Jim was an architect who became involved with the feds during WWII. He worked for the precursor to the CIA, where he specialized in Southeast Asia affairs, with a specific interest in ending the Japanese occupation of Thailand. In the late 1940s, he moved to Thailand permanently, and founded the Thai Silk Company Limited with his buddy. They tapped the local labor market to find skilled, cheap weavers, many of whom were members of the Cham Muslim community (more on them in a minute).
As his silk company flourished, Jim became a prominent international figure, with a neat collection of Southeast Asian art. He decided to build a compound to showcase his stuff. The result is the Jim Thompson House museum, which I photographed so well.
The museum is comprised of several buildings, themselves salvaged from different places around Thailand. It's a small compound, about half an acre, but it's a pretty retreat. If you can't make it to the jungles in Thailand, these curated grounds photograph well.
|This is the house where Jim actually lived--the true Jim Thompson House.|
Jim's house sits next to a khlong, or canal. If you follow us on Instagram (@janeandphilandstuff), you know that Bangkok was once known as "Venice of the East" because of its canals. Many of Jim's laborers lived across the khlong in the Baan Krua Nua area. This area of the city was given to the Cham Muslims, who fled to Thailand from Vietnam, and other SE Asian countries. They brought a long tradition of weaving, and were instrumental to the success of the Thai Silk Company Limited.
While we were visiting Jim's house, we heard the call to prayer across the canal. Manufacturing for Thai Silk has moved to a different area of Thailand, but the original craft is still practiced by the community in Baan Krua. This came to my attention very recently, and now I'm eager to cross the khlong to see it. If you want to read more about Baan Krua from someone who isn't me, check out the information HERE.
|This is not the khlong. These koi could not hack it in the khlong. This is a pond at Jim's.|
In 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared during a trip to Malaysia. There have been a lot of theories about his disappearance, but the case remains unsolved. What I think we can all agree on is that his house is for sure haunted now. I have absolutely no evidence to support that, and I don't believe it anyway, but it would add an element of excitement to the tour.
Jim is gone, but his art remains. You can see it at little inconvenience for a small fee. There is a good, pricey restaurant at the museum, as well as a large, pricey store with Thai Silk Company products. If you're not interested in paying full price, there's a Jim Thompson outlet store not far from the Bang Chak BTS station. If you want the full, authentic Thai silk experience, you might want to consider running across the bridge to Baan Krua. I'm going to do that soon. I'll let you know what I see.
Here's one more photo from Jim's. I love lotus flowers.