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The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok
The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok

JIM THOMPSON HOUSE MUSEUM

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!

View of the Jim Thompson House and the entrance

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.

Pictures of Jim Thompson in his bedroom

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.

Jim during the war years 1940 - 1945
Jim Thompson as a silk merchant
Jim Thompson as a silk merchant

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.

Jim Thompson's art collection at the Jim Thompson House  Museum
Jim Thompson's art collection at the Jim Thompson House  Museum
Jim Thompson's art collection at the Jim Thompson House  Museum

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.

Exterior of the Jim Thompson House & Museum 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.

A staircase inside Jim Thompson House, unusual by Thai standards.

DID YOU KNOW?
The living room of the Jim Thompson House is actually an old weaver’s house, ironically, isn’t it?

The living room of Jim Thompson (an old weaver's house)

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.

Floor of European marble in the Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson's bedroom 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.

The garden of the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok
The garden of the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok
The garden with pond of the Jim Thompson House  Museum in Bangkok

PLEASE NOTE!
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!

Biting fish in the garden of the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok
Biting fish in the garden of the Jim Thompson House Museum in Bangkok

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.

The covered terrace of the Jim Thompson House

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.

Our guide to the Jim Thompson House

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 Thompson slept in Malaysia.
The last place Jim Thompson was seen in Malaysia

The Moonlight Bungalow where Jim slept and the last place Jim was seen | Images: Wikipedia 

The present

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 Farm grounds with houses from the Isaan
The Jim Thompson Farm grounds with beautifully coloured flowers and a large tree
The Jim Thompson Farm grounds with beautifully coloured flowers

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.

Aerial view of the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok
Lecture at the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok
The library at the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok

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.

Jim Thompson - A Thai Restaurant
Jim Thompson - A Thai Restaurant
Dishes at a Jim Thompson Restaurant
Dishes at a Jim Thompson Restaurant

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.

Two desserts at the Jim Thompson Restaurant to the Jim Thompson House & Museum in Bangkok
Refreshing drink at the Jim Thompson Restaurant to the Jim Thompson House & Museum in Bangkok.

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

A portrait of James H.W. Thompson. (Jim Thompson)

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!

Jim Thompson House Museum
6 Kasem San 2 Alley, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330
Tel : +66 (0)6 218 7368

Website The James H.W. Thompson Foundation
Website Jim Thompson Fabrics
Website Jim Thompson Restaurants
Website Jim Thompson Farm
Website Jim Thompson Art Center

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.

How to get to the Jim Thompson House Museum

Boat route to Jim Thompson House = 5 minute walk
Route BTS Ratchathewi to Jim Thompson House = 8 minute walk
Route BTS Siam to Jim Thomspon House = 14 minute walk

More information about public transportation in Bangkok in this article.

View our selection of impressive photos of destinations or special days in Thailand through our Picture This section.

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