Bangkok’s Jim Thompson House Shrouded in Mystery

American entrepreneur and architect, Jim Thompson made his home in Bangkok, Thailand after World War II. Thompson is credited with saving the dying craft of silk weaving in Thailand and reviving the entire Thai Silk industry. The beautiful Thai Silk that Thompson’s Thai Silk Company produces has become famous for many reasons. Thompson provided all of the silk for the Hollywood movie “The King and I” and “Ben Hur”, his company provided silk for the famous Savoy Hotel London and Hilton Hong Kong. The silk can also be found in Windsor Castle!

Jim Thompson’s silk used for costumes in The King and I. Photo Courtesy of Fox Media

Thai Silk Curtains (above the bed) at the London Savoy, courtesy of London Savoy Hotel.

During the Easter weekend in 1967, Thompson disappeared while on holiday with friends in Cameron Highlands, a northern Malaysian resort. An extensive and extended search failed to reveal any clues about his disappearance. His disappearance is considered auspicious because before he moved into his home, now known as The Jim Thompson House, he consulted a Buddhist monk who plotted his astrological chart and determined the date construction on the house should begin, the date he should move in and at that time, and predicted that his 61st birthday would be his last. Thompson disappeared just days before his 61st birthday.

Spirit House at The Jim Thompson House

Thompson moved into the house that he designed in April of 1959. The house consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures that were purchased from several owners and brought to the present location from various parts of Thailand. Unlike traditional Thai homes, Thompson added covered walkways so that he and his guests didn’t have to walk outside to move from room to room.

Thompson’s house sits on about a half-acre of land in the heart of busy Bangkok. It’s an oasis from the cement jungle surrounding it. When you arrive at the house, you feel like you’ve been transported to the Jungle and are surrounded by beautiful greenery, flowers and of course, his home. In addition to his love of silk, Thompson collected art and antiques and made it his mission to save important pieces of art from destruction and from being sold to other countries. On the tour of his home, you’ll see and learn about some of the oldest known Buddha sculptures and many very old paintings.

Flowers outside Jim Thompson’s house

This is a great tour and something I highly recommend everyone who is in Bangkok experience. You’ll learn a lot and be inspired to follow the mystery of Jim Thompson. After my trip I learned that there are dozens of conspiracy theories about Thompson’s disappearance and they’re all fascinating.

The cost of admission, which includes the 45-minute tour, is 100 baht. The restaurant at the Jim Thompson House is well known and if you have the opportunity you should plan to eat there as well.

4 Comments on "Bangkok’s Jim Thompson House Shrouded in Mystery"

  1. As a collector of silk scarves, I loved this story. Jim Thompson designed many beautiful scarves with an elephant motif.

  2. Couldn’t agree more that that tour is worth it. Whether you walk, take a taxi or tuk-tuk there you’ll probably say to yourself “where the heck am I going???” … and then you get there.

    Great tour, great little restaurant … oh and the silk 🙂

  3. Randall M | May 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

    The tour was definitely one of my favorite experiences of visiting Bangkok. I missed the restaurant though so I’ll put in on my list for a return trip! Bargain hunters might also be interested in the Jim Thompson shop’s factory outlets in a few locales around Thailand. My wife and I visited the shop on Soi Sukhimvit – it was quite large and a worthwhile destination for bargain hunters with a bit of extra time. Of course, it should be mentioned as well that the Main Shop in Surawong is one of the world’s great clothing stores.

  4. @Randall – the Jim Thompson Outlet on Surawong Road is a few blocks from the Le Meridien Bangkok – one of my other favorite places.

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