Feb 06 2012
Jim Thompson was a designer, a silk magnate, a Thailophile, and, incidentally, a spy for the West. The history of his undercover involvement in the OSS and the personal politics of his later years are both fascinating and widely misrepresented. But at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, you will hear about none of this.
The Jim Thompson House is less a journey through history than a window shopping tour — where everything is old, quietly beautiful, and unfortunately not-for-sale. The lair of one of the most legendary men in Thailand in the 20th century is surprisingly quaint, with verdant gardens, rooms filled with porcelain ware, and sloping walls constructed without a single nail. Of the Bangkok house tour circuit, Jim Thompson’s should be the first on your list.
The museum is well-maintained and efficient, directing each group of wide-eyed tourists through the house in precise 30-minute increments, allowing you just enough time to casually admire the wood panelling beneath the windows and black and white tiles of the entryway. Like most museum tours, sanitised tidbits of information are delivered piecemeal and in monotone, and fall short on real historical insight, but joining a tour of the house is the only way you’ll get to see it.
A carefree way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in Bangkok, the Jim Thompson House is an oasis of green in a concrete city. For only 100 baht for adults, and 50 baht for those under 25 (or students), marvel at the beauty of a home carefully curated by the man who single-handedly revived the Thai silk industry.
You can see a lot, learn a little, and shop at the gift shop when you’re done. Take home a Jim Thompson postcard (10 baht) or a print of an ancient map of Thailand (150 baht). For a greater understanding of the man of the house, read The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War by Joshua Kurlantzick (currently not sold at the museum).
Jim Thompson’s House
Open daily 09:00-17:00
6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road
T: (02) 216-7368
Guided tours are compulsory and offered in Thai, English, French, and Japanese.
The museum is a five-minute walk from the National Stadium BTS station, and a five-minute cab ride from Ratchathewi BTS Station.
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