In Bangkok: The Jim Thompson House

IN AND out of Bangkok for years, frequenting the Jim Thompson mall stores and taking home the products of one of Thailand’s most famous brands, I, believe it or not, have never made it to the Jim Thompson House.

On the most recent trip, I finally stepped in the former home of “the man who singlehandedly revived the silk industry of Thailand”. Today it’s a museum and one of Bangkok’s top attractions.

Jim Thompson was an American architect and a retired army officer, who was also believed to be a spy.

The compound holds six traditional teak Thai houses set on half an acre of land with lush jungle-like garden. A few of the structures are said to be a century old. Each were bought by Thompson from its owners from different locations in Thailand, dismantled, transferred via the Thai waterway and reassembled at his riverside address in Bangkok. After a year of work, he completed the construction in 1959, staying true to the authentic Thai architectural details while adding his personal touches to the buildings.

In these houses are Thompson’s objets d’art, a collection of antiques and art he amassed: Ming dynasty pieces from China, wood carvings from Cambodia, Victorian era chandeliers, statues from Burma, and items from Thailand like stone images and a dining table which was once used by King Rama V.

The main house is the compound’s largest structure. In it is the most interesting part (for me)—the Drawing Room. This is room is the oldest part of the house. It was once an 1800s house from the silk weaving village of Ban Krua.

As to the second oldest part of the complex, that would be the kitchen. Dated at mid-19th century and found in the same weaving village, the kitchen was once part of an old palace and moved to Ban Krua after purchase by the original owner.

Thompson found the other structures in Ayuthaya and in a village called Pak Hai, northwest of the former capital.

You can’t leave without shopping for a Jim Thompson souvenir. The building by the gate is where you’ll find something to take home to remember the visit by.

Above the same building is a space used as an art gallery. The Art Center hosts artists of different mediums.

The Jim Thompson House is on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Rd. You can take a car, Tuk tuk or taxi but the quickest way would be via the BTS Sky Train. Get off the National Stadium BTS station. Although you can walk form the main road to the museum, there is a complimentary Tuk tuk ride to and fro the museum.

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