Jim Thompson House Museum
6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road (Skytrain station «Nathional Stadium»)
The creator of the legendary Thai silk empire, a former boy scout and a connoisseur of antiques, was the American Jim Thompson. He is the most famous and respected foreigner in Thailand, who left a very rich legacy behind in the country. Hidden in the shadow of this succulent, green garden in Bangkok’s center, his original house is filled with works of art and is one of the capital’s most frequently visited places.
Jim Thompson was born in Pennsylvania in 1906. He received architectural education and, for a time, worked designing public buildings. Before World War II, he engaged himself in politics and entered into a joint intelligence organization for the United States. While working here, he ended up in Thailand in 1946. Stunned by the country’s ancient history and rich culture, Thompson promptly resigned from the military and decided to settle in Bangkok, opening his own business there. Having inherited an interest in textile production from his father, the American actively engaged in the revival of Thai silk production, which had fallen into decay after the war. The Thai silk was world famous for its superior quality, original patterns and bright colors.
In 1959, Jim Thompson bought a neglected piece of land on the bank of the Klong River in Bangkok, located opposite to the quarter where his weavers lived. He brought six ancient teak houses, built in a classical Thai style, from the different provinces of the country and formed his residence from them. He then proceeded to surround it with a picturesque park and tropical plants.
Thompson House is an amazing combination of European approach and Asian traditions. Its main charm is in its proportions: high ceilings and rows of spacious rooms. Additionally, large windows overlook the gardens, while the door thresholds are lifted to make them look like windows too. Numerous mirrors, reflecting park’s verdure and works of art, add to this game of illusions. Jim Thompson filled his house with works of art: pictorial canvases, sculptures and multi-colored Chinese porcelain.
Thompson was renowned as a collector of antiques: he gathered and restored age-old items and later created a wonderful collection from them. Today, his house is a museum that presents utterly amazing works of art from the different corners of the Southeast Asia: wooden Burmese statuettes, stone sculptures from Cambodia, age-old jewelry, pictures by Thai artists and silkscreen decorations. The park that surrounds the house features Statues of Buddha from the 8th until the 13th century.
The Jim Thompson House Museum has specific sections that are devoted to the Thai people’s life and the history of Thai silk industry. In one building in particular, a hall tells the fascinating story of Thompson’s life and work. However, his final fated has remained a mystery until this day, as in 1967, while holidaying in Malaysia with friends, he went for a walk and never came back. No traces of the mysteriously disappeared American were ever found.