In the afternoon we went to explore the Jim Thompson House – and what an amazing place it is.
Not only has it a very interesting story, but more importantly it is a calm oasis in a very busy city.
Jim Thompson was an American, who arrived in Bangkok in the late 1940s after serving in the US Army for many years. He became passionately interested in Southeast Asian art and antiques and travelled widely.
During exploratory visits to Thailand’s isolated and impoverished north-east, Jim Thompson became interested in the almost extinct cottage silk industry and began making enquiries. He realised that raw silk was only produced for limited use by some villagers but its quality was so much better and different from the smooth, almost featureless quality of machine-made silk. He felt convinced that products of such unusual beauty must have market appeal, if only the industry was organised properly, and Thai silk brought to the attention of the right people – and that’s what he achieved to do.
Unfortunately, Jim Thompson is also known for suddenly disappearing in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Not a single clue has turned up in the ensuing years as to what might have happened to him.
Jim Thompson’s house is not just one house, but a combination of six teak buildings, which represented the best of traditional Thai architecture. Most of the houses were at least two centuries old and were easily dismantled and brought to the present site, some from as far away as the old capital of Ayudhya.
In his quest for authenticity, Jim Thompson adhered to the customs of the early builders in most respects. The houses were elevated a full story above the ground, a practical Thai precaution to avoid flooding during the rainy season.
An especially appealing feature of the house is the lush tropical garden. A stroll through it quickly removes one from the bustle and noise of urban Bangkok. In one corner, the gardener’s cottage has been transformed into a room for displaying part of Thompson’s large collection of Thai-style paintings. In another corner can be found the Maid’s room and an interesting selection of porcelain.
When Jim Thompson moved into the house in 1959 many Thai people said that he needed to be careful, there were too many broken artefacts in the house, which he had collected. Maybe this was a sign that he would not find a happy and long life in his house?
The home was an immediate sensation and something people wanted to see. Jim Thompson decided to accommodate the public by opening it two mornings a week to visitors, with proceeds from the visits being donated to charity.
After he was declared legally deceased, his heirs formed a foundation to both maintain the dwelling and the art collection it houses and to support selected art and silk weaving projects.
- The Jim Thompson House is open every day from 9am to 5 pm. It is located opposite the National Stadium and its address is 6 Soi Kaseman 2, Rama I Road, Bangkok, Tel. 216 7368
- The house remained the way it looked when Jim Thompson lived there. You can stroll around the gardens on your own but only enter the house as part of a tour group
- The admission fee is 100 baht for adults, 50 baht for students and free for children
- How to get there: Take exit 1 from the BTS National Stadium Station, turn right into Soi Kasemsan 2 and continue walking all the way to the very end. The museum will be on your left-hand side