakfast Buffet at a revolving restaurant with awesome alpine views or order a martini – shaken, not stirred, of course – at the James Bond Bar. Unveiled in August, on Schilthorn’s rocky summit, the 007 Walk of Fame pays tribute to the cast and crew of OHMSS, with their photos, signatures and handprints in steel – alongside personal messages sharing memories of the movie’s production.
Octopussy – Udaipur, India
Roger Moore’s 12-year tenure as Bond wasn’t short of eyebrow-raising moments. Take the scene where he pilots a submarine disguised as a crocodile to infiltrate the “floating palace” of Octopussy, a mysterious jewel smuggler and cult leader played by Maud Adams, a Swedish ex-supermodel. It was shot on Lake Pichola, a shimmering ghat-and-temple-fringed lake that sprawls across the dazzlingly photogenic Rajasthani city of Udaipur.
Moored on a little lake island, Octopussy’s heavenly all-female retreat was really the Taj Lake Palace – a lavish 83-room hotel that started life as an 18th-century prince’s pleasure palace. Guests are usually transferred from the mainland by speedboat and spend the journey captivated by both the dreamy setting and the white-marbled majesty of an establishment that has hosted luminaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Shah of Iran.
Patrons will find a quantum of solace in serene public areas: a lily-pond-blessed courtyard, a jungle-like section humming with birdlife, an alfresco pool and a neat bar. Consider side-trips to Jag Mandir and Monsoon Palace – two other Udaipur palaces that appeared in Octopussy (the former is a five-minute boat ride south of the Lake Palace, while the latter is on a hilltop overlooking the city and is a hangout for mischievous monkeys). For a grittier, more down-to-earth slice of Udaipur, do as Bond did and take an autorickshaw through its manic market-filled streets.
Tomorrow Never Dies – Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand
With cat-suited Chinese spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) in tow, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) spends Tomorrow Never Dies trying to bring down megalomaniacal media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), who fancies starting a war between China and the UK.
Some of the best action takes place in “Vietnam” – in reality, Thailand. Remember the scene when Bond and Wai Lin tumble down the side of Carver’s high-rise tower before embarking on a frantic motorbike ride through the traffic-choked streets of “Ho Chi Minh City”? This was filmed across the bustling Thai capital, Bangkok.
The movie’s explosive conclusion – where Bond destroys the stealth boat from which Carver was planning to orchestrate his warmongering shenanigans – is set amid the emerald, karst-outcrop-peppered waters of Vietnam’s “Ha Long Bay”. It’s really the Ao Phang Nga National Park off Phuket – an island-strewn chunk of southern Thailand inextricably linked with 007.
From Phuket, you can venture to Khao Phing Kan – dubbed James Bond Island, which starred in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun – and to other less-visited parts of the marine park in an array of vessels (longtails, speedboats, cruise boats and traditional junks). Swim and snorkel in bathtub-warm, coral-rich waters, sip from coconuts – or piña coladas – and soak up some of Southeast Asia’s bewitching sunsets.
Casino Royale – Venice, Italy
As HE sails into Venice with sweetheart Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Daniel Craig’s brooding Bond emails his resignation letter to MI6 – Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. His retirement and relationship are short-lived, however, when he’s lured into a firefight in a decrepit palazzo that – thanks to special effects – crumbles into the city’s Grand Canal. Vesper, who had locked herself in the building’s iron-framed lift, drowns, leaving Bond heartbroken and alone.
Don’t worry: you’ll probably have a much more romantic time in La Serenissima, as Venice is known. Splash out on a five-star stay in the Hotel Cipriani, outside of which Bond and Vesper moor their yacht in Casino Royale. With 95 sumptuous rooms, an Olympic-sized pool, manicured gardens and swanky restaurants and bars, this plush affair sits on the tiny island of Giudecca, a four-minute launch ride across Venice’s lagoon from Piazza San Marco, the city’s central square.
You’ll retread some of Bond’s footsteps on a walking tour of Venice (discoveringvenice.com), exploring atmospheric alleys, photogenic bridges and Gothic-Baroque palazzi – some decaying, others beautifully preserved. If your budget doesn’t stretch to commandeering your own yacht, à la 007, take a gondola or water taxi through the winding canals of a city that has played a key role in the Bond franchise. Moonraker (1979) and From Russia with Love (1963) were also partially set in this Italian seaport.