One of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok, Thailand is The Jim Thompson House. Once the home of Jim Thompson, an American ex-CIA agent who was a famous business man in the Thai silk industry, it’s now a museum visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year. But what’s actually there and is it worth visiting?
Who Was Jim Thompson? – Born in the US in 1906 he was an architect turned CIA agent during World War II, who was stationed in south east Asia. After the war ended, Thompson remained in Thailand and eventually went into business in the silk industry, which was dying in Thailand. People say he was responsible for single-handedly reviving the Thai silk industry which today is one of the most successful in the world. Thompson became a famous figure around the city of Bangkok, friendly with high-society Thai, military and government officials and influential people.
He’s even more famous though for his disappearance and presumed death. On a holiday in the Cameron Highlands area of Malaysia in 1967, Thompson went for a walk and never returned. A massive search took place for him but with no clues the trail went dead and, to this day, Thompson’s disappearance remains a mystery.
Nowadays, Jim Thompson Silk is the most important silk company in Thailand. With shops all over Bangkok and several outside the city, it’s known for high-quality, handmade silk that’s far above average price.
What is The Jim Thompson House? – The Jim Thompson House is now a museum which is one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions.
When Jim Thompson realized he was staying in Thailand, he bought six traditional Thai-style teak houses (the kind on wooden stilts with huge open decks that are constructed without the use of nails). Thompson had the houses moved to Bangkok and put up in one spot, on the banks of a canal in downtown Bangkok. Today, The Jim Thompson House is an incredible museum. Loaded with Jim Thompson’s art and antiques, it’s a beautiful place to see.
What Happens When You Get To Jim Thompson House? – Because The Jim Thompson House is full of priceless art and antiques and you can stand right next to them, the only way to see the house is with a guided tour. When you arrive at the house, you’ll wait in a small courtyard until the next tour arrives. Tours are led by one of the beautiful young Thai women who works there and start every few minutes. The tour itself takes about 30-40 minutes, with access to all the houses (all now constructed as one house), and a tour of the gorgeous gardens.
At the end of the tour, you can look around the shop full of beautiful handmade and hand-painted silk products or have a drink or lunch in the Jim Thompson restaurant. I recommend the restaurant particularly. Food isn’t too expensive and it’s known by Bangkokians as serving a very nice upscale lunch for a not too expensive price.
Admission to The Jim Thompson House is only 100 baht ($3), with students paying only 50 baht ($1.50). And yes, it’s well worth seeing. The houses are simply stunning. Once all over Thailand, they’re now so rare it’s fascinating to be able to walk around them and see how Thais used to live. Thompson’s art and antiques are incredible too.
How to Get to The Jim Thompson House – Take the sky train to National Stadium. Walk down the steps on the side of the skybridge that’s opposite Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall. Walk away from the mall (with the mall on your left hand side) just a few hundred yards until you see a large sign for The Jim Thompson House at the bottom of a small lane. The Jim Thompson House is a short walk down the lane on your left hand side.