Thailand's 'Hangover' Hangouts
Take a tour of Bangkok and the country's best beach resorts with the cast of 'The Hangover Part II.'
Set almost exclusively in the so-called Land of Smiles, Todd Phillips' The Hangover Part II showcases the highs and lows of Thailand, taking you from Bangkok's cosmopolitan restaurants and bars and Soi Cowboy's flesh dens to the luxury resorts dotting its southern beaches. Here are the latest and greatest spots to hit -- according to the director and the film's cast -- whether you want to grab a drink (or three or four or more) or get pampered in a private beachside villa.
Thai Air flies nonstop; flights are 17 hours from LAX.
The Hangover crew spent two months filming here. And though the crowded, chaotic nature of shooting in the Thai capital was challenging ("To make a movie about mayhem, sometimes you have to go to mayhem," says director Todd Phillips), they speak almost lovingly about the city. "The people were so brilliantly nice that you feel welcome," says Phillips.
While the go-go bars and messianic backpacker set will always have their place in the city, much of Bangkok has gone decidedly upmarket in the past decade or so. Designer boutiques are popping up everywhere, and the world's great hoteliers (Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula) have formidable presences here -- many of which are routinely ranked among the best in Asia.
The Hangover team set up its production HQ at the Four Seasons in the heart of the commercial district (rooms from $225, 155 Rajadamri Road, fourseasons.com/bangkok). With vaulted silk ceilings and lush gardens, this stately classic has been a favorite among industry guests -- including Angelina Jolie and Richard Gere -- since opening in 1983. "They treated us like royalty," Ken Jeong says of the service the actor and his wife experienced there.
Just next door, the just-opened St. Regis Bangkok (rooms from $350, 159 Rajadamri Road, starwoodhotels.com) is the first serious contender to enter the city's ultra-luxury hotel scene in quite a while. The hotel, decorated in placid cream and chocolate tones, offers rooms with some of the best views in the city.
Once you've worn yourself out with temple tours or unspeakable hedonism, it's time to partake of Thai cuisine's legendary fire. Local veteran actor Nirut Sirichanya (who plays the future father-in-law of Hangover's Stu character) favors Le Pla Daak (888/3 Moo 9 Klong Lumjiak Road, lepladaak.com) for its chilled-out ambiance and traditional Isan cuisine (from the country's northeastern provinces). "Their som tum salad is fantastic, and the sticky rice is always just right," Sirichanya says.
Across town, Michelin-pedigreed David Thompson has opened a Bangkok branch of his popular haute-Thai London restaurant Nahm in the modern Metropolitan Hotel (27 South Sathorn Road, metropolitan.bangkok.como.bz). The notion of an Aussie chef instructing the locals on how to class up their endemic cuisine has raised some eyebrows, but the restaurant's reviews have all been rave.
For one of the most elegant meals in the city, head to Celadon at the Sukhothai Hotel (13/3 South Sathorn Road, sukhothai.com) for elevated Thai dishes served in a traditional pavilion that seems to float on a surrounding lotus pond.
The al fresco restaurant/bar Sirocco, which sits on the 63rd floor of Bangkok's State Tower skyscraper, was the setting for one of the movie's most climactic scenes in which Jeong and Paul Giamatti face off in a showdown while helicopters buzz the building and cameras pan the endless skyline. This spectacular shooting location is a must-visit venue for kickoff drinks for any big night on the town (63/F, State Tower Bangkok, Silom Road, lebua.com). "It's an amazing bar that feels like it's 100 stories up, and there's hardly even a railing," star Justin Bartha says. "You can see all over Bangkok. Picture being on the Empire State Building with no glass protection -- it's crazy."
After a few frenetic days in the capital, any visitor will be ready for some seaside luxury to soothe the Bangkok sensory overload. From the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui to the coastal town of Krabi, a slew of world-class resorts have launched in the past year.
On Koh Samui, the year-old Banyan Tree Samui (rooms from $850, Maret, Koh Samui, banyantree.com) sits within a secluded bay and offers 78 private rooms, each with its own pool, while the W Retreat Koh Samui boasts 75 villas, done in red-and-black color schemes, and an open-air restaurant with stunning views of the neighboring islands. (rooms from $560, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, starwoodhotels.com).
The Paresa resort in Phuket is no less impressive but a much more understated affair, with guest villas perched high among its cliffside jungle setting and a seeming infinitude of infinity pools (rooms from about $760, Layi-Nakalay Road, Kamala, Phuket, paresaresorts.com).
If you want to stay where the movie's wedding scenes took place, check in at Phulay Bay Ritz-Carlton, nestled between the limestone cliffs of Krabi (rooms from $700, Muang, Krabi, reserve.ritzcarlton.com). The production took over the entire resort, and each castmember enjoyed his or her own bungalow.
"We had a cast dinner on the beach," actress Sasha Barrese says. "Zach Galifianakis wore his bathrobe and a flower behind his ear, and by the end of the shoot in Krabi, everyone was wearing their yellow robes everywhere. It was really an incredible experience. We all had to keep pinching ourselves."