THE HANGOVER Part 2 – Four Things Right & Four Things Wrong About Thailand
A resident of Bangkok reveals what The Hangover sequel producers got right and wrong about Thailand...
With the release of The Hangover 2 on all manner of home consumption-style media this month, we are now all free to enjoy the sweaty, booze-and-drug fueled shenanigans of our favorite Wolf Pack in the comfort of our sweaty, booze-infused homes. Hooray!
As a resident of Bangkok, I remember the buzz when it was announced that the sequel to the biggest R-rated comedy of all time would be filmed in my adopted city, as is the norm when any major Hollywood production comes to your town. Some shuddered at the thought, some thought it was a perfect match, but all were interested to see the final product. While Hangover 2 won’t win any awards for originality, it did get some things right about Thailand – but it also got a few things very, very wrong.
Here’s my list of a few of them below;
1. Realistic Bangkok locations
While many of the interior scenes were shot on LA soundstages, kudos to the cast and crew for filming exteriors in real locations amid the chaotic, sweaty mass of an Asian metropolis. Filming took place at Sirocco’s glitzy domed restaurant (meeting Kingsley), on the Chao Phraya River (driving the speedboat), Chinatown (drug-dealing monkey), and Sukhumvit 7/1 (the riot scene – also home to Dr. BJ’s, perhaps the most cringingly hilarious website for a Bangkok bar).
2. Soda in a bag
It’s a small detail, but it made locals smile nonetheless. At one point they boys give Alan a sideways glance as he sips some soda from a plastic bag, to which he replies: “What? It’s a bag of Fanta!” Thais do indeed get their soda to go inside a handy plastic bag (the vendors get to keep the bottle, you see). It’s an odd sight for newcomers, but business as usual here.
3. Cheap medical care
After a nasty incident with a gun and some gangsters, Phil needs to get patched up. We seem him walking out of a clinic with a bandage on his arm saying: “That costs like $6, how is that even possible?” Of course, in America, that simply isn’t possible, but Thailand is known for its cheap, high-quality health care. Some TLC from a doctor, a bandage, and a bit of antibiotics for $6? Yeah, sounds about right.
4. Ladyboy surprise
Recreating their steps leads the boys to a bar where a gorgeous woman tells of an amorous fling with Stu the night before. Too bad she has a penis. I’m told that the surprise reveal, where transsexual porn star Yasmin Lee turns around to reveal her, uh, assets, caused quite a reaction in western countries, where transsexuals aren’t very common in even the biggest cities. However, acceptance for ladyboys here is high, and after a while, the “third gender” blends into the regular noise. No big deal.
1. Bangkok – Phuket in a speedboat
In one of the films more laughable scenes, the boys get in a speedboat in Bangkok and make it to a tropical island paradise in about an hour. While not specifically named, they filmed these scenes in Phuket (pronounced poo-ket, not fuck it, dirty bird), quickly identifiable by the rocky karst formations all over the place. Although only an hour by plane, this trip by boat would require you to motor down the coast of Thailand, around Malaysia, past Singapore, and back up again.
2. Monks kicking ass
The sight of even a fake monk beating anyone up on film would cause such massive spasms of outrage and offense in Thailand that it would likely start a wave of protests and an official investigation by the Religious Affairs Department. The filmmakers got around that by using the dress of Chinese Shaolin monks – known for their badassery – instead of the simpler orange robes that Thai Theravada monks wear.
3. Young? How young?
When our heroes head into a dingy bar to search a young friend, they tell the bartender that they’re looking for a little kid, to which he replies “Two thousand dollars, maybe more. How young you want this kid to be?” Maybe 20 or 30 years ago this might have happened, but despite Bangkok’s very real dark side, in ten years here I’ve never seen, heard or experienced anything even remotely as sordid as this. I mean, there’s sleaze, and then there’s sleaze.
4. Farang drug dealers
One scene sees our boys being chased by trigger-happy farang (foreign) drug dealers. First of all, if a non-Thai ever tried to muscle in on Bangkok’s mafia-controlled drug scene they’d end up disappeared in about five seconds, especially if they plied their wares in a crowded area like they did in the movie. Second, if they started shooting at other random foreigners, the police – ever wary of tainting Thailand’s valuable tourism industry – would throw so much manpower at finding the offenders that they wouldn’t be able to get more than fifty feet without a tackle.