The Jim Thompson House is one of those tourist attractions that is in all guide books and all lists over must-see-things in Bangkok. We have heard of this house many times, but have never bothered to visit as we have always thought of it as “just another boring museum….”
But one day, while doing some shopping in the Siam area, we decided to give it a visit as it is close by Siam Discovery Shopping Mall and MBK. And it turned out to be such a nice place, and something I am glad we didn`t miss! It also has a pretty mysterious story! And I LOVE mysteries! 🙂
The Jim Thompson House is a charming house with a lovely and lush garden, both full of antiques. It shows how we would all live (well, at least me!) if we had taste, money and talent!
At the entrance, just after you have walked through the wall that surrounds the house and paid the ticket (100 B per person, very cheap!), you are greeted by a sweet women doing traditional Thai dancing and a man spinning silk tread.
Who Was Jim Thompson?
The history behind Jim Thompson is a fascinating one! Jim Thompson was born in America, in Delaware, in 1906, and worked as an architect. He was sent to Bangkok after the World War II, as a military officer, and voila….he fell in love with Thailand and Bangkok (who can blame him…)! So when his military serving time was over, he settled down in this beautiful country permanently.
Jim Thompson became fascinated of the traditional Thai hand weaving of silk, a long neglected art and industry. Silk products were at this time old-fashion, and it`s popularity had gone downwards the laster years. Thompson however, decided to revive this craft, and started to design more modern silk clothing and products, and founded the Thai Silk Company (in 1948).
He also introduced Thai silk to the world market. It soon turned out that the wold`s fashionists loved Thai silk, and shortly Thompson`s business became a huge success. One of the biggest reasons for it`s success in USA was that the big and famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, used Thompson`s Thai silk in all their costumes.
The Thai silk-weavers technique is hundreds of years old. Every child learned how to weave but each family wove enough for its own needs. Their styles and colors are not suitable for foreign consumption. It took us a long time to know what the world markets required. It makes no difference to us as to how well we know our clients. What really matters is whether they like our products or not.
He didn`t only invent the bright jewel tones and dramatic color combinations that we nowadays associate with Thai silk, but he also helped thousands of poor Thai people out of poverty by giving them jobs. He did something clever as he allowed the women on the country side of Thailand to work at home weaving silk. That way they could both be a housewife and have an income, and did not have to move to Bangkok in order to work. Brilliant man this Thompson!
Building A Thai Home
Thompson was unique and unlike any other man in Southeast Asia, he really stood out in many ways. He was an American, an ex-architect, a retired army officer, a one-time spy, a silk designer, and producer, and a renowned collector of antiques.
I must say that silk in itself possesses a great deal of glamour. It has an aura of exotic mystery and richness about it. For centuries it has been the fabric of kings and queens. From the way our sales are going, everyone must be dressing like royalty.
As he truly loved Thailand, he wanted to build himself a house in Bangkok where he could live. Being a history and antique lover, he didn`t want to build any house, oh no, he wanted to build an old traditional antique wooden Thai house, using parts of old up-country houses. He gathered six old teak buildings from different places in Thailand (some from the old capital of Ayudhya), all of traditional Thai architecture and at least two centuries old. They were dismantled and brought to Bangkok, where they were pieced together and became the Jim Thompson`s House.
The houses are all kept in the same original traditional Thai architecture, and all customs and traditional religious rituals were followed during the construction and assemble of the houses. The red paint on the outside walls of the houses is a preservative often found on many old Thai buildings.
Thompson moved in to this beautiful old house in 1959, after astrologers had said it was safe and the right time to move in.
Some of the structures were elevated a full floor above the ground, as the Thai houses were in the old days, to prevent the flood ruining the house. Thompson did however add his own touches to the buildings. For instance did he put in a central staircase indoors, rather than have it outside as is more common in old Thai houses. He also reversed the wall panels under the windows which is nicely decorated, so that they now face inside instead of it having an external orientation.
Thompson was a passionate man, who loved to invite guests from all over the world to dinner in his house. He had a passion for antiques, and spent almost every weekend hunting for antiques in and around Bangkok. He also loved nature and his garden.
The house is surrounded by a beautiful and lush garden, full of old antiques.
We joined one of the guided tours that take place around the premisses ever quarter hour or so. The tour gave us thorough explanation and information about the houses and the garden.
The main house itself, where Thompson lived, is beautifully decorated and full of antiques. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, so we had to sneak a couple of pictures from the outside on our way out.
