A Visit to the Jim Thompson House in Thailand
Thailand is famous for its beautiful fine Thai silk and Jim Thompson’s name is synonymous with the Thai silk industry. The colors, patterns and wide selection of products available make excellent souvenirs. Some of the home wares, pillow covers, place mats and napkins make excellent additions to your home and will remind you of your trip for years to come.
If you are looking for a high quality product you can keep forever, look no further than products from Jim Thompson. If you are not familiar with this Thai brand, it’s time you know about it!
Fine Thai Silk and Jim Thompson House
If you are in Bangkok, an excellent place to visit is the Jim Thompson House. Where you can:
- See a traditional Thai house
- Learn all about silk making and the Thai silk industry
- Learn all about the legend of Jim Thompson
- Shop and see some of their very high quality products
History of Jim Thompson
Jim H.W. Thompson was an American who first came to Thailand in the 1940’s. He fell in love with Thailand and started the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company.
An architect by training, he joined the US Army in the 1940s at the start of World War II. He was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (the CIA). At the end of the war he chose to make Thailand his home and started a business. He turned his love of design to Thai silks.
In 1948 when he started the business, handmade silk was a dying industry in Thailand and it was not well known for high quality silks. Jim Thompson is widely credited with changing this and building the modern Thai silk industry. One of the guiding principles of the business was it needed to benefit the local Thai people and those working as suppliers.
In 1967, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared while on holidays in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. The mystery surrounding his disappearance only adds to the legend. At the time of his disappearance, he had been in Thailand for over 25 years and his company, the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company, was known and respected internationally with representation in over 35 countries.
Today, the business continues and one of his great legacies is the Thai silk industry provides employment to over 20,000 families involved in the weaving process.
About the Jim Thompson House
In 1959, he moved into what is now a museum known as the Jim Thompson House. The company was doing quite well and Thai silk was gaining an international reputation for quality.
Located in a very busy area of Bangkok, the house is located at the end of an alley, near a klong, or waterway used to get around. It is a quiet little oasis. The location was perfectly situated across the waterway from the traditional silk village of Ban Krua, which he visited daily. You can also walk across the river and visit many of the traditional silk weavers still living and working as they have for many years.
The house itself is a series of six buildings, all made of Teak surrounded by lush tropical garden. It is built in traditional Thai style and amazingly uses no nails in its construction! You can tour the house and gardens. This offers an opportunity to learn about Thai traditions and also see many examples of Thai art and antiques which are part of the collection.
There is a demonstration of silk making. So you can see the process from beginning to end, including spinning and dying.
Since Jim Thompson’s death the property is now maintained by a foundation.
There is also a shop and cafe on the premises.
Other Retail Outlets
In addition to the shop at the Jim Thompson House and Museum, there are several shops located around Bangkok and Thailand. Many of the five star international hotels have a shop. There are also several outlet stores where you can buy both products and material (cloth) to make your own creations.
There are also stores located in other countries across Asia. A complete list can be found on the corporate Jim Thompson site.
You can also find Thai silk products and souvenirs in other venues including many of the tourist markets. Be careful what you are buying, many are synthetic or blends of silk and nylon. There are also a number of fine tailors throughout Thailand where you can have beautiful silk clothing custom made at quite reasonable prices.
Visiting the Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson House is located on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Rd. You can easily reach it via the Sky Train (Bangkok Transit System).
Open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. everyday with the last Guided Tour at 6:00 p.m.* You can find more information and plan your visit on the Jim Thompson House website.
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I visited Jim Thompson’s house in 2014 and I absolutely LOVED it! It was probably my favorite place in all of Bangkok! So beautiful, calm, with the lush garden and everything, just perfect!!!
The garden is such a haven from a rather bustling and warm city. A little oasis. Thanks for your comment.
It sounds like a very interesting cultural experience! I would love to fit this in on my itinerary when I next visit Thailand! I think I’d have to make some extra room in my backpack to fit them in!
You’ll love it Nikki if you like great fabrics. It’s right in the middle of the Bangkok, so easy to get to. Thanks for your comment.
I used to work with Atmosphere the fine furnishing store and had heard of Jim Thompson then. Your post really brings to light why this brand is so famous. Nicely captured.
Ami, there you go. Jim Thompson products are superb. The colors and patterns are spectacular. Thanks for your comment.
I love this! As a big supporter of sustainable tourism, I like the idea of supporting locals. It’s nice to actually go somewhere and buy directly from the source. This looks like a beautiful cultural experience.
It’s a lovely place. He really got the Thai silk industry moving, creating jobs for locals. Very calming in a rather hectic city. Thanks for your comment.
Ouu good to know about this! It’s always hard to know what exactly you’re getting in markets if it’s actually mostly silk or not since they are usually pretty pushy and will say whatever to get you to buy something!
Yes indeed. I think the locals know where to buy the real silk from. We enjoyed the cultural side of it as well. Thanks for your comment.
I am not one to go looking for material things to bring home, like Thai silk, but I like the idea of the experience at the Jim Thompson house! I like that you can tour the gardens and house and see silk being made. That might intrigue me to go buy some later, or at least go check out some of the silk shops in the market!
Katie, it was a lovely experience and very educational. The gardens were also lovely. Although not cheap, they were very classy Thai silks. There is also an outlet store which was cheaper. Thanks for your comment.