On Screen #5 – Thailand

This south-east Asian country has long been used in films but more often that not its just been used to replicate other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, as was revealed in On Screen #1. This series though focuses primarily on how each country is portrayed on screen whether it be real or faked.

The readily available mix of exotic jungles, beautiful beach settings, elephants, low production costs and relatively experienced film crew members make Thailand an attractive proposition for foreign production companies.

Possibly the most famous time when Thailand played itself on the big screen was for the Danny Boyle adaptation of the classic (albeit a little over-rated in my opinion) Alex Garland book ‘The Beach‘ (2000). Leonardo DiCaprio and co were filmed at Khao Yai National Park, Krabi and of course Maya Bay in Phuket which was the secret beach. More details of the exact locations can be seen here.

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Over his 50 years in cinema, James Bond has gone round the world taking in a vast array of places and of course that has included Thailand albeit on quite a small scale. Ratchdamnoen Boxing Stadium, Muang Boran and the Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok featured in the ninth film in the 007 series; ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ (1979), which starred Roger Moore and Britt Ekland. More famously Khao Ping Gan a.k.a. James Bond Island was used as Scaramanga’s lair.

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The Bridge On The River Kwai‘ (1957) starring Obi-Wan Kenobi, erm, I mean Alec Guinness may be all about the building of the bridge in Katchanburi area but in reality it was filmed in Sri Lanka and the contraption seen on screen is far more impressive than the actual bridge in Thailand.

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Far more recently ‘Only God Forgives‘ (2013) features plenty of Thailand in this dark tale of murder and vengeance featuring Ryan Gosling as a man who runs a Thai boxing club as a disguise for a drug business but when his brother murders a prostitute and is thus killed a series of further killings take place in Bangkok.

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Technically ‘The Railway Man‘ was also a 2013 movie due to it debuting at some film festivals not that it really got its worldwide release till this year. Based on Eric Lomax’s novel of the same name, Colin Firth plays a former British Army officer, who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labour camp during WW II. That camp was filmed at Ipswich in Queensland, Australia. On discovering that the young Japanese officer who haunted him is still alive Eric travels to Thailand to confront his tormentor. This is when Thailand for real is seen with Bangsue train yard in Bangkok used for scenes where thousands of Allied prisoners were forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. The Death Railway and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery were used for brief shots.

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Of course, Thailand has been a popular destination for western productions over the years and other films of note to have been shot there include ‘The Big Boss‘ (1971), ‘Duel Of Fists‘ (1971), ‘Year Of The Dragon‘ (1985), ‘Kickboxer‘ (1989) and ‘Alexander‘ (2004).  ‘American Gangster‘ (2007) has a few scenes in “Bangkok” which in reality were shot in Chiang Mai with drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) smuggling heroin in the late 1960’s via the coffins of seven American Vietnam War soldiers.

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I can’t say that I was too taken in by ‘The Hangover‘ when it came out in 2009. I thought it was ok but couldn’t understand why so many people loved it and sadly that affection resulted in its 2011 sequel (not to mention a third one last year!) which saw the guys going to Thailand for a wedding.

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Another sequel to arrive in Thailand was ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason‘ (2004) which featured some romantic sea cruising which was shot at the 200-year-old Muslim village on stilts at Ko Panyee in Phang Nga Bay. Nai Yang Beach and Phuket Airport were also used for some scenes. The crew built a Thai-style restaurant from scratch for the scene where Bridget was momentarily swept away during a romantic dinner with Daniel Cleaver.

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The Impossible‘ (2012) deals with a British family’s story about the ordeal they suffered during the terrible 2004 tsunami which hit Phuket. This film emphasises a feel good plot within the the context of mass devastation. It was filmed in part in Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak but most of it was shot in Alicante, Spain.

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At the end of the day though, filming on location in Thailand isn’t always so easy due to a variety of reasons and one such example of that is ‘Anna & The King‘ (1999) which, due to the protests of historical inaccuracy from the Thai Film Board, had to be filmed in Malaysia. Protracted negotiations and rewrites resulted in 20th Century Fox finally moving the production, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat, to the likes of Penang (Bangkok harbour and some street scenes), Ipoh, Perak, Parit, Papan, Langkawi and Selangor. Many, many decades before that ‘Anna & The King Of Siam’ (1946) and ‘The King & I‘ (1946) were banned from filming in Thailand for the same reasons and so alternative locations were found.

