The Jim Thompson House is one of those tourist attractions that is in all the guide books and lists over things to see in Bangkok. However, in this case, it is for a good reason. In short, Jim Thompson House Museum is one of our favorite Bangkok attractions and a must-visit when you are in Bangkok.
This elegant wooden Thai-style house was built in 1959 and sits in a fantastic location right by the canal, surrounded by a vast and lush garden. It used to be the home of the American Jim H. W. Thompson, famous for becoming an entrepreneur of the Thai silk industry after World War II.
The house is beautifully preserved and has been turned into a museum where you can wander around the rooms and feel the presence of the previous owner, Jim Thompson himself.
You will also find a shop selling Jim Thompson silk clothes and products, an art center, and a fabulous restaurant on the museum ground.
And last but not least, you will learn about the mysterious disappearance of Jim Thompson himself. It’s a fascinating story, and I LOVE mysteries! 🙂
We like the beautiful Jim Thompson museum so much that we have included it in our recommended 3-day Bangkok Itinerary, which you can find here.
Jim Thompson House Museum is centrally located in Bangkok’s main shopping area Siam, making it easily accessible.
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Bangkok’s Jim Thompson House Museum
The Jim Thompson House is a charming Thai-style house with a lovely garden. Both the home and the garden are full of rare antiques and arts, and walking around the house and garden is like getting a glimpse into Thailand’s past.
You can join a guided tour of the museum, which takes place every hour every day (except Tuesdays when the museum is closed). The English-speaking guide will tell you the story of the house and Jim Thompson himself.
Who Was Jim Thompson?
The history behind Jim Thompson is a fascinating one! Jim Harrison Wilson Thompson was born in America, in Delaware, in 1906. He graduated with a degree in architecture from Princeton University in 1928.
After World War II, he was sent to Bangkok 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.
The King Of Thai Silk
Jim Thompson became fascinated by the traditional Thai hand-weaving of silk, a long-neglected art craft. Silk products were at this time considered old-fashion and the making of them were a dying craft.
Thompson, however, decided to revive this craft and started to design more modern silk clothing and products. As a result, Jim Thompson founded the Thai Silk Company in 1948.
He started introducing Thai silk to the world market. It soon turned out that the world’s fashionists loved Thai silk, and it didn’t take long before Thompson’s silk business became a huge success. One of the biggest reasons for its success in the USA was that the 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.
Thompson didn’t invent the bright jewel tones and dramatic color combinations that we nowadays associate with Thai silk, but he helped thousands of poor Thai people out of poverty by giving them jobs. He did something clever as he allowed the women in the countryside 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 to work.
There is also a shop on the premises of Jim Thompson House selling beautiful silk clothing and products. This is the perfect place to shop for Thai souvenirs and gifts to bring back home. But, again, these are products of high-quality silk, so don’t expect to find cheap prices in this shop.
Jim Thompson House
Thompson was unique, and unlike any other man in Southeast Asia, he 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 antique collector.
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 Thompson truly loved Thailand, he wanted to build himself a house in Bangkok where he could live. But, being a history and antique lover, he didn’t want to build just any house. Oh no, he wanted to build an old traditional antique wooden Thai house, using parts of old houses found up north.
He gathered six old teak buildings from different places in Thailand, some from the ancient capital of Thailand – Ayutthaya. All of the houses were of the traditional Thai architecture style and at least two centuries old.
The six houses were dismantled and brought to Bangkok on the canal. They were pieced together on a green and lush piece of land right by the canal and became Jim Thompson’s House.
The houses were kept in the same original traditional architecture, and all customs and conventional religious rituals were followed during the construction and assembling 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 into 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 an entire floor above the ground, as the Thai houses were in the old days, to prevent floods from ruining the house.
Thompson did, however, add his own touches to the buildings. For instance, he put in a central staircase indoors rather than outside, which is more common in old Thai houses. He also reversed the wall panels under the windows, which are beautifully 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 old antiques and spent almost every weekend hunting for antiques in and around Bangkok. He also loved nature and his garden.
We joined one of the guided tours that take place around the premises every hour or so. The tour gave us a thorough explanation and information about the houses and the garden, and we learned about Jim Thompson himself and his disappearance.
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 photos from the outside on our way out.
Thompson filled his home with the antique items he had collected from all over the world in the past.
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 once used by King Rama V of Thailand.
You are allowed to walk inside the six houses and look at all the art pieces.
The Sad And Mysterious Disappearance Of Jim Thompson
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 indeed most have planned to return…..or?!
The following eleven days after his disappearance, both the police and several American and British officers and investigators searched for Thompson. It is the most extensive search 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 photograph 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.
Over 118 mediums and mystic psychics swept through the jungle in the weeks after Thompson disappeared, 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 1967 because that year could be very dangerous for him. His horoscope hangs on the wall in his bedroom even today, where this is stated (read it yourself when you visit the house).
Thompson was, by the way, born in the year of the Horse, same as me…… 🙂
As puzzling as it is, the mystery of Jim Thompson has made many people come up with their conclusions. Why was Thompson visiting the Highlands of Malaysia in the first place? And what did he have in mind after his trip to Malaysia?
