Think Jim Thompson, think Thai silks!, although Jim was originally trained as an architect, he immediately fell in love with the rustic design of the traditional Thai houses and built his own home in a similar style from a collection of six teak-wood houses he acquired from different parts of Thailand.
As you walk around his home you get an intimate feeling for the distinct fusion between traditional Thai & American living, the sculptures,art,colors & designs on show all indicate that Jim possessed a natural flair as well as single-minded dedication in reviving & developing the Thai silk industry.
I personally found the peace & tranquility that the Jim Thompson House naturally evokes incredible, as it appears to be completely out of place in the middle of Bangkok, one of the largest sprawling metropolises in the world!.
Jim Thompson served as an American soldier during the Second World War and was perhaps the most famous foreigner EVER in Bangkok, Thailand. Thompson’s contributions to the Kingdom of Thailand during his 25-year stay were significant enough to earn him both the “Order of the White Elephant“, a decoration bestowed upon foreigners for having rendered exceptional service to Thailand & the nickname of the “Legendary American of Thailand!.”
A native of Delaware in the United States, he was working as an architect in New York until the early 1940’s. He volunteered for the US Army during World War II and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of what we know today as the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA. Thompson, along with other OSS men, was en route to Bangkok when the war ended abruptly. He then assumed the position of OSS Station Chief, a few weeks later.
Following his military discharge in 1946 and having envisioned that travel to the Far East would increase significantly due to therestoration of peace and the expansion of air travel. He had the foresight that travelers arriving in Bangkok would need a comfortable place to stay, so he actively got involved in the re-organization of the Bangkok Oriental Hotel .
At the same time, Jim had noted that silk-weaving which had always been a household craft mainly supplied by farmers in rural Thailand was dying out. This was mainly down to the ever increasing demand for cheaper machine made silks from Europe & Japan.
Jim Thompson decided that to develop silk weaving from a cottage industry he needed to improve on the dyes used(old fashioned dyes typically faded quickly following several washes), and to find new markets for the high quality traditionally produced by the Thai’s. Thompson’s passion towards reviving the Thai silk industry resulted in the founding of the Thai Silk Company (later changed to just Jim Thompson ), which over a period of years enabled him to help thousands of people improve their lives of poverty.
While Thompson was busy building his company, he also became an avid collector of Southeast Asian art. He had managed to put together an impressive collection of secular and Buddhist art from around the country. Thompson had also brought back pieces from Cambodia, Burma and Laos, as he frequently went on buying trips to those countries.
Being an architect, he designed the perfect house to showcase all his art collection, which was completed in 1959. The house sits gracefully beside a canal across Bangkrua, which was where his weavers were staying at the time.
Jim Thompson disappeared while going for a walk in the jungle while holidaying with friends at the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, never to be found again, this remains an Unsolved Mystery even today!.
After his disappearance, his house was opened to the public and is now known as the Jim Thompson House & Museum.
The Jim Thompson Museum presents a vast collection of benjarong multicolored porcelain, Cambodian stone figures, wooden Burmese statues and many others. Guided toursaround the house are available and visitors can relax in the coffee shop found within the lovely gardens.
The Jim Thompson House is now considered as one of the major stops for visitors travelling to Bangkok, and is my own personal no1 place to visit, each time I go back, there is always something different to see, something I missed from the previous visit.
It’s a really lovely place to visit, take time out to see the Jim Thompson House & Museum in Bangkok.
Getting There is easy – use the BTS(skytrain) to the National Stadium, it’s close by there.