Thompson filled his home with the antique items he had collected in the past from all over the world. He decorated his rooms with things like Chinese blue-and-white Ming pieces, Belgian glass, Cambodian carvings, Victorian chandeliers, Thai stone images, Burmese statues, and a dining table which was once used by King Rama V of Thailand.
The Sad And Mysterious Ending
On Sunday March 26th 1967, while being on holiday in the Highlands of Malaysia with friends, Jim Thompson goes for a walk after lunch and never returns! He left all his belongings, including his passport, at the hotel, so he surely most have planned to return…..or?!
The next eleven days after his disappearance, both the police and several American and British officers and investigators searched for Thompson. It is the biggest manhunt in the history of Malaysia. But not a single clue turned up pointing to what might have happened to him! Very strange!
Also a controversial figure, a famous psychic investigator from the USA joined the search. He sat down on the veranda where Thompson was last seen, with a photography of Thompson in his hand, and broke out in a stammer and said that he could “see” a truck pull up by the house and fourteen people kidnapped Thompson using chloroform to drug him. Actually over 118 mediums and mystic psychics swept through the jungle in the weeks after Thompson`s disappearing, all with different ideas of what had happened!
It’s just that he has been abducted to another country. You can take it from me he is not being held for ransom. I am prepared to stake my neck on this!
What is also strange and spooky, is that the astrologists had told Thompson the day that he moved into his house in Bangkok, that he should be extra careful in the year 1967 because that year could be very dangerous for him. His horoscope hangs on the wall in his bed room even today, where this is stated. Thompson was by the way born in the year of the Horse, same as me……
The mystery of Jim Thompson, as puzzling as it is, has made many people come up with their own conclusions. Why were Thompson visiting the Highlands of Malaysia in the first place? And what did he have in mind after the completion of his stay at the resort? According to his friends, he had arranged for a trip to Singapore the next day after his disappearance to have dinner with several Americans including the ambassador, and a man that was exploring the possibility of establishing a textile company in Singapore.
Did Thompson arrange for his own disappearance? One man claims to have spotter Thompson on Tahiti several years after the disappearance, getting into a car with a woman. The taxi driver who had driven Thompson and his friend around on a sightseeing trip the day before his disappearance also claims they were talking about Tahiti. Still today they are searching for the answer to what happened to Thompson. Hmmm…..we probably never will know for sure what happened to him, if he did move to Tahiti or if he was killed or died of natural causes.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Jim Thompson was a very talented man, with an eye for design and fashion, and that he truly loved Thailand!
There is also a shop on the premises of Jim Thompson House selling beautiful silk, wool and cotton clothing and products. These are products of high quality, so don`t expect to find cheap prices in this shop.
Jim Thompson`s House turned out to be a very nice experience that gave us insight of the old Thai house architecture. We also got an interesting and mysterious story about a remarkable man. It is not like an ordinary museum at all, here you really feel that you are in one`s home. You kind of feel that you get to know the man Jim Thompson a little, both his personality and not least how much he truly loved Thailand and it`s history and culture!
Yes, it is on every guide book`s lists over must-see-things in Bangkok, and it is a bit touristy, but well worth a visit!
Where To Stay In Bangkok
Bangkok offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and you will have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay.
Bangkok is pretty affordable when it comes to accommodation, so you can get some really good deals and even find five stars hotels very cheap compared to other places in the world. However, accommodation prices do vary greatly with the season. Below are some of our favorite hotels in Bangkok. We have stayed at all of the hotels below.
If you’d like to stay along the river without breaking the bank, the new Avani Riverside hotel is a great alternative to the usual riverside luxury hotels. Rooms are super comfortable with fantastic views overlooking the Chao Phraya river and the fantastic rooftop infinity pool is probably our favorite in Bangkok.
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If you’re looking for a mid-range option close to Bangkok’s famous Khao San area, then the Casa Nithra comes highly recommended. The rooftop swimming pool is lovely, the rooms comfortable and the breakfast has plenty of options. It’s located in a quiet area, yet Khao San is just an easy walk away.
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Hotel Icon is a small hotel centrally located on Sukhumvit road. The rooms are fresh and modern, big and comfortable with all the usual comforts such as flat screen tv, aircon, and free Wi-Fi. The rooftop swimming pool is great!
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⇒ For more accommodation options and tips on which areas of Bangkok that suits you best, read our complete guide to where to stay in Bangkok.
We used the Lonely Planet`s Thailand travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:
Have you been to the Jim Thompson`s House in Bangkok? What did you think of it? Please share your thoughts in the comment area below! If you like this blog post, and find it useful, please share and like on social media! Thank you! 🙂
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