Jim Thompson, the most famous American in Thailand


The name of Jim Thompson is inextricably linked with Thai silk. His name evokes a lot of respect with the Thai. Thompson was a colorful figure: an ex-architect, retired army officer, part-time spy, silk dealer and a collector of antiques. He is without a doubt the most famous American in Thailand.

James H.W. Thompson was born on March 21, 1906 in Greenville, Delaware in the USA. Jim was the youngest in a family of five children of Hendrik and Mary Thompson. His father was a textile manufacturer, his mother was the daughter of James Harrison Wilson, a well-known general from the American Civil War.

Thai Silk Company Ltd.

Jim Thompson moved to Thailand in 1945. He became head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the current CIA. The Thai silk industry was completely on its way at that time. In 1948 he founded the Thai Silk Company Ltd. with which he breathed new life into the languishing industry.

Thompson's development of the Thai silk industry is often mentioned as one of the great success stories of post-war Asia. Even today you will find shops with Thai silk under the name Jim Thompson, such as in Siam Paragon in Bangkok.

Jim Thompson became a myth when he disappeared on Easter Sunday in 1967 during his vacation. He took a walk in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. His disappearance has always remained a mystery, his body has never been found. The rumors range from suicide, to an accident or a heart attack. Some claim that the CIA has been involved in its sudden and mysterious disappearance.

ostill / Shutterstock.com

Collector of antiques

After coming to Thailand, Jim started collecting antiques. Because of the size of his collection, he was looking for a suitable place to display his art treasures. In 1958, he began the implementation of his plan. The construction of a museum annex house for its unique collection.

For the construction he used six antique teak Thai houses from Ban Khrua and Ayutthaya. These were dismantled and moved to the current location in Bangkok, opposite the Bangkrua district, where the silk weavers who worked for him were once established. In the house his collection was housed in the various rooms, such as:

  • Chinese blue and white Ming pieces
  • Cambodian stone figures
  • Victorian chandeliers
  • Five colored Bencharong
  • Antique Thai stone statues
  • Burmese statues
  • a dining table that was once used by King Rama V of Thailand.

It took almost a year to realize his dream. His collection, which covers fourteen centuries, is for the most part just as it did when it disappeared mysteriously in 1967. Some items from his collection are very rare, such as the headless but elegant 7th-century Dvaravati Buddha and a 17th-century teak Buddha from Ayutthaya. When the Jim Thompson House was completed in 1959, the international press described it as "one of the wonders of the East."

To this day, Jim Thompson’s house / museum is one of the most important tourist sites in Bangkok.

Opening hours: 09: 00-17: 00 (last tour at 17:00).
Location: Soi Kasemsan 2, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Road.
BTS: Get off at the National Stadium station.
Address: 6/1 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 away.
Tel. : +66 (0) 2 216 7368
Directions: Take exit 1 from the BTS National Stadium Station, turn right onto Soi Kasemsan 2 and walk all the way to the end. You will find the museum on the left.

  1. Chang Noi says out

    I have been to the Jim Thompson House several times and I must say it is beautiful, an oasis in the middle of Bangkok.

    And maybe I am a nag, but when I walk through the "museum" I often have to think about all those missing statues in ancient temples. But perhaps these missing images are saved from collapse in this way.

    By the way, there are a few more museum houses in Bangkok like the "Kamthieng House" or "Suan Phakkad Palace" or "Prasart House"

    Chang Noi

    VA: F (1.9.22_1171)

  2. Niek says out

    I once read that the Thompson house is the most visited museum in all of Thailand, and that is still a house of a farang.
    If I have guests, that is always worth a visit, although I do stay by the pond to enjoy the wonderful "oasis" of peace amid the vibrant and turbulent Bangkok. After all, I have visited the house many times, beautiful indeed! A passenger boat regularly passes over the Saen Saeb klong on the way to the Rachadamnoen avenue, a journey that I also recommend to everyone.

    VA: F (1.9.22_1171)

  3. Leo says out

    Nice article, here my girlfriend worked as English Tourguide, so you see again!

    VA: F (1.9.22_1171)

  4. Miek37 says out

    A wonderful place to escape from the (otherwise delicious) madness of Bangkok, the canal boat stops in front of the door.

    My photo impression of the house: http://www.flickr.com/photos/miek37/tags/jimthomsonhouse/

    VA: F (1.9.22_1171)

  5. Jan Nagelhout says out

    I remember well when we were there years ago for the first time, my wife immediately fell in love with the Thai side.
    Since we have a shop and also sell a lot of things from Thailand and surrounding countries, I was very interested in 1 thing: How do I recognize fake silk from real silk?
    I still use the answer: You grab a piece of silk and set it on fire, it melts then there is synthetic stuff in it, it becomes ash, then it is silk.
    At first glance, fake and really are almost indistinguishable.
    I still come with my wife, because she fell in love with it as I said …

    VA: F (1.9.22_1171)



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