‘You must go to Jim Thompson house,’ she said.
Sue, from Denver, Colorado, was the fourth person to tell us this in the few hours since we landed in Bangkok.
‘Jim Thompson?’ my husband asked, ‘who the flip is Jim Thompson?’ Ok, he didn’t say “flip”, but you get the idea.
‘He’s this dude who did a heap of stuff with the silk industry,’ I said knowledgeably, reading from the Lonely Planet Guide to Bangkok.
Jim Thompson, or Jimmy T, as he’s become known in our little household, was so much more than some dude who did a heap of stuff with the silk industry. He revolutionised it- taking Thai silk from cottage industry to Vogue.
It’s the legend of his passing that takes this from being an interesting story to a really interesting one.
The thing is, Jim Thompson disappeared mysteriously in 1967 while on holiday in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. No viable clues have ever been discovered. Conspiracy theories were discussed. Was Jim Thompson involved with the CIA? The grassy knoll? Harold Holt?
Our guide advised us that according to his Thai horoscope, he should’ve been more careful in his 61st year- and JT did like to consult his horoscope. The date he chose to move into his house was a date decreed as being auspicious by astrologers- and in hindsight it has been.
The house itself is amazing. It consists of six teak buildings in the Thai style joined together. The floors are elevated a full storey above the ground to avoid flooding and are covered with cool Italian marble and worn teak.
It’s the furnishing that’s worth seeing- centuries old wall hangings, burnished with age, porcelain dinner settings, and a variety of antiques- that the locals called “broken things.”
In Thai culture, holding onto damaged vases or statues is seen as being bad luck- a crack in the china could signify a crack in the family.
Before too long people were bringing him “broken things.” As a result JT ended up with a fine collection of art and antiquities.
Perhaps it was the broken things that brought him bad luck and no CIA conspiracy…although I like that version so much more…
Anyways, if you want more of his story (without the conspiracy theories) check out the website.
100 baht for adults
50 baht for children
This includes a compulsory guided tour of the house. You can wander around the gardens afterwards as you like.
There is no photography permitted in the house, but ok in the garden.
Just a few minutes walk from the National Stadium BTS station. We were staying in Siam Square, so walked across via the air conditioned comfort of the shopping centres. There are heaps of taxis and tuk tuks around, and the website has instructions for Thai taxi drivers here.
There is an outlet of Jim Thompson silk shops at the house (the main shop is down the road at Siam Paragon). Don’t expect bargains, but the silk is truly gorgeous.
There is a restaurant selling coffee, cold drinks, light snacks and meals. Hubby had a lychee and mint ice “smoothie” and I had a coconut juice.
Check out the website at http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com