You might hear the name Jim Thompson in Thailand in one of two contexts: (A) while shopping, or (B) visiting Bangkok attractions. Yet the question isn’t so much ‘who is Jim Thompson’ as ‘what happened to him?’.
Thompson was an American expat credited with reinventing the Thai silk industry and, in 1967, he just – vanished.
Like Amelia Earhart, there are theories as to what happened (cough-CIA-cough), yet his mysterious disappearance remains unsolved. Some links below contain affiliates
Jim Thompson in Thailand
The Jim Thompson mystery
Jim Thompson’s huge range of interests and influence suggest a fascinating biography. Whether your interests lie with architecture, history, design or a total mystery, his story adds great insight to Thailand then and now.
Visiting Jim Thompson House, Bangkok
While living in Bangkok in the post-war era, Thompson led a debonair and high-flying life. His house, today a museum, is an icon of leading Thai style and architecture. If spending any time in Bangkok, I highly recommended you visit his former home, “The House that was the Talk of the Town”.
You must join a guided tour to walk around the interior of the house (available in every language under the sun), however you’re free to explore the beautiful gardens on your own at your leisure – and they’re incredible. The garden are the only part of the house you’re allowed to photograph – the house and its art collection have enough light to battle in strong Thai UV.
To tour the house, you’ll take off your shoes and leave other belongings behind in a locker. Another reason why these shoes will be your most convenient option for exploring Bangkok!
English tours are, unsurprisingly, amongst the most popular and there might be a wait of half an hour or so until one is available.
You’re free to wander the garden area at your leisure, where demonstrations are given in silk-weaving. If you love plants or photography, you could be here a while… The finished silk product is (of course) available in an on-site Jim Thompson shop. If there’s a better Bangkok souvenir – I can’t think of one! The restaurant is a fantastic spot for lunch or just a well-deserved dose of mango sticky rice!
When to visit? The Jim Thompson House is great destination at mid-day, as the gardens provide full shade. Make sure to wear lots of mosquito repellent, as the house is beside a klong (a Bangkok canal) – mosquito Disney Land.
Arrive an expert
If, like me, you’re fascinated by history (and if “totally not like me” you think you might end up on the Japanese tour), here’s how to arrive an expert on Jim Thompson in Thailand – and get much more out of the historical aspect of his life, times and home:
Jim Thompson silk
While in Thailand, you’ll see Jim Thompson’s high-end range of Thai silks and fabrics (scarves, accessories, cushions, home goods, etc) in airport shops and boutiques throughout the kingdom. Of course, silk wall-hangings and such like are available across Thailand but these? Crème-de-la-crème. (And who doesn’t love a souvenir with a story?)
If you’re excited about buying Thai silk, here’s more good news – shopping is a near-religion in Thailand. Here are the best things to buy.
Life in 1960s Bangkok: Mai Pen Rai Means Nevermind
Perfectly imagine what life was like back then for Bangkok expats. A wonderful memoir by an American expat – ‘Mai Pen Rai Means Nevermind’ offers an honest and hilarious insight into this period of Bangkok expat life and quite what Thailand was like in Thompson’s day. Amazon will only have secondhand copies with ugly covers – read it anyway!!