The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok
You have not only beautiful things, but what is rare you have arranged them with faultless taste (Somerset Maugham about Jim Thompson)
When the British playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham visited the Jim Thompson House in 1959 on his final journey through Far East Asia, he was amazed at Thompson’s unique art and antique collection. He was impressed by the fact how well every detail fitted together thus contributing to the overall charm of the house. Indeed, the house is legendary and so is its owner.
The American Jim Thompson (1906-1967) became known as the ‘Legendary American of Thailand’ for several merits. First, he was a self-made entrepreneur who founded the renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Thus, he helped to develop the Thai Silk industry and was awarded the Order of the White Elephant for his exceptional service to Thailand. Hence, he can be considered one of the most famous post war legends of Asia.
The Jim Thompson House
What is more, Thompson is also renowned for having constructed a charming Thai style house in Bangkok which is a museum today. In fact, the Jim Thompson House is a complex of six traditional Thai houses made from teakwood. Teak was a material for the more affluent; it was more expensive than other kinds of wood because of its durability. Hence, the individual houses were purchased from several owners from different parts of the country. Therefore, the original Thompson house was reconstructed from all or parts of the six separate houses that were hundred or more years old.
Hence, the Jim Thompson House reflects what its owner appreciated most about Thailand and in particular about Bangkok. Thompson very much cherished the nostalgia of old Bangkok, including the life along the waterways. What is more, he enjoyed the peace and calm of a tropical jungle landscape that muted the noises of the busy city. Up until today, the house has preserved its unique appeal.
The special feature of old traditional Thai houses is that they were constructed without using nails. Thus, if families wanted to move away, they could simply take their house down and relocate it. In fact, the structure of Thai houses is similar to temples. Hence, Thai houses have steep roofs and walls inclining to the centre. This kind of construction ensures that the house remains cool since the warm air can rise to the top of the roofs. In addition, numerous windows and doors contribute to an uninterrupted air flow.
What is more, the houses were also elevated for several reasons – to keep wildlife at bay and to facilitate air circulation. If you have been to a traditional Thai house, you will certainly also have noticed the raised thresholds. They mainly served to keep babies and small children from falling into the water. However, Thai belief also says that the raised threshold will keep evil spirits away from the house.
The main house of the complex an early 19th century building from the silk weaving village of Ban Krua located across the klong. This is the drawing room in which an opulent crystal chandelier from a former palace decorates the ceiling.
A further element in this complex is the kitchen from the mid 19th century which also came from the weaving village. The remaining structures were brought there from Ayutthaya since Thompson found most of his treasures in the village ‘Pak Hai’ located northwest from the former capital city. The houses could be easily taken down and stacked on barges so that they could be shipped by river directly to Bangkok.
In addition, some pieces of Thompson’s art collection, which can be classified into the categories of sculptures, paintings, porcelain and other collectible items, also came from Ayutthaya. Furthermore, he got his acquisitions from shops in Nakorn Kasem, the Chinese quarter of Bangkok (Chinatown), which was a repository for fine antiques at his time.
Today, the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok also has a nice Café with a beautiful fish pond outside. The sight of the big trees, luscious greens and the colourful huge fishes invites the visitor to pause for a moment and relax 🙂 Have you been to this place?
*photo credit: The Jim Thompson House