Friday, 24 July 2015

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Ultimate Location Travel Guide

For Raiders of the Lost Ark locations follow this link:

For Last Crusade locations follow this link:
There are relatively few locations to visit for Temple of Doom as much of the action was filmed at Elstree Studios. Moreover, the Temple of Doom locations still in existence are some of the most challenging to get to. This is namely because the majority of location work was shot in the country known as "The Pearl of the Indian Ocean"... Sri Lanka.

Club Obi Wan
While the interiors for "Club Obi Wan" were created at Elstree Studios, the exteriors were filmed in Macau, China. The Club Obi Wan building has since been demolished and the site redeveloped.  Prior to its demolition, the club stood at Praca De Ponta e Horta, Macau grid coordinates: 22°11'37.70"N 113°32'8.86"E. Here is a useful link: 
The ensuing car chase was filmed on the nearby street of Avenida de AlmeidaRibeiro, near the intersection with Travessa de Felicidade, coordinates: 22°11'41.40"N 113°32'17.50"E. Here is an excellent resource for finding the spot:
Shanghai Airport
Apparently free from the clutches of Lao Che, Indy arrives at the former Hamilton Air Force, Hanger Avenue, Novato, CA coordinates:  38° 3'36.46"N 122°30'55.04"W.
 It proved impossible to get the exact angle as residents gardens occupy the area where the camera was placed.
The area has been redeveloped but the hanger still remains amongst many; hangar number 9 is the one used for filming (it really looks like a 3 in the film, but the left vertical downstroke of the 9 is very faded). The Ford Tri-motor plane can be found at the Fantasy of Flight Museum 1400 Broadway Blvd. S.E., Polk City, FL 33868 , USA, coordinates:  28° 9'58.75"N  81°48'23.81"W

Mayapur Village
It is hot wearing a leather jacket in the tropics.
There is no doubt that this is one of the hardest locations to find. I am only aware of one other individual who had made the trip before my journey in Feb 2015. That credit goes to Jean Christophe Quenot, whose excellent blog provided a source of guidance: (Subsequently, I have found out that a Norwegian Indiana Jones fan, "Chiliana Jones", made the trip a couple of months before my pilgrimage. You can read his story here: and his story has featured in an issue of "Indy Mag")
I opted for car rental from Columbo, Sri Lanka to get to Kandy (a 137km journey, straight out of the airport at 3am) so I might find the two key locations in the area. Driving in Sri Lanka can be challenging and is not for the faint hearted, road conditions, weather and Sri Lankan driving all conspire to make it an interesting experience. An International driving permit is required which must be certified by the AA in Columbo. I rented a car through the following company: who assisted with certifying the driving permits and provided a very good service. I rented their cheapest car, a small Suzuki which survived the rigours of our trip, albeit in dry conditions, and used with great caution when traversing off road. If you can afford it, a 4x4 may provide a greater chance of success and a more comfortable ride.
Be warned, when driving around Sri Lanak, their maps and Sat Navs/GPS's have a tendency to be out of date or simply not match what is on the ground. We spent 30 miles on a "road" that was on my GPS and the rental cars Sat Nav, but was in reality in the process of being built, most of it was simply a pothole-ridden mud track.
Another option is to hire a car with a driver, which costs a similar amount to a car with a driver - though you will have to take into consideration their boarding for the night. Or you can rent a "tuk tuk", or auto-rickshaw (The 3 wheeled taxi used in much of Southern Asia), for the day, if you can find a good driver who is happy to take you where you want to go.
After hours spent pouring over Google Earth, I had narrowed down the location to within  a few hundred square yards. However, a driver with good linguistics to act as a translator with locals would be useful, as seems to have been the case with Jean Christophe.
Sankara Stone Shrine
Due to the jungle reclaiming the location, it was impossible to match film stills accurately.
Believe or not these are the same rocks after 32 years.
Clearing the "shrine" with a machete.

Map to Mayapur Village Location (Copyright: Google Earth). The orange dot represents the end of relatively good road surface
 To get to the Mayapur Village location, leave Kandy heading south along Hantana Road (using a satnav is vital) towards the Ceylon Tea Museum. Pass the museum and continue for approximately 1.5 miles. The tarmac gradually deteriorates into a pot hole-ridden dirt track (Yellow trail on above map). We parked in a lay-by (Coordinates : 7°14'25.16"N 80°38'23.50"E marked on map) and hiked up steps cut into the hillside following a path up and to the left (Red trail on map). We passed through a small hamlet, where we checked for directions with a friendly local man. We then carried on up the hill until we came across a higher vehicular track. At this point we turned left (Blue trail on map) and followed the track south,south west for a mile or so until we saw the below sign on the left of the track:
   Immediately on the other side of the track is the sign below:
Below is the same sign viewed from the track.
If you follow the path (marked as the southern most red trail on the map) up the hill past this sign (shown above) after approximately 300 yards you reach a steeper slope where the path thins and is more over grown. Bear right and at the top of this slope, near to the ruins of a small wall, built by the film crew, hidden in foliage you will find the Sankara Stone Shrine. I estimate the coordinates to be: 7°13'53.1"N 80°38'20.5"E, but cannot guarantee 100% accuracy ,due to the nature of the terrain. It is over grown and not easy to find. I would allow at least 30 minutes to find the site, and advise you take plenty of water and some food.

