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Not far from Siam Square in Bangkok is you will find Thailand’s most famous house, the Jim Thompson House Museum. This is the place where you can learn a lot about Asian art, history and Thai culture. We found a visit to this unique place in the center of Bangkok very informative and especially fun!
Who was Jim Thompson?
In Thailand, Jim Thompson (actually named James H.W. Thompson = James Harrison Wilson Thompson) is a well-known person who made the silk industry flourish in the middle of the last century. Jim was born on March 21st 1906 in America where he grew up in Delaware. Jim’s father was a wealthy textile manufacturer, apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When Jim was in his twenties he started working as an architect where he designing houses for America’s elite. In 1941, Jim started working for the Office of Strategic Services. This was the forerunner of the CIA. After Jim Thompson served in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was based in Sri Lanka after the liberation of Europe. Here he offered help to Thailand on behalf of America. The goal was to liberate Thailand from the Japanese.
After the liberation of Thailand and the end of the Second World War, Jim left for Thailand in 1946 at the age of 39. Initially, he wanted to start a hotel together with a group of investors. In order to promote the emerging tourism in Thailand. But due to mutual disagreements, he stopped this and together with his good friend, George Barrie, he started the Thai Silk Company Limited in 1948.
DID YOU KNOW?
Jim Thompson was awarded the Order of the White Elephant. A Thai award given since 1861 to foreigners who have been extraordinarily meaningful to the Thai community.
Thai Silk Company Limited
The company’s mission was to put Thai fabric (silk) on the international map. Thai silk had to become a worthy and qualitative export product. The export of Thai silk had completely collapsed due to other bad production and industrialisation in the west. This made silk from the west much cheaper and of better quality than silk from Thailand. Jim Thompson improved the weaving and colouring process, among other things. In this way, silk products from Thailand became of high quality and affordable again. He also gave advice on which colour combinations would become fashionable.
The Thai Silk Company regularly sent samples of their fabrics to fashion houses in Europe and America. When in 1951 the silk fabrics of the Thai Silk Company were used for the famous musical The King and I, things went very fast. The demand for Thai silk increased enormously. Nowadays, Thai silk is seen as a quality product that is widely used in the fashion world. Also, the fabrics of the company are still used for upholstery of sofas and chairs.
Employment in the Thai silk industry
Jim Thompson and his company have helped thousands of Thai families generate income. Because Thai women could make the silk from their homes it was possible to combine it with their household. In this way many poor families got a chance for a better future. Today, many Thai women still work in the silk industry, partly thanks to the dedication and perseverance of Jim Thompson.
Jim built his house in a place where he could live close to his weavers. That is why many weavers lived in the vicinity of the Jim Thompson House.
Unique collection of Asian art
Jim Thompson was a great lover and collector of Asian art. His collection of paintings, antique utensils, sculptures, carvings and other art objects was immense! Jim also had many unique Buddhist (art) works and other rare objects in his collection. In 1958, his collection was so large that he needed more space. Time for a new home he must have thought. And so Jim built a house were he could display his art collection and accomodate his friends. Nowadays, this house, the Jim Thompson House, one of the most beautiful museums of Bangkok.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some items from Jim Thompson’s collection are almost 1,400 years old!
Not one but six houses!
Put this way, all-rounder Jim started to crown his work in 1958. Building a new home / museum in Bangkok. No less than six different authentic teak Thai houses were bought from Ayutthaya and Bangkok. Some of these houses were over a century old. Of these six houses Jim Thompson wanted to use the materials to build one large house in Bangkok.
During the construction of this architectural masterpiece, Jim also added his own creations and ideas. Jim also used various objects that he had collected over the years for decoration. It only took him 7 months to complete the construction of the house.
DID YOU KNOW?
The living room of the Jim Thompson House is actually an old weaver’s house, ironically, isn’t it?
What’s also special about Jim Thompson House is that it’s a mix of different styles. There are western elements like marble from Italy and Belgium and the windows are typically Asian style again. The whole house is a true work of art to walk through! And in that very big work of art are all smaller works of art. If you are a lover of art and culture, then the Jim Thompson House Museum is a must to visit if you are in Bangkok.
Don’t forget the garden!
What we also really enjoyed is the beautiful garden on the grounds of the Jim Thompson House! It is a piece of nature and tranquility in the middle of busy Bangkok. In the garden are several small buildings where a part of Jim’s collection is exhibited. So don’t forget to take a walk through the garden of the Jim Thompson House.
In the garden, there is a vase with a biting fish that has bitten many visitors… No, not a piranha but a ruthless fish! You have been warned!
Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok
Today, the Jim Thompson House Museum is a real attraction for the many tourists in Bangkok. The house is easily accessible by public transport including the BTS (Sky Train) and via the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boat. The Jim Thompson House is located on the waterfront and in an alley. It is very quiet and serene, very special since you are in the middle of the busy center of Bangkok.
During a visit to the Jim Thompson House you will get a guide (mandatory). This guide will tell you more about Jim’s life, the special collection and the house itself. The museum is open from 11:00 – 18:00 hr. Tours are available all day round with no fixed schedule. This with guides who will show you around in different languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese and French. The guide is included in the price of 200 baht. Children under the age of 10 can enter for free and youngsters under the age of 22 pay 100 baht.
