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
Opinion - The Ultimate Travel Agent
23rd December 2006
THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL AGENT
OPINION BY PAUL CHAN
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
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
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
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
He has refined the beach holiday snog
to an art form managing to love them and leave them
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
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.
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
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 mi6-hq.com or its owners.
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