If you visit Bangkok, you will be recommended at some point to visit the Jim Thompson House Museum. It is one of the major attractions around Bangkok and certainly one of the most popular.
The reason for this is that it is very different from anything else you will do in the Thai capital. It is steeped in Bangkok’s history and surrounded by an awe.
And mystery that you won’t find anywhere else. In this Jim Thompson House Museum review, I’ll look at some of the reasons why.
A brief description of Jim Thompson House Museum
When I first visited Bangkok, I had no idea what to expect at the Jim Thompson House Museum.
I’ll admit I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the Museum, and despite good and glowing advice from relatives, I found a few things to do that were great.
On my second visit just a few weeks later, I bit the bullet and stayed close to the Jim Thompson House Museum. Just so you don’t have an excuse not to go!
The house was nothing like I expected. Even when I walked in the front door the day before my visit, I stopped and stared for a few minutes.
Even now, honestly, I couldn’t say what I thought, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.
Jim Thompson’s house is spacious and beautiful. It is built and shows traditional Thai style. This phenomena is due to two factors.
First, Jim Thompson actually bought the property and the buildings themselves, all six, in the old capital, and shipped them to Bangkok.
The second reason was that Jim himself was an architect by profession and designed buildings to his liking. This was the perfect blend of Thai culture mixed with the Western values he chose to embody.
The building is now open to the public for sightseeing and tours. This happened when it was generously donated by Jim Thompson’s family, as it is an important symbol of Bangkok’s history.
What happened to Jim Thompson himself is anyone’s guess, as the death of such an important figure in Thai history is shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
Historiography of Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson was born to very successful parents in 1906. They were American and made their fortune as textile workers.
Jim went on to attