When I travel to destinations I’ve already visited, I try to stay as far away from the ‘key attractions’ as possible. On my recent trip to Bangkok I made one exception and visited the famous Jim Thompson house. As a lover of silk, but most importantly of old houses this was one site that I was keen to check out. Also having somewhere to retreat from the exhausting afternoon sun was also a major bonus!
The Jim Thompson house is easy accessible by transport. It’s walking distance from the train station at National Stadium, and only a few moments stroll from the famous shopping complex MBK. Located in a quiet side street and on the banks of a canal, it’s almost unbelievable that this property is only moments from bustling traffic!
Jim Thompson was an American man who came to live in Thailand after the Second World War. He was on route to Asia with the US army when peace was declared, and during his time in post war Bangkok he fell in love with the city. A deep fascination with silk developed, and Jim Thompson set up business exporting Thai silks to the western world. These silks became iconic and the brand still continues today.
Jim Thompson built this house to be his permanent home in Bangkok. The house was built next to the canal, and directly across from the community of silk makers who became integral to his business. From his sitting room you can see across the canal to this community.
Purchased from the old capital Ayutthaya a collection of small buildings were brought to Bangkok and reassembled into a multi roomed house. These traditional Thai styled wooden buildings were rebuilt into one complex and raised off the ground to prevent flooding from the nearby canal. Not only does the building house an extensive collection of antiques, but the building itself is one!
After twenty two years living in Thailand, Jim Thompson went on holiday in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia and went missing, never to be found. His disappearance lends itself to add mystery to the buildings, which have remained intact and virtually un-touched since. The house is now run by the Jim Thompson Foundation, a foundation set up by the Thai Government. Their goal is to ensure that the buildings and the practice of traditional Thai silk weaving are protected for future generations to enjoy.
Visiting the Jim Thompson house today:
Visitors are required to book into a tour group to visit the house. You can book a tour on your arrival to the house. These tours last for 30-40minutes and are the only way that you can see the house. Naturally they are quite protective of the building!
Whilst you wait for your tour to commence, there is entertainment in the courtyard. Young ladies in traditional dress demonstrate the art of silk weaving by hand, as well as performing traditional dance routines. Not only is it educational but also very fascinating to watch!
Visitors are also allowed to explore the vast garden areas surround in the house. These labyrinth paths weave their way around the property and are shaded with local vegetation. You’ll find statues, ponds and relaxing spots to relax amongst the trees!
Once the tour commences you’ll be ushered through the buildings. The tours are available in both French and English and run every hour. You’ll also be asked to go barefoot inside the house.
Once inside you’ll notice not only the stunning architecture of these teak buildings, but also the treasure trove of antiques. Jim Thompson himself was a collector of Asian antiquities. Therefore you’ll find statues, artworks and relics from all over Asia on display. Key items from the collection are explained by the lovely tour guides who are happy to answer questions as you go along.
My favourite room was the living area, which was open aired, had a range of relaxing day beds and comfortable looking chairs. I kept saying to the fella ‘I want to live in a house like this!’
Once your tour is complete you can sit down for a meal at the restaurant. This restaurant is quite famous in its own right for excellent food. Or you can do as I did, and explore the gift shop which has plenty of silk items for sale, including shirts, scarves and sarongs. The prices are expensive but these items are of top quality.
The Jim Thompson House is one of the highlights of any trip to Bangkok. Not only is the mystery of the man appealing, but also the building itself and the art collection it houses is fascinating to see.
Have you been to the Jim Thompson House? Are you fascinated by old buildings?