Nobody does it better, travel that is. When it comes to jetsetting, the original frequent flyer has usually been there, done that and killed to bad guys to prove it...

Opinion - The Ultimate Travel Agent
23rd December 2006


The old Spike Milligan joke goes: "Join the army, go interesting places, meet interesting people - and kill them." And the same could be said of super spy James Bond, MI6's well-travelled secret agent who sets off on another mission this year in Casino Royale. His has to be one of the most enviable passports in the travel business, but just how enviable would depend on which passport (and alias) he was using and if it is possible to get an immigration stamp when you parachute into a hostile country from a low-flying stealth bomber.

Like many people, Ian Fleming's famous creation found travel a lot simpler in the early 60's and 70's before the boom of international tourism; when men were men, evildoers wore eye patches and super-villains' lairs were more common than Holiday Inns.

During this time he was much more likely to step off a commercial airliner using an alias that curiously never seemed to fool anyone for very long.

Later, as travel took off, and the world become a more difficult place to negotiate, he found himself surfing his way into North korea and crashing Soviet jets into Afghanistan - anything to avoid airline taxes.

And who can blame him? How different travel would be if we had access to his vehicles and gadgetry. Queue to climb the Arc de Triomphe? Simply jet pack your way to the top. Get back to nature and cruise Kakadu in a one-person submarine disguised as a crocodile. And anyone who has had to sit next to a talkative stranger on a long-haul flight will appreciate the need for a good garroting watch.


Like any good traveler, Bond has his favourite spots. He is a regular to the US and Western Europe but has never yet set foot in Australia, proof positive that Australians either serve a rubbish Martini, or that the only resident megalomaniacs are those democratically elect. He is also a frequent visitor to the Caribbean including his most recent outing in Casino Royale, which is only fair since Ian Fleming gave birth to him in Jamaica way back in 1952.


Surprisingly Bond, hero of the Cold War, has only been in a Russian city once, in GoldenEye, but her certainly left his mark, touring St Petersburg not in an open-topped bus but in a tank, destroying huge swathes of the town as he went.

It is safe to say that James Bond is not the poster boy for the eco-tourism movement. MI6's finest is more likely to leave a trail of destruction in his wake than he is to make sure his accommodation has a self-composting loo.

In addition to the aforementioned "rough guide" to St Petersburg, he has carved a swathe through the US state of Louisiana in a speedboat, surely scaring a tourist or two, in Live And Let Die and in the new Casino Royale earns the ire of the Venetian tourist board when he implodes one of the city's buildings sending it into the ever-encroaching sea. In Die Another Day he manages to melt Iceland's famous ice hotel in addition to Halle Berry's heart; while in Moonraker Bond's nemesis Jaws takes a chunk out of Rio de Janeiro's Sugar Loaf mountain cable cars with his metal fangs.

However, one set of travelers that would be happy to call him their own are the adventure junkies. Bond was being dragged through the coral beds of the Greek islands bound to an outboard motor yacht in For Your Eyes Only before the first twang of a bungee cord was heard in New Zealand (or Vanuatu, depending on who you believe).

Bond does eventually take on the sport of bungee when he leaps from a dam in Locarno, Switzerland, at the beginning of GoldenEye. This jump remains, at 220 metres, the highest bungee jump in a film.


Deep-sea diving (Thunderball), parasailing (Die Another Day), snow boarding (A View To A Kill); Bond has done it all. A mad keen skier, he regularly hits the slopes (For Your Eyes Only, The World Is Not Enough, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, A View To A Kill) but is just as happy going off piste, as well as off roof, off restaurant table, etc.

Above: Sean Connery and Shirley Eaton meet Ian Fleming on the set of Goldfinger.

There was, however, a rather infamous jumpsuit that proved that even James Bond is not immune to that "Stuff it I'm on holidays" fashion crime. We can all relate to that travel fashion mistake that we look back on with regret in our holiday snaps (socks and sandals; his and her fleeces).

But few of us can match 007's baby-blue jumpsuit that he unselfconsciously sported while on the trail of Auric Goldfinger. It was a moment when a few meters of terry toweling managed to do what teams of assassins couldn't do before it; make the world's most famous secret agent look bad.

Points must go to Bond for his dogged commitment to one of the tents of travel - the holiday romance.

He has refined the beach holiday snog to an art form managing to love them and leave them from Afghanistan to the Amazon. His conquests include rocket scientists, assassins, fellow agents, wives and lovers (and he still managed to pull while wearing that jumpsuit, which borders on a miracle).

The odd fashion faux pas aside, Bond's travel wardrobe helps in his winning ways with women. Our James would never turn up to dinner in a crumpled shirt he found at the bottom of his suitcase and a three-day-old pair of socks (and I bet he has never had to give his smalls the "sniff test" - you know who you are). Generally he has at least one tuxedo, which has creases sharp enough to kill a henchman.

But clothes do not make the man. It is the measure of a world traveler that he can turn up at a top Hong Kong hotel, soaking wet in a pair of pyjamas - as he did in Die Another Day - and still be given his "usual suite".

It is this casual acceptance of adversity that makes him suitable to travel mishaps; while many of us see red at a missed flight, Bond happily scales the unassailable cliff-top monasteries of Meteora in Greece (For Your Eyes Only). When I visited I was happy to use stairs rather than clinging to the precipitous mountain top, Walther PPK clenched between my teeth.


In fact, traveling in the footsteps of Bond is becoming something of a tourism niche as hordes clamour to stand where he has vanquished his enemies. In some cases - North Korea, Afghanistan - this is not such a good idea but in other areas it has, rather perversely, created places that the dapper agent would not be seen dead in.


James Bond himself would be loathe to visit the Thai island that now bears his name (also known as Koh Tapu). This small stretch of beach where Bond dispatched Scaramanga almost 30 years ago in The Man With The Golden Gun is now packed with tacky tourist stalls - very un-007.

The same can be said of Udaipur, India, the home of Octopussy's island hideaway, where now a huge collection of hostels crown along the water where backpackers drink beers out of teapots and watch nightly screenings of the film. James would not be amused.

But who can blame us mere mortals for wanting to share in his international intrigue; to emerge from the ocean unzipping a wetsuit to reveal a crisp white tux as he did in Goldfinger; to utter lines like The Man With The Golden Gun's "I've never killed a midget before, but there can always be a first time." Or simply meet a woman named Pussy Galore without choking on a tropical cocktail.

Above: Bond keeps up good travel habits in Casino Royale

Perhaps in the end Bond's love of travel is down to his creator, Ian Fleming. Alongside the Bond novels the writer also published Thrilling Cities, a guide in which he attributes travel with giving him his "thriller-writer's eye". He says his love of far-flung lands: "All my life I have been interested in adventure, and, abroad, I have enjoyed the frisson of leaving the wide, well-lit streets and venturing up back alleys in search of the hidden, authentic pulse of towns." A sentiment that any secret agent, or avid traveler, can relate to.

The views of this columnist and those expressed in this article are not necessarily those of or its owners.

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