To the right of the picture below is the path you follow that leads to the "shrine" (Southerly red trail on map). Below, the mountain top in the film is visible in the picture.
My best advice is to find the point where you can match the above photo's sky line to where you are standing and search from there. Jean Christophe followed a road built by the production team however, I failed to find this with the reference material I had available.

There is an alternate route that was blocked at the time of my visit, which should remove the walk via the hamlet, this follows a higher track to the location of Mayapur Village. Soon after the Ceylon Tea Museum a track turns right at the below sign:
Photo by Rajitha Prabath
If you follow this track it will eventually lead to the location, but as it was blocked at the time of my visit, due to a concrete surface being laid, I can offer no further information.

On the return journey through the hamlet, we were greeted by the extended family of the man I had sought directions from earlier. Upon greeting him he insisted on sharing bananas, with his children practising their English with us. We could not have been made to feel more welcome.
Travel to Pankot Palace

As time was limited, we did not attempt to search for the travel montage shots to Pankot Palace. Many of these scenes were shot at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Kegalle Rambukkana Rd, Rambukkana 71100, Sri Lanka. Due to animal welfare issues ( we chose not to visit the orphanage, instead opting to see elephants at Yala National Park, where the animals have some choice as to how much time they wish to interact with humans.
Originally the Amer Fort Jaipur, India was considered for Pankot Palace. However, as permission to film in India was not granted, production moved to Sri Lanka and the palace was created using a Matte Painting. The Amer Fort at Jaipur is well worth a visit, though again there are animal welfare issues regarding elephant rides to the fort.
 Pankot Palace

 Amer Fort Jaipur, India, (photo flipped for movie comparison) the inspiration for Pankot Palace
The set, including the entrance exterior was built at Elstree Studio.

Rope Bridge
The rope bridge location is perhaps the most challenging of all locations to visit as it is dependant on a certain amount of serendipity. The location is near Kandy, Sri Lanka and is located a few hundred yards south of Victoria Dam at coordinates: 7°14'15.48"N 80°47'19.12"E. To the northern side of the dam, where there is a visitor centre, it's a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Kandy. To the southern side of the dam is a 50 minute drive from Kandy. The dam cannot be crossed via car, nor by foot without the permission of the security forces in the area. This is due to previous attempts to destroy the dam by guerrilla organisation the "Tamil Tigers".
When visiting the dam we drove to the southern side where we encountered an armed security barrier/checkpoint. The armed guards were friendly, but my Sri Lankan is not up to much. I showed them photos of the filming area which they all seemed excited by. However, the closest they could allow us was to a nearby view point over looking the dam, some distance from the bridge location. Dejected I stood looking forlornly at the canyon beneath me having come so close only to fail at the final hurdle.
Whilst taking in the view with a crest fallen look, a local gentleman in his early 30's pulled up in a white Toyota minivan wearing a bright pink T shirt. He asked if we would like to take a closer look at the dam. I excitedly replied yes! Despite this gentleman's appearance it turned out that he was the head of security for the dam and a Captain in the Sri Lankan army. He invited us into the minivan, and on approaching the checkpoint he was saluted by the armed guards and we continued on our way to and across the dam. At the centre of the dam we stopped and took the following pictures:
With the Captain, we are now Facebook friends.
View towards bridge location.
We then drove onto the base of the dam (above); an impressive structure in its own right (The perspective is deceptive in this picture).
The above "piers" are all that remains of a bridge that once spanned the river and was used as a platform for filming the rope bridge scenes from. 
From the base of the dam we drove a few hundred yards back up the slope towards the eastern side of where the bridge once stood. I wondered what, if anything, remained of the bridge. The Captain was very patient with my fascination for an over grown section of cliff top. After wading through tropical foliage and wet, slippery algae-covered bed rock atop the cliff, I found what I had been searching for: the two "stone" pillars used for the bridge.
The pillars used for the rope bridge. Actually made of concrete with a steel I-beam core for reinforcing.
A life times ambition come true.
View through undergrowth to west side of canyon. The bridge pillars on the other side are still there.
View to river below. from near to pillars.
 Remains of steel cable and anchor points for the bridge.
Indiana Jones archaeology. Remember it's the search for fact... not truth.
The bridge pillars can be found if you follow the fence line down and to the right into the undergrowth; as seen in the picture above.

