Jim Thompson House
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Urban Oasis – The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson's legacy lives on in one of my favorite sites in Bangkok: the Jim Thompson House. As you wander this unusual mansion, marvel at the architecture and treasures contained within. American writer Thompson settled in Bangkok after World War II and in a few short years turned the fashion world on its head. He revolutionized the textile industry in Thailand by bringing exotic Thai silk designs to the global marketplace. While he was obsessed with Thai fabrics, his true love was for the people and the history of his adopted country. He sought to preserve relics of its culture at any cost—going as far as to buy and move several traditional Thai houses to the center of Bangkok. Now the unique oasis he constructed is known as the Jim Thompson House. In his house he displayed precious examples of Thai design, art, and culture. His collection contains relics that would have been lost had he not saved them. Sadly, Jim Thompson met an untimely and bizarre end in 1967. He disappeared while on a hiking vacation in Malaysia. His body was never found and he was assumed dead. When I visited it was another hot and humid afternoon. I walked down the alley, turned a corner and found myself in front of the famed house. I was surprised to find it as it's in an unlikely location—just as it probably was when Jim Thompson himself assembled the house in the middle of the Thai capital.
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A Love of Thai Culture
The Jim Thompson House is the former Bangkok home of Jim Thompson, the American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. On March 26, 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared while on a visit to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Not a single valid clue has turned up in the ensuing years as to what might have happened to him. His home remains a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Bangkok and is well worth a visit. Thompson built his home from six different teak buildings that he brought to the site from various parts of Thailand. The houses are elevated a full story above the ground, a typical architecture technique of Thai homes as a precaution to avoid flooding during the rainy season. Most of his homes were at least two centuries old – even the chandeliers he used were from 18th and 19th century Bangkok palaces. Here is a fun fact that I learned from a man spinning silk on the grounds: At one month old, the silk worm will stop eating any food and start spinning its thread of silk. It will then take the silk worm approximately 3 days to complete the process. If their threads are disturbed by anything, the silk worm must start all over from the beginning. At the end of the process, the single strand of silk is about 1 mile long.
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