Okay, I’ve already started receiving emails from friends wanting to know how accurate The Hangover II is to real life in Bangkok. First off, let me say that it’s about as accurate as The Hangover was to Las Vegas. By that I mean that there are as many people stealing police cars, waking up with tigers in their hotel rooms, and getting punched out by Mike Tyson in Las Vegas as there are drug dealing monkeys, accidental uzi discharges in go-go bars, and khlong (canal) jumping in Bangkok.
First off, very few of the Asian actors/actresses are even Thai. The Thais in the film are primarily the police, the monks (not real monks), and some supporting cast like flight attendants and passengers. Lauren isn’t Thai. Teddy isn’t Thai. The ladyboy/transexual isn’t Thai. So that should be the first clue as to how realistic the movie is.
Don’t get me wrong though, a lot of the movie is dead on Thailand/Bangkok. Parts like drinking Fanta from a plastic bag had everyone in the audience laughing because that is something that is very Thai.
As far as locations, it’s a little difficult to imagine how someone would get from Krabi (where Stu’s wedding takes place) to Bangkok in a speed boat. Krabi’s shores are on the Andaman Sea and the only major river running through Bangkok empties out into the Gulf of Thailand. So unless they went around Malaysia there’s no way that’s happening. Innocent enough. There are plenty of beautiful islands and beaches in the Gulf of Thailand. They took a few liberties with the geography.
The scenes walking around crowded Bangkok streets right after they wake up were filmed in Bangkok’s China Town. Uhm, pretty much dead on. That’s China Town. Crowded, confusing, and crazy.
The Buddhist monastery the boys visit seems to be pronounced Chiang Mai but I’ve seen listed elsewhere as Ching Mei. Chiang Mai is way in the north of Thailand so there’s no way they made it to Chiang Mai in one day. It’s a good 12+ hours by car or train and highly unlikely that they even meant to compare the two. The actual location was in Samut Prakan which is sort of a museum of Thailand architecture and not a monastery at all.
As far as getting beaten up by monks, I highly doubt that. Buddhist monks are, as one might imagine, opposed to violence. Smacking someone with a stick rather than pointing to a sign or gesturing to them to stop talking seems drastic and very un-Buddhist.
Siam Sam’s is an actual bar but it’s called Cactus Bar on Soi Cowboy, one of the main red-light districts in Bangkok. I’ve heard some conflicting reports on whether or not the interior scene was filmed in Bangkok or LA. Someone mentioned that it was shot in Tilac Bar (a couple of doors down from Cactus Bar) but others insist it was shot in LA and modeled after Tilac Bar.
Similarly, the street they walk down to get to the tattoo parlor was shot in Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 7/1 but the interior of the tattoo shop was shot in Los Angeles. It was big news when the producers paid off all of the bars on the soi to shut down so they could film that scene. I have a friend who was hired as an extra for the riot scenes but they cut his part out.
The scene with the rooftop restaurant overlooking Bangkok was filmed at Sirocco restaurant on the 64th floor of the State Tower. Nice place. Beautiful views. You can get similar views at Vertigo on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel and Long Table in the Column Building (though not really rooftop).
Overall, I think the movie was fantastic. I know a lot of Thais who were afraid it might dwell too much on the flaws here like corruption, the nightlife scene, etc but most of the Thais I’ve spoke to that have seen it say they laughed from beginning to end.
I had a friend of mine say he was concerned after seeing the movie. I responded by saying that Bangkok, a city of 12 million people, is much, much safer than Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, or Frankfurt. Easily. Even though many of the locations in The Hangover II are real your chances of having anything even remotely like this happening to you are as likely as what happened to the wolf pack in Las Vegas.
When you really look at the movie there really isn’t very much that presents Thailand in an overly negative light anyway. They end up in the situation they’re in because of their own doing (well, actually just one character’s doings). Mr. Chow isn’t Thai so all of the crazy stuff he gets them involved with also has nothing to do with Thailand. Basically they could have filmed the entire movie in any city that has a reputation for being a bit crazy.
All in all, I loved the movie. We laughed like crazy during the entire thing. Part of it was because it was just funny but part of it was there were some inside jokes (like Phil going to the clinic and it only costing $6). If you liked The Hangover I think you’ll love The Hangover II.