Jim Thompson's House

The man, the mystery, the house

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What we say: 4.5 stars

Born in 1906, American Jim Thompson was many things -- entrepreneur, Thai silk magnate, explorer, connoisseur of all things Thai, and incidentally, a spy for the West.

He first became infatuated with Thailand while working for the US Secret Service -- the predecessor of the CIA -- during World War II, after which he returned to the Kingdom and devoted the rest of his life to revitalising the Thai silk industry. In 1967, Thompson disappeared in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, a mystery that's never been solved.

Visiting his house offers insights into how he lived and what he was passionate about, although it's less of a journey through history and more of a window shopping tour where everything is old, quietly beautiful and unfortunately not-for-sale.

The elegant house itself resembles a temple ordination hall and was crafted from centuries-old recycled teak procured from as far away as Ayutthaya. Inside you'll find ancient relics and works of art from throughout Thailand and also Burma, China and Cambodia. Keep an eye out for the cat-shaped urinal and a mouse house. The only way to go inside is through a 30-minute guided tour that delivers selective tidbits of information piecemeal and in monotone, most of which fall short of any real historical substance.

After a half-hour in the house, enjoy a stroll through the gardens, sit for a casual meal at the excellent on-site Thai restaurant, or pick up pricey silk wears or mid 20th century maps of Thailand at the gift shop. 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).

Guided tours are compulsory and offered in Thai, English, French, and Japanese.

More details
Soi Kasem San 2, Rama I Rd
Opening Hours: Daily 09:00-17:00
How to get there: To get here, take exit 1 on the west side of National Stadium BTS station and the first right after walking straight at the bottom of the stairs, after which the house is a five-minute walk away. Watch out for touts on the soi who will insist the museum is closed.
Last updated: 2nd June, 2013

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