According to his friends, he had arranged for a trip to Singapore the next day after his disappearance. In Singapore, he had made a dinner reservation with several Americans, including the ambassador and a man exploring the possibility of establishing a textile company in Singapore.
One theory is that Thompson arranged for his disappearance. One man claims to have spotted 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 talked about Tahiti.
Even today, they are searching for the answer to what happened to Thompson. But, unfortunately, we will probably never 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! ♥
Jim Thompson House Restaurant
Today there is a fabulous restaurant at the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was famous for his hospitality and grand dinner parties for his international friends and celebrities, and having a Thai restaurant in his house is only fitting.
Here you can eat delicious Thai food, and it is one of our favorite Thai restaurants in Bangkok.
The restaurant has different set menus (lunch or dinner) and a la carte. On the menu, you find classic must-try Thai dishes like green papaya salad (Som Tam Goong Sod), green curry with chicken or prawn (Gaeng Khwe-Wan Gai rue Goong), red curry with Australian beef, coconut soup (Thom Kha Gai), Mussaman curry with chicken (Gaeng Mussaman Gai), Phad Thai (noodles). They also have different fish and seafood dishes.
We had their signature roasted chicken (Gai Yang Set) which was delicious! For dessert, you must try the sticky rice with fresh mango – soooo good! 🙂 They also have different cakes which look stunning.
Jim Thompson Silk Shop
Jim Thompson is one of the biggest and most famous Thai silk brands. Their products are of high-quality silk, made in Thailand. The silk-making process involves local farmers and weavers, and the silk produced by the silkworms is turned into gorgeous patterns and fabrics.
I love how the designers at Jim Thompson have managed to revitalize the old Thai silk weaving art. They make modern and cool clothes and products that are fashionable and of high quality.
They have clothes, scarfs, bags, accessories (like hats) for women, men, and kids, interiors like pillows (they are beautiful!), and table cloths and napkins. This is not cheap, mass-produced silk, and the quality is of a very high standard.
You will find Jim Thompson shops in several places around Bangkok and Thailand, but the main shop is at the Jim Thompson House Museum.
Jim Thompson Art Center
On the grounds of the Jim Thompson House Museum, you will find the Jim Thompson Art Center. Here you can see traditional and contemporary art exhibitions by local Thai artists and international artists. The art center also houses events, seminars, lectures, and workshops.
The museum has plans to build a big, new, and modern art building with a public rooftop garden and two art galleries.
A visit to Jim Thompson House is a fantastic experience that gives you a great insight into the old Thai house architecture and culture.
It is not like an ordinary museum at all, here you feel that you are in someone’s private home. You also get to learn about the fascinating man Jim Thompson, both his personality and how much he truly loved Thailand and its history and culture. And of course, the mystery surrounding his disappearance.
Jim Thompson House is well worth a visit if you are in Bangkok!
Visitor Information Jim Thompson House Museum
- Address: 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok
- Opening Hours: 10:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (last guided tour at 17:00/ 5 pm). Closed on Tuesdays.
- Entrance Ticket Price: 200 Thai Baht = US$ 6 (adult), 100 Thai Baht = US$ 3 (visitors under 22 years of age), free entrance for children under ten years old
- How to get there: Take the Skytrain to the “National Stadium” stop, and follow the signs
- Jim Thompson House’s Official Webpage
- Jim Thompson House’s Facebook Page
How To Buy Tickets To Jim Thompson House
You can buy tickets at the Jim Thompson House Museum when you arrive there, and wait for the next guided museum tour. This tour can, however, be quite packed with people, and you might have to wait a while in the heat for the tour to start.
Another option is to book a private guided tour of Jim Thompson House Museum where transport from/to your hotel is included:
Jim Thompson House and Baan Krua Community Tour
On this tour, you get a guided tour of Jim Thompson House museum and garden, as well as a tour of the Baan Krua Nhua silk village at the bank of the Klong Saen Saeb River. This is where Jim Thompson got fascinated by Thai silk and had his silk fabrics produced. Some families in the silk village still make traditional Thai silk the old way. It is fun and fascinating to visit the silk community and learn how Thai silk is made and turned into the most beautiful high-quality texture and clothes. Transport from and back to your hotel is included (air-conditioned car and private driver). A professional, enthusiastic, and English-speaking guide will tell you all about Jim Thompson, his houses, and his garden, as well as guide you around the silk village.
Click here for info and availability on the Jim Thompson House and Baan Krua Silk Village Tour
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 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.
Click here for latest prices
Hotel Muse is a cool and unique boutique hotel, perfectly located in the center of Bangkok within easy walking distance of Chit Lom Skytrain station. The rooms are elegant with a classic Thai inspired decor, comfortable beds and gorgeous bathrooms with a deep bathtub.. There is a rooftop bar, a pool and a fitness center. We spent Christmas here a few years ago, and was very happy with our choice of hotel.
Click here for latest prices
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.
Click here for latest prices
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!
Click here for latest prices
⇒ For more accommodation options and tips on which areas of Bangkok that suit 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 which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):
Have you been to the Jim Thompson 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 it on social media! Thank you! 🙂
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