You can see previous On Screen articles by clicking on the links below:

On Screen #1 – Vietnam (Click here)

On Screen #2 – Istanbul (Click here)

On Screen #3 – Myanmar (Burma) (Click here)

On Screen #4 – Brazil (Click here)

The Hangover Part II Filming Locations

This 2011 sequel was yet another typical example of scriptwriters being lazy and cashing in on the success of the original. In this case, the plot was very similar to the  2009 ‘Hangover‘ movie but with one difference; it was shot overseas in an exotic location which is the classic fallback when ideas are lacking.

Personally, I can’t say I ever really understood what all the fuss was about regarding the original ‘Hangover’ film. I thought it was okay but not as funny as everyone else seemed to think and it has to be said that ‘The Hangover Part II‘ (to give it its full title) was really lame and needless to say that I didn’t even bother with the third one last year! However, Tokyo Fox has a job to do and that’s to provide you the reader with as much detail as possible for tracking down its movie locations. Besides, its still fun seeking out these places whether you like the film or not!

So basically The Wolfpack are in Bangkok to celebrate Stu’s (Ed Helms) impending wedding and a typical aerial shot of the city at night appears on 24 minutes and that’s pretty much where the story begins. The gang, along with Lauren’s younger brother Teddy, wake up in a dirty hotel room alongside a chain-smoking monkey and with Stu’s face tattooed like Mike Tyson’s. They all congregate on the roof of the Lebua Hotel (below) 35 minutes in and try to fill in the gaps to see what happened the night before.

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A couple of minutes later (37 mins) and they’re in Chinatown on Thanon Plaeng Nam (below) which is a lane where you can get famous dishes like shark fin and bird’s nest. It is nowhere near as hectic as its depiction on screen. If you see the red and white Rubber Stamp sign then you’re on the right street and the blue road sign above Phil’s (Bradley Cooper) shoulder is for Soi Phiphaksa 1. The nearest station is Hua Lamphong MRT station and from there its about a ten minute walk.

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A clue leads them to Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 (below) near Nana BTS station (41 mins) where they are, to their surprise, given a hostile reception. They come across the place in which Stu got his face tattooed the previous night. Sadly this tattoo parlour was purpose built for the film so there’s not too much to see on this street.

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Hoping to return the mute monk in a wheelchair they acquired by accident they take asongthaew truck to Muang Boran (Ancient Siam, formerly known as Ancient City) on 45 minutes which doubles up in this film as a Chinese temple. This is the same place which featured in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ (1974) but unlike that movie, this one is recognised in the reception area where there’s a wall display informing the public of what has been filmed there. The Phra Kaew Pavillion (below) is stop #30 on the map (given as part of the entry fee) and an open pavilion was added to create the atmosphere although no stick-wielding Chinese monks were on hand to greet us on our arrival! The Phra Kaew Pavilion was built to represent Ayutthaya as a centre of Buddhism in the past. Encouraged by the head monk to meditate before they leave results in Alan (Zach Galifianakis) having a juvenile vision which leads them to their next location.

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That place happens to be a strip club which is on Soi Cowboy (50 mins). They stand at the entrance to “Siam Sam’s” which in reality is Cactus Bar (below) although the interior shots were filmed elsewhere.

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Sirocco restaurant on the 64th floor of Lebua State Lounge is seen on 62 minutes and again on 76 mins. Since filming wrapped the restaurant and the adjacent bar have been offering Hangovertini cocktails for 490 BHT ($15). Be aware that if you want to enter this restaurant that there is a strict dress code which must be adhered to.

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The hotel is really using the Hangover fame to its advantage as they also offer a special two-night “The Hangover Part II” package priced at $2,200. Furthermore, there is the opportunity for rich fans to stay in “The Hangover Suite” which is a three-bedroom luxury room accommodating up to six guests with a fully-stocked mini-bar and ample party space.

A single small tree marks the traffic circle known as Wat San Road roundabout which appears on 69 minutes as the place where they encounter the drug dealing monkey which they subsequently steal before a car chase ensues which culminates in a ridiculous stunt which sees the car manage to jump over a river! The seven streets leading out from the roundabout had to be closed for filming. To get there yourself you have to take the Chao Phraya Express boat to Ratchawongse and hang right at the first turning and then its nearly a ten minute walk.

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The wedding between Stu and Lauren takes place after that in Krabi at Phulay Bay Resort which is owned by Ritz-Carlton. It has 54 one-bedroom villas with private pools, outdoor baths, butler service all available at sky-high prices!