Film Buffs Will Love These Must-visit Movie Locations

Jump-start your wanderlust with a ticket to the movies; after all, going to the movies is a round-the-world ticket minus the jet lag for armchair travellers. However, cinema can also inspire those who prefer to explore with boots on the ground. From majestic Istanbul to a new side of Los Angeles, many spots are stealing the limelight from silver-screen stalwarts such as London and New York. Here are some of the locales that have movie fans baying to get to:

JORDAN: Rogue One (2016), The Martian (2015)

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Wadi Rum

Two of the biggest recent sci-fi blockbusters were shot in the crimson desert of Wadi Rum. Also known as the Valley of the Moon, it made a star turn in Rogue One (2016), the Star Wars spinoff, where it stood in for Jedha, the desert moon that becomes a holy land for those who believe in the Force. The desert’s otherworldly topography also made it an obvious choice for The Martian (2015), in which Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. Visitors to this southern corner of Jordan will find it a tad more hospitable than Mars though. Wadi Rum can be reached via the small village of Rum which, in turn, is accessible as a day trip from the kingdom’s most fabled sight – the ancient city of Petra. The façade of Petra’s 1st-century-BC monastery is forever associated with, of course, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as it was the temple that housed the Holy Grail. Cinephiles will also not want to miss Lawrence’s Spring. An oasis in Wadi Rum, it is named after British soldier T.E. Lawrence, whose exploits were reimagined in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The epic starring Peter O’Toole was also filmed here – you’ll hear Maurice Jarre’s stirring score in your head as you take in those desert views.

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USA: La La Land (2016)

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Griffith Park

Director Damien Chazelle’s song-and-dance love letter to Los Angeles – this year’s big Oscar winner, La La Land (2016) – has further fuelled its ongoing resurgence and visitor boom. The City of Angels still has a few tricks up her sleeve, with the recent film sprinkling stardust on both well-trodden attractions and lesser-known spots. Griffith Park, home to the Art Deco Griffith Observatory, may henceforth be known as the place where Sebastian and Mia (played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) break into a tap dance. Older moviegoers may also recall the planetarium from James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955). It’s where the Hollywood sign is as well. Retracing Sebastian and Mia’s other dates will take you to Hermosa Beach Pier, where you can hum City of Stars under your breath à la Sebastian; The Lighthouse Cafe (below) nearby where he takes Mia, and where Miles Davis and Chet Baker once played; as well as the lamp-lined Colorado Street Bridge (main photo), where the lovers stride arm in arm at dusk. If you’re hungry after all that, make a beeline for the restored Grand Central Market, a foodie hotspot in Los Angeles’ newly hip downtown area. As a bonus, it happens to be right next to the Bradbury Building, which was featured in a pivotal scene in Blade Runner (1982), as well as 500 Days of Summer (2009) and The Artist (2011).

VIETNAM: Pan (2015), Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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 Bai Tu Long Bay

As a movie location, Vietnam is still taking baby steps. But it received a monster-size boost with the recent release of Kong: Skull Island, the biggest Hollywood production it has hosted. To conjure up the mythical home of the giant ape, film-makers wanted a backdrop of equally striking proportions. And they found it in the karst landscape of Halong Bay, whose limestone islands were also fantastical enough to pass for Neverland in the movie Pan. In Kong, you see the bay as the helicopters carrying the expedition to the island have to break through a fierce electrical storm to get to its shores.

But there is more to Vietnam’s coast than Halong Bay, and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts went out of his way to include less-travelled locales such as Bai Tu Long Bay, which is also in the north-east and just as breathtaking. The crew then explored Trang An on the Red River delta, an eco-tourism haven sometimes described as an “inland Halong Bay”. With its winding rivers, caves and valleys, it set the scene for the characters as they try to escape Skull Island’s supersized wildlife. You'll have it much easier in real life, though. Instead of the rusty old military vessel they had in the film, you can leisurely tour these waterways on a sweet little bamboo boat. And the biggest beast you’ll encounter? Probably a water buffalo.

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TURKEY: Inferno (2016), Skyfall (2012)

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Basilica Cistern

Your travel insurance probably won’t cover it if you try to replicate Daniel Craig’s motorbike chase across the roofs of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar in the opening scene of Skyfall (2012). Nevertheless, the James Bond movie was quite the advertisement for Sultanahmet, the city’s sublime old quarter. The first glimpse of its skyline makes you catch your breath – crammed with domes, towers and minarets, it gives you the feeling of stepping into a time machine through centuries of Byzantine and Ottoman history. As you get lost in the labyrinthine charms of the 15th-century Grand Bazaar – one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world – you may also remember it from the political nail-biter Argo (2012), where the bazaar, along with Istanbul’s iconic Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, doubled for late-1970s Iran.

Close by is the atmospheric Basilica Cistern, a subterranean cathedral of Medusa-head columns and vaulted ceilings, which pops up in both the mystery thriller Inferno (2016) and the classic Bond flick From Russia with Love (1963). But if you really want to feel like you’re in a movie, check into the glorious Cemberlitas Hamami (www.cemberlitashamami.com), one of the city’s finest original Turkish baths. This stunning 16th-century Ottoman structure has several film credits, including the action-packed Taken 2 (2012) and The Accidental Spy (2001). The latter sees Jackie Chan memorably breaching hammam etiquette when he loses his towel during a fight.

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Story originally appeared on SilverKris.

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