Taking extreme measures to escape Bangkok’s toxic air and breathe freely

Reporter Nicky Tanskul prior to being sealed inside a hyperbaric chamber because he just can’t even with this pollution. Photo: Coconuts
Reporter Nicky Tanskul prior to being sealed inside a hyperbaric chamber because he just can’t even with this pollution. Photo: Coconuts

Explosive decompression. Oxygen poisoning. Burned alive in seconds from a single spark.

It’s only been two minutes since I climbed into a metal coffin that wheezes like Darth Vader and have just realized that it has been locked from the outside.

“I can’t stop thinking about all the ways we could die right now,” I tell colleague Nicky Tanskul, whose knees are wedged into his larynx to fit beside me in the roughly 2-meter-long chamber.

But these were acceptable risks in our desperate bid to escape Bangkok’s horrendous air pollution, which I hold responsible for a sharp cough, scratchy throat, and perpetually moist nose that would be healthy for a cat. 

Unlike traffic or corrupt cops, air pollution is a side effect of life in Bangkok that cannot be avoided. So we set out to find places where clean breathing was guaranteed. 

It wasn’t easy, but here are some places where you can breathe in deep lungfuls of air without worry. Please drop us a line with more ideas and we will add them.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Reporter Nicky Tanskul profiles the typical oxygen therapy patient by reviewing what they’ve been watching inside the tank.

By the time the hour was up, I was feeling pretty relaxed about everything, but that might have been all the O2 talking. Either way, I was able to fully fill my lungs without a twinge of discomfort apart from some foot aroma that we spent the last 10 minutes debating who was responsible for.

An extreme way to escape air pollution? Perhaps. Oxygen therapy is touted as a remedy for migraines, wound recovery, metabolism, insomnia, and hangovers. The place we visited, O2 Lounge on Soi Sukhumvit 49, even suggests it can make people taller. Do your own research on what to expect here. We were surprised that the staff gave us zero preparation about what to expect, including that we would be locked inside and subjected to an ear-popping 130% atmospheric pressure. One hour here is THB1,000 and discounted packages are available.

O2 Lounge
The 49 Terrace
10am-8pm daily
Soi Sukhumvit 49

There are other beauty and anti-aging clinics that offer oxygen therapy such as BRM Medical Hub on Silom Road and Bumrungrad Hospital.

⁣⁣Isolation Tanks

Photo: Bangkok Float Center

Another extreme yet absolute escape would be a sensory deprivation tank. Unwind your mind in the ultimate form of detachment, try not to devolve into primordial soup, and breathe freely. All air entering the tank is fully filtered. One-hour sessions are currently THB950, or float for 90 minutes for THB1,200. Book online.

Bangkok Float Center
2F, Hopeland Hotel
8am-8pm daily
46/1 Sukhumvit Road, Phra Khanong


Photo: Virgin Active Thailand

Exercise is important to ongoing health, and many people want to continue working out, even when doing so can actually have a negative impact on their health. Of Bangkok’s major gyms, the only chain that we found equipped with high-quality air filtration at all of its locations was Virgin Active, which says all clubs use HEPA filters “to effectively remove PM2.5, dust, dust mites, pollen, bacteria, odor, soot, second-hand smoke, mold, allergens, virus, and other air pollutants.”

There’s also a martial arts gym located in the Thonglor area that purifies its air. Check out Arete Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the 20th floor of the Home Place Building in Soi Thonglor 13. If your gym also uses high-quality air filters, please let us know.

Additional reporting Nicky Tanskul

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