Vanished in thin air since 26 March 1967
On Easter Sunday 26-03-1967, Jim Thompson was last seen. He was on a holiday in neighbouring Malaysia. To be precise on the Cameron Highlands about 150 km from the capital Kuala Lumpur. After attending mass in All Soul’s church, Jim and his company had a picnic in the countryside after which they returned to the Moonlight Bungalow, their holiday address. From here Jim started a walk he never came back from. He was last seen at 16:00 at the Lutheran Mission Bungalow in the Kamunting district. Since then, no one has ever seen him again…
The Moonlight Bungalow where Jim slept and the last place Jim was seen | Images: Wikipedia
Nowadays The Thai Silk Company still exists, including the Jim Thompson Farm. Then there is also the James H.W. Thompson Foundation. A foundation that manages the Jim Thompson House Museum and the Jim Thompson Art Center. There are also numerous restaurants and shops / boutiques that sell beautiful fabrics and fashion such as in Siam Paragon or ICONSIAM. Of course there is also an online store where people all over the world can buy beautiful silk products. It is nice to see that the company that James H.W. Thompson founded in 1951 still exists today! His nickname is not for nothing the king of silk.
Jim Thompson Fabrics
Thanks to Jim’s entrepreneurial spirit and unbridled commitment to the silk industry, silk is still a sought-after product today. It is therefore not surprising that there are several Jim Thompson stores in Thailand. For example in the Siam Paragon and ICONSIAM shopping malls. There is even a Jim Thompson Factory Outlet Store in Bangkok, which is a half hour drive from the museum. So if you are completely overwhelmed by the splendor of the silk, then you know where to go.
There is also a Jim Thompson webshop so people from all over the world can buy Jim Thompson’s products. The Jim Thompson Fabrics division can be divided into two companies. For example, there is the Jim Thompson Personal Goods division, which sells silk clothing and accessories. And Jim Thompson Home Furnishing, which sells products for the home.
Jim Thompson Farm
There is also a real Jim Thompson Farm. This farm is not located in Bangkok but in Takhop. The terrain is about four hours drive from Bangkok and is located near the Khao Yai National Park. This area was created to preserve the cultural heritage of Thailand. The main goal is to preserve the culture of the Isaan (region in northeastern Thailand).
The Jim Thompson Farm was established in 1988 as a production site for silkworms. Since 2001, it has been regularly open to visitors in order to learn more about the beautiful Thai nature. In 2007, The Thai Silk Company built an entire village from the Isaan on the site. A smart way to market cultural heritage and make sure it is not lost. Since 2012, there is a theme every year and everyone is welcome on the land of the Jim Thompson Farm.
The Jim Thompson Art Center
In addition to the Jim Thompson House, there is also an art center. The adjacent Jim Thompson Art Center was founded by the James H.W. Thompson Foundation. Its purpose is to support Bangkok’s local and international art and cultural communities. They do this for example by organizing exhibitions and lectures.
Jim Thompson – A Thai Restaurant
During Jim’s presence in Thailand, he was regularly visited by friends. Many of his friends were well-known writers or other famous people. Together they enjoyed the tasty Thai cuisine and that is why the Jim Thompson restaurants were created. In the Jim Thompson restaurants you can enjoy the authentic Thai cuisine in an atmospheric ambiance.
Currently there are already two Jim Thompson restaurants, including those next to the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok. During our visit to the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok we ended with a snack and a drink.
Is the Jim Thompson House Museum highly recommended?
YES, especially if you care about Asian culture, art and architecture. We found it a very nice and special visit to the house of the late Jim!
In memoriam James H.W. Thompson 21-03-1906 — xx-xx-xxxx
What else to do in the area?
Actually, too much to mention! In the InfoBox you will find a number of good accommodations, places to eat and drink and other nice places. Discover and experience Bangkok!
Great accommodaties in the area of Jim Thompson House Museum
- Lub d Bangkok Siam Hostel
- Kritthai Residence
- Ibis Bangkok Siam
- Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Siam
- Mercure Bangkok Siam
- Pathumwan Princess Hotel
- Grande Centre Point Ratchadamri
- Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan – MGallery
- Centara Grand at CentralWorld
- Courtyard by Marriott Bangkok
- The Okura Prestige Bangkok
- Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
The most beautiful Sky Bars & Roof Top Bars of Bangkok
Don’t leave Bangkok without visiting at least one sky bar, a wonderful night out for everyone with breathtaking views!
Also read about the amazing cinemas in Bangkok such as Siam Paragon near Jim Thompson House Museum.
- The shopping malls in Bangkok
Shop till you drop in Bangkok’s mega malls
- The most beautiful temples of Bangkok
You can’t actually leave Bangkok without visiting a temple.
- Parks in Bangkok
Beautiful green parks in the middle of Bangkok, a green oasis to relax for a while.
- Markets in Bangkok
Take a look into local life and look for bargains among the colourful market stalls.
- Museums in Bangkok
Here you discover the cultural (art) treasures of Thailand
- Fun activities in Bangkok
Alone or with children, there are so many fun things to do in Bangkok. Look at them here!
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