‘The Serpent’ is a mini-series based on the serial killer and fraudster Charles Sobhraj. Co-produced by the BBC and Netflix, the series examines Sobhraj’s time in Thailand and surrounding Asian countries as he preyed upon young travelers for their money and valuables, and savagely murdered them with the help of his accomplice. Sobhraj’s crimes came into the spotlight thanks to the dogged investigation by Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg who first got interested in the case when two young Dutch travelers went missing from Thailand in 1975.
Set across Thailand, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and France, the show follows the hippy trail of the 1970s, depicting Sobhraj’s time in those countries as he scouted for victims while evading authorities. Loosely based on real-life, the show feels as such and portrays authentic-looking scenes from a wide variety of locations in the 1970s. If you’re wondering how the film crew achieved a feat like that, and where exactly ‘The Serpent’ was filmed, we’ve got some answers for you!
The Serpent Filming Locations
Filming for ‘The Serpent’ started in September 2019 on location in Thailand, where a majority of the mini-series was shot. However, in March 2020, production was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and had to be moved to the UK to resume in August 2020 with health safety regulations. Despite initial plans of filming the second half of the series in multiple locations across Asia and Europe, all subsequent scenes were then filmed in the UK, with minor changes in the script to compensate for the production getting relocated.
‘The Serpent’ makes effective use of combining archival footage with its footage to portray authentic-looking scenes from the 1970s. Despite depicting multiple Asian countries as well as Paris of the 70s, the show was shot in only two countries- Thailand and England, where particular locations were made to look like Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and France. Let’s take a look at the specific locations used to portray these countries.
Much of ‘The Serpent’ is based in the Thai capital of Bangkok where a majority of the filming also took place on location until March 2020, when it was halted due to the pandemic. The series’ co-producer Paul Testar stated how difficult it was to find parts of Bangkok that still looked like they did in the 70s as the city has been extensively modernized since then. The production team had to find pockets within the city that had remained unchanged and could be made to look vintage.
A then-soon-to-be-demolished apartment complex that the production team found located on Sukhumvit Soi 4 in central Bangkok served as a filming site for Kanit House, the apartment complex Sobhraj used as his base between 1975 and 1976. Knippenberg’s sprawling house in the series was similarly depicted by an old house the production crew found in the northern limits of Bangkok city, which was made to look authentic using old photographs from the Knippenbergs.
The beaches and bars around Bangkok frequented by the characters in the show were also filmed on location around Bangkok. The beach where Sobhraj and Ajay dispose of the American traveler named “Teresa” is supposedly a beach on the way to Pattaya but is actually the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in the Hua Hin district about 200 km from Bangkok. Other beach scenes, including those depicting Goa, India, were also filmed in Hua Hin.
Hong Kong was depicted by suitable streets in Bangkok’s Chinatown, whereas scenes from the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal, were filmed in a backlot in the city using extras and set design. The lake scene on Kashmir’s Dal lake was shot on Vajiralongkorn Dam, about 3 hours away from Bangkok, and the mountainous scenes depicting Nepal were filmed on location in northern Thailand. Scenes portraying the cities of Delhi and Karachi were filmed as a combination of on-location filming in Bangkok and studio filming in Tring, Hertfordshire in the UK.
The Tring Park School for the performing arts in the town of Tring, Hertfordshire, was used to film multiple scenes of the latter half of the show, once production had been moved to the UK. This included scenes that were initially to be filmed in Asia but could not be because of the pandemic and included depictions of Bangkok, Delhi, Bombay, Karachi, and Kathmandu. The filmmakers were even able to recreate a room from Sobhraj’s Bangkok apartment inside the school, which is located on Mansion Drive, Tring HP23 5LX.
The Wrest Park country estate, located north of Luton in Bedfordshire, was used extensively for filming in the UK. The interior of the house, as well as the grounds of the estate, were used to depict the streets of Paris in the 1970s as well as Sobhraj’s mother’s home and the plush hotel he and Marie stayed in while in Paris. A suitable Parisian skyline was added to the scenes in post-production and could be seen through the windows.
The 90-acre estate enabled the crew to be able to film scenes involving outdoor public places within the estate itself as the grounds of the estate doubled up as the streets of France. This helped in moving production along despite the stringent COVID-19 guidelines being followed. The exact location of the Wrest Park estate is Silsoe, Bedfordshire MK45 4HR.
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