The Jim Thompson House, Bangkok

We love to walk, eat and wander but I must admit, despite all our travels we are lazy tourists. We like markets but are not keen on shopping and sometimes it takes us several trips  before we make it to the "must sees". I must confess we still haven't made it to the Royal Palace in Bangkok which most people see on day one. The good news about this technique is that there's always something compelling to return to.  
So, despite the fact that we have been in Bangkok several times before  this was our first visit to the charming Jim Thompson House Though I bought  curtain fabric in a a beautiful wool/silk blend at the Jim Thompson Outlet years ago, which was followed by a long trek round Chinatown to have the curtains made, but that's another story. Apparently I do like shopping when there's a deal and the possibility of having something made at great inconvenience half way around the world!
I love small house museums and this is a beautiful one, a green oasis that is  very much on the beaten track. They don't allow photography inside which is such a pity because the interiors are charming and I'm sorry I can't share them. They are a wonderful blend of timeless style, Asian antiques and small quirky pieces.  You buy a timed ticket and take off your shoes at the entrance, along with a small crowd of others who are coming and going. But they manage the groups quite well once you are inside and I was impressed by the guide who took us through a series of rooms including a dining room, living room and bedrooms. Here is the staircase where we began...

The museum is the home of the American entrepreneur Jim W. Thompson who arrived in Bangkok in the 1940's where he lived for more than twenty five years. Thompson was instrumental in  the establishment of the contemporary Thai silk weaving industry and his eponymous fabric  range remains a favorite for high end designers. 
Originally trained as an architect, Thompson had a refined aesthetic and a strong sense for both design and interiors. In the late 1950s he collected six traditional Thai houses and had them reconfigured on the banks of a small klong (canal)  in Bangkok . Because traditional  houses were constructed without nails, they could be taken down and reassembled with ease. 
Thompson created  a delightful home and garden, utilizing the buildings in a different manner by joining them together to create larger  public spaces and his home became a social center for the community he drew around him. 

The house is exquisite and filled with a variety of treasures including beautiful Asian and Thai antiques. Following a dinner with Thompson, Somerset Maugham wrote, "You have not only beautiful things, but what is rare you have arranged them with faultless taste." To a modern eye it remains a valid assessment.

Here is the small klong behind the house.
You can see a small Spirit House located in what is believed to be an auspicious corner of the property - where the shadow of the main house does not fall. Drawing from traditional religious beliefs the Spirit House is built to honor and pacify resident spirits who are  also appeased with daily prayers and offerings including incense, food and floral garlands. We saw similar small structures in parts of Burma, though in some areas such animist belief are frowned upon by some Buddhist.

I particularly loved the design elements and imagery in the collection of horoscopes (above) which also reflect the Thai concern with auspicious dates, luck and good fortune.
Tip: I really enjoyed the visit and certainly recommend making the trip. It's easy to find and is only a short walk from  the National Stadium stop on the Sky Train. I highly recommend you look at any exhibition at the attached Arts Center which proved far more interesting than the shop! They had an exhibit on the Art of Memory in Contemporary Textiles, which was stunning and a great opportunity to see work by South East Asian artists. I may even manage a blogpost!


Elizabeth said…
Love Bangkok, loved his home. It was interesting to hear the swoosh of boats go by right behind his house. I can only imagine how hot and humid it must have been to live there in the 60s without AC...
Thanks for commenting Elizabeth., it's a great place to go.
Yes, it must have been hot but the houses were built for the heat with wonderful cross ventilation. Sometimes I think that it's the constant contrast between our chilled AC environments and the humid heat that makes things very draining.