While we were in Bangkok, we decided to use part of our day to go to Jim Thompson’s house. It has pretty good reviews, and is recommended in most of the guide books, but I wasn’t quite sure if it was something we would both enjoy.
Jim Thompson was an American who volunteered for the Army during the second World War, and ultimately ended up working for the Office of Strategic Services (what ultimately became the CIA). As the war ended, he became station chief in Bangkok, and ultimately fell in love with the place and the people. Thompson, when discharged from the Army, headed to Bangkok and became well known for revitalizing the silk industry (to this day, they make beautiful products!). He revived not only the artistry of silk, but the craft.
Jim Thompson became an incredible collector of Asian art, which he placed in his beautiful home and grounds. With amazing teak structures sitting on a canal, his home is a tranquil space in the middle of bustling Bangkok. There are lots of fountains and lots of turtles!
If you are interested in Southeast Asian art, Jim Thompson’s house is a must see. Thanks to his family, visitors can enjoy his home and vast collection. The tour takes about 45 minutes, and is well worth your time. Despite the stifling heat of Bangkok, the classical Thai structures have a constant breeze and cooling interior. There are sketches, paintings, silk, statues, and more. Neither of us are “into” art, but we both really enjoyed the tour.
But the mystery of Jim Thompson: he disappeared in Malaysia in the late 1960’s, never to be seen again (who doesn’t love a mystery?)…there are lots of theories out there about what might have happened, though no evidence has ever been found.
And….after the Jim Thompson house, we’d highly suggest hitting up the restaurant/cafe! It’s a hugely popular place for expat business meetings. Yes, it is “expensive” for Thailand, and yes, there is fresh street food right outside the gate. But it was very, very good. Plus, if you are craving desert–and I don’t mean Thai desert–it has an incredible selection of cakes and pies. The photos prove it!
The Jim Thompson house provides a glimpse of the history of silk, of Bangkok, a view of much incredible art, and of an American who truly fell in love with the people and the place. It’s definitely worth a stop if you are in Bangkok!
Visit notes: if you are planning to eat, do it early or late or make reservations. You can easily spend an hour looking at the art, silk, etc. in addition to the tour of the house. It’s a pleasant place just to stop and wander around!