Travelling to Thailand, you might hear Jim Thompson’s name in one of two contexts: (A) while shopping, or (B) visiting Bangkok attractions. Yet the question isn’t so much ‘who is Jim Thompson’ as ‘what happened to him?’. Thompson was an American expat credited with reinventing the Thai silk industry and, in 1967, he just – vanished. Like Amelia Earhart, there are theories as to what happened (cough-CIA-cough), yet his mysterious disappearance remains unsolved.
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Jim Thompson in Thailand
The Jim Thompson mystery
Jim Thompson’s huge range of interests and influence suggest a fascinating biography. Whether your interests lie with architecture, history, design or a total mystery, his story adds great insight to Thailand then and now.
The Jim Thompson House, Bangkok
While living in Bangkok in the post-war era, Thompson led a debonair and high-flying life. His house, today a museum, is an icon of leading Thai style and architecture. If spending any time in Bangkok, I highly recommended you visit his former home, “The House that was the Talk of the Town”.
Visiting Jim Thompson House
You must join a guided tour to walk around the interior of the house (available in every language under the sun), however you’re free to explore the beautiful gardens on your own at your leisure – and they’re incredible. The garden are the only part of the house you’re allowed to photograph – the house and its art collection have enough light to battle in strong Thai UV.
To tour the house, you’ll take off your shoes and leave other belongings behind in a locker. Another reason why these shoes will be your most convenient option for exploring Bangkok!
English tours are, unsurprisingly, amongst the most popular and there might be a wait of 30 minutes or so until one is available. If you’re in a hurry (or just hate tours), you might notice that the next Japanese tour begins in 10 seconds and remember that – miraculously – you speak Japanese. You won’t win friends, you (probably) won’t learn anything, but you won’t have to wait. (Has this been tried and tested? I’ll never tell).
To arrive an expert in all things Jim Thompson:
- The House on the Klong: Jim Thompson
- The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War
You’re free to wander the garden area at your leisure, where demonstrations are given in silk-weaving. If you love plants or photography, you could be here a while… The finished silk product is (of course) available in an on-site Jim Thompson shop. If there’s a better Bangkok souvenir – I can’t think of one! The restaurant is a fantastic spot for lunch or just a well-deserved dose of mango sticky rice!
When to visit?
The Jim Thompson House is great destination at mid-day, as the gardens provide full shade. Make sure to wear lots of mosquito repellent, as the house is beside a klong (a Bangkok canal) – mosquito Disney Land.
To plan your visit:
TIP! If you pick up a free Bangkok map at the airport, note that the large ‘Jim Thompson’ attraction is the flagship store and not The Jim Thompson House Museum (they’re nowhere near each other).
Life in 1960s Bangkok
In the same vein, ‘Mai Pen Rai Means Nevermind‘ offers an honest and hilarious insight into this period of Bangkok expat life and quite what Thailand was like in Thompson’s day.
Jim Thompson silk
While in Thailand, you’ll see Jim Thompson’s high-end range of Thai silks and fabrics (scarves, accessories, cushions, home goods, etc) in airport shops and boutiques throughout the kingdom. Of course, silk wall-hangings and such like are available across Thailand but these? Crème-de-la-crème. (And who doesn’t love a souvenir with a story?)
More Bangkok questions?
Also: If you’re excited about buying Thai silk, here’s more good news – shopping is a near-religion in Thailand. Here are the best things to buy. Enjoy!