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My daughter is a HUGE James Bond fan. She’s seen all the movies, read most of the books, delved into the history, and made a study of the subject at the spy museum. When Kayla learned that Octopussy, the 1983 James Bond classic starring Roger Moore, was filmed in Udaipur, well, she had to go looking for the film setting in the City of Lakes. Octopussy takes poetic license with geography, placing James Bond in sight of the City of Lakes from a vantage point in the Taj Majal. And yet, the connection is not so far fetched. Supposedly, Emperor Shah Jahan lived in exile for some time, and was inspired by the white marble beauty of Jag Mandir.
According to legend, Lake Pichola was built in 1362 AD by a gypsy “Banjara” tribesman who transported grain. Later Maharana Udai Singh constructed a dam extending the lake and creating the city of Udaipur on its banks. Lake Pichola is one of several contiguous lakes, hence Udaipur’s nickname, the City of Lakes. Today, visitors can tour the lake – and the island palaces – on a one-hour boat ride departing from City Palace throughout the day, or for an additional fee, they can go on the Sunset Boat Ride.
In the spring, Jag Mandir hosts some of the most opulent royal weddings, easily able to handle up to 5000 guests. But on the evening that we visited, we practically had the courtyard garden to ourselves. After circuiting the lake, the ferry dropped us off at Jag Mandir, telling us that a ferry would be by very 20 minutes so that we could hop aboard and finish the boat ride at our leisure. Some visitors use that opportunity to dine at Jag Mandir, but we just took advantage of the restroom facilities and the photo opps. I couldn’t remember if the life-sized elephant sculptures were visible in Octopussy, but if not, they should be. Since Kayla couldn’t remember either, I took full advantage to suggest that James Bond had been there.
Jagniwas – Taj Lake Palace
If I had realized that we could have stayed at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel – on the very site where Octopussy was filmed – I might have booked a room for the night. As it was, visitors are only allowed if they’re staying at the hotel or dining onsite. We weren’t able to arrange either option. Instead, we spied on other visitors arriving at the landing dock enroute to the island palace.
And we had a pretty good view of the Taj Lake Palace exterior from our Sunset Boat Ride.
It wasn’t enough for Kayla. She has vowed to return someday, just to stay at the Octopussy island. And I’m grateful that our family travels have inspired her to keep on traveling.