Due to 32 years of plant growth, and the dangerous terrain, it once again proved difficult to match screen shots. However, here is a selection:
"Let em' go Mola Ram"
Rope bridge span. This picture was taken from the centre of the dam, it is now impossible to recreate the film still, as the bridge used for filming has been demolished.
The cavalry saving the day.
This (above) is a view of Victoria Dam from the visitor centre. The rope bridge was built by British construction company Balfour Beatty, which were building the dam during the production of the movie. The Queen officially opened the dam in 1985.
View looking south down the canyon.
The western side of the canyon is very over grown and appears to be off limits. Either way I didn't want to push my luck with the Captain. I was happy to have gotten as close to the eastern side of the canyon where the bridge once stood. A massive thank you to the Captain who made this visit possible and gave us the "VIP" tour of the area. Unfortunately I know of no way to guarantee access to the bridge location due to the understandably high security around the site. Jean Christophe was unable to get further than the visitor centre, so a degree of luck is required to meet a friendly military individual.
Enjoying a drink at the end of the day in the Hotel Suisse, 30, Sangaraja Mawatha, Kandy 20000, Sri Lanka. This was the very hotel that Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw stayed in whilst making the film. Needless to say we couldn't actually afford to stay there.

Sri Lanka is truly a stunning country which is well worth a visit, the Indiana Jones locations can be covered in a day leaving plenty of time to explore the rest of the Island. I would recommend taking a trip to Sigiriya in the "Cultural Triangle" and taking in the south eastern coast, which is spectacular with vast expanses of tropical sandy beaches fringed by coconut palms and yet to be tarnished by mass tourism. Yala National Park is a must-see for anyone interested in wildlife, with the highest density of Leopards to be found anywhere in the world. You can also take day trips to see Blue Whales from Mirissa. I recommend yu try and get away from the tourist hot spots and try to interact with the locals. We found the people of Sri Lanka to be incredibly friendly and excited to share their beautiful country.

Incan Rope Bridge

For my money, the most authentic Indiana Jones rope bridge experience available today means a trip to Peru, and the Incan rope bridge over the Apurimac river at Qeswachaka.The bridge can be found at coordinates:  14°22'52.72"S  71°29'2.43"W. The bridge is rebuilt every year during the second weekend in June, with construction completed on the Sunday, assuming that factors such as the weather have not affected the build. The bridge is built by local communities providing a quota of grass rope that is spun together to form the bridge. 

I visited the bridge at the height of the festivities on a Sunday, you pay a small fee (tourists pay more if a particularly rat like military official happens to be watching) to cross the bridge. I assume if you visit once the festival is over there will be no fee, and the bridge will be much quieter with greater opportunity to enjoy the structure and take pictures. 

There are no obvious towns with accommodation near Qeswachaka, therefore I would recommend using Cuzco as a base. Cuzco is an amazing city, filled with history, and an excellent jumping off point to visit many attractions in Peru, including Machu Piccu. 
To get to the bridge you can join an organised tour, these are very expensive, and can be found using internet search engines. I asked numerous locals, from tour guides to hotel owners, about getting to Qeswachaka and was astonished that no one had heard of the bridge. No hostels or tour groups run more affordable trips from Cuzco (that I could find) and the Lonely Planet does not mention the bridge. I tried hiring a car with a driver but the price was prohibitive at $200 US. This left car hire for around $45 US a day, which provided a more personal, less expensive, trip with a much greater sense of adventure.
 The Lonely Planet Peru book gives the impression that suicide is preferable to car hire in Peru. Whilst it is true that Peruvian drivers are some of the worst in the world, there is no reason, if you are a confident driver, with your wits about you, not to hire a car. We rented a vehicle through Hertz online expecting a Hyundai Getz however, the agent arrived with a massive Toyota 4x4 including roll cage. We were however, billed for a Getz. It is approximately 3 hours drive through stunning Andean scenery to Qeswachaka. Keep very alert for Peruvian drivers, they are unpredictable and prone to dangerous and fast driving. If you hire a car for more than a day the Lonely Planet recommends keeping it in a locked garage overnight, as theft is not uncommon.
Qeswachaka rope bridge Peru
When we visited we only saw 2 other tourists among the multitude of Peruvians at the bridge festival, and for now at least, the bridge feels like a true adventure to be a part of. There are so few amazing places left in this world that are not in some way devalued by tourism, though I appreciate I am part of that problem. Peru is an astonishingly geographically diverse country, from tropical rainforest to mountain glaciers, it is packed with the history of Pre Columbian civilisations, and I could not recommend a visit to the country more highly.

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