When I was perusing our Bangkok map to see what local attractions were close by, three English words jumped out at me – Jim Thompson House. Who is this Mr Thompson I though, why has he built a house in the middle of Bangkok and why is it marked on my map?
Who is Jim Thompson?
James Harrison Wilson “Jim” Thompson was an American chap who settled in Bangkok after an overseas stint in the US Army during which he fell in love with Thailand.
He was a major force in the revival of the Thai silk industry during the 1950’s & 60’s.
Using parts of 6 different traditional Thai buildings and relocating them to central Bangkok he created a unique complex of buildings on his estate, now collectively known as Jim Thompson House and open to the public. These were completed in 1959 and he moved in shortly after.
He was an avid collector of antiques and these are now showcased throughout the buildings.
On a visit to Cambodia in 1967 he mysteriously vanished whilst out walking alone. Nobody was ever found or explanation given and several books have been written about his disappearance. Some people still believe he was bumped off by the CIA!
What does a visit to Jim Thompson House involve?
After entering through the main gate (make sure you carry on past the Jim Thompson restaurant) you head to the admissions desk to buy a ticket. At the time of visiting in February 2016 the price was 150 THB per adult (£3), under age 22 100 THB.
Once paid up, with ticket in hand you head through towards the main buildings and one of the amazingly helpful staff will direct you to the tour desk. Here they will mark your ticket with the time of the next available tour, in English tours run every 20 minutes which helps keep the groups a decent size.
You can only visit inside the houses on a guided tour so you need to book yourself onto one or there’s not much point in visiting the place.
A tour lasts around 40 minutes and there’s no photography or recording allowed inside.
Whilst waiting for your tour to begin you can wander around and have a look in some of the smaller buildings on the side which are home to some impressive antique and craft displays. It’s a good opportunity to get some shots of the exterior house and grounds. There’s also a small bookshop which has some very welcome air conditioning if you fancy a cooling browse.
Your guide will call the group together in the main courtyard, check tickets promptly at the tour time and away you go. Firstly you pop your bags and belongings into some lockers onsite, these are pretty safe and free to use. The tour then begins outside and under the house, as it is on stilts, with a background all about Jim Thompson and how the houses came to be here.
You pop your shoes off and continue inside the building working your way through the bedrooms, study and drawing room. There’s a real attention to detail here and a sometimes bizarre mix of western design, like the Italian marble flooring, alongside the beautifully restored Thai structures.
As well as the wonder of the buildings all the rooms are intriguingly furnished with a ramshackle collection of antiques which Mr T loved to collect.
If you’d like to see a full video of our visit to Jim Thompson’s House (under 6 minutes) then click below to watch.
Or you can watch the video on YouTube here. While you’re there please subscribe to our channel.
Would I enjoy it?
Great question reader. I wasn’t sure if I was going to really be into it before visiting and it didn’t feel like a very ‘local’ thing to be doing with our time in Bangkok, but after a good look around I was really glad we decided to go.
I felt that I learnt a lot about Thai architecture and traditions and the tour in particular was well paced and informative. I had no idea who Jim Thompson was an I don’t see that you have to have a massive passion for the man himself to enjoy the house and garden. Maybe it was the quirkiness of it or the fact that he was an outsider in a strange city who made a go of it but really liked it.
Sure there’s the Jim Thompson Restaurant, the Jim Thompson Silk Shop, the Jim Thompson Art Gallery and Jim Thompson Coffee Shop but if you ignore those bits the house itself is well worth a look and a good way to spend a couple of hours on a sticky Bangkok afternoon.
How to get to Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson House is located on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, just off of Rama I Rd, opposite the National Stadium.
The nearest BTS station is called National Stadium on the dark green Silom Line and is a 4 minute stroll away.
If you’re unable to walk far there’s even a free shuttle Tuk tuk to transport you from the main road, down Soi Kasemsan (2) Song to the house and restaurant.