The Jim Thompson House is one of Bangkok’s favourite tourist attractions.
So much more than just a traditional Thai house, this is at once a museum, art gallery and botanic garden while also being an interior design and architectural delight.
Here’s what you should know before visiting…
Who Was Jim Thompson?
Jim Thompson’s dream was to be an architect, but despite extensive study of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania his dream of becoming fully qualified were thwarted as he failed to pass his qualifying exams on three separate occasions.
Disheartened, Thompson enrolled in the Delaware National Guard, and at the end of the second world war was subsequently posted to Thailand. This would turn out to be a life changing event.
Thompson fell in love with Bangkok, and after he was discharged from the National Guard he searched for an occupation that would enable him to stay and live permanently in his beloved city.
At the time Thailand’s silk industry was struggling, and Thompson saw this as an unmissable business opportunity.
Within ten years he had built up a reputation as a purveyor of fine quality silk and had almost single handedly revived the country’s silk industry.
He had also become a very wealthy man, and in 1959 he turned his sights once more to architecture to build what is now one of Bangkok’s top tourist attractions — the Jim Thompson house.
But all was not destined to end well, and in 1967 Thompson — now aged 61 — departed on a trip to a health resort deep in the tropical forests of the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. One evening he went out exploring alone in the jungle and simply disappeared.
Despite a massive manhunt involving over 300 soldiers and police using tracker dogs and local aboriginal tribesmen he was never found.
When he was officially declared dead his home and its contents were passed into the care of the Siam Society, who turned it into a museum.
What is the Jim Thompson House?
Completed in 1959, the Jim Thompson house is in fact a complex of six different traditional teak Thai-style houses, that were transported to their new site in Bangkok from a variety of locations in Thailand.
The house stands in around half an acre of lush landscaped tropical gardens, providing a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.
Thompson chose the site partly because its situation next to the Khlong Maha Nak canal made it easy for him to meet and deal with traditional Thai silk weavers and traders.
Built in the traditional Thai domestic style, the stunning two storey timber house floats above ground on wooden stilts.
In his quest for authenticity, Thompson used only original reclaimed building materials, some of which date as far back as the 17th and 19th centuries.
Everywhere you look the most attention has been paid to detail, with intricately carved wooden panels, finials and roofs. Thompson connected the different houses and adapted their internal space to provide a fusion of rustic Thai style and western comfort.
Inside warm teak and richly painted walls in earthy hues are paired with glamorous black and white marble floors and chandeliers to create a dramatic and luxurious living space.
It was not just his love of architecture that inspired Thompson, it was also a passion for art, antiques and artifacts.
The Jim Thompson house is filled with exquisite examples of rare Thai sculptures, paintings and porcelain, clearly expertly chosen by someone with a keen eye and exceptionally good taste.
The sculptures originate from Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma, and the collection features a large number of Buddha statues, with some dating back as far as the 8th century. The large collection of delicate and charming paintings and tapestries date from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Elaborately decorated Chinese, Khmer, and Sukhothai porcelains can also be seen in the collection.
Where is the Jim Thompson House?
The Jim Thompson House is located on Soi Kasemsan 2, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Road in the heart of Bangkok.
To get there by BTS, stop at the National Stadium station and take Exit 1. It’s just a short walk from here to Soi Kasemsan and the house is clearly signposted.
A guided tour of the house costs 150 THB for adults and 100 THB for under 22s. It’s open every day from 9:00am to 6:00pm.
Hotels Near the Jim Thompson House
This high rise 5 star hotel welcomes guests with warm smiles, friendly service and a refined and relaxed ambience for discerning guests.
Award-winning VIE Hotel Bangkok is a boutique hotel boasting 154 high ceiling and spacious luxury rooms and suites, all of which provide dramatic views across the glittering Bangkok cityscape with floor-to-ceiling windows, and each of which is decorated in contemporary Asian style — including beautiful silks by Jim Thompson.
There are two fine dining restaurants at VIE Hotel featuring creative French cuisine and Japanese sushi, as well as an exclusive lounge cocktail bar.
- 2 dining options
- 2 bars including poolside bar
- Rooftop pool
- Fitness club
- Luxury spa and wellness centre
Just 200 metres from the Jim Thompson House, Nine Design Place offers a homely experience in a relaxed atmosphere at a very reasonable price.
This tiny 3 star hotel features nine uniquely and artistically designed rooms decorated with Thai antiques and images of nature. Every room has a flat-screen cable TV and a private bathroom with shower.
- Free wifi
- 24 hour front desk
- Shared TV lounge area
- Massage available on request
The lush gardens and multiple swimming pools at the superb 5 star Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok offer a luxurious retreat for guests.
Each of the hotel’s 401 sumptuous contemporary rooms and suites features unique Thai elements, and many offer private balconies looking out over the grounds.
The hotel offers culinary delights to suit every taste, including Thai-inspired cuisine with a modern twist at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin — currently the only Thai restaurant in the world holding a Michelin star.
- World class spa
- 5 restaurants and bars
- Fitness centre
- Multiple saltwater outdoor pools
- Landscaped gardens
Have you been to the Jim Thompson House yet?
Featured image is by Twang_Dunga (CC BY 2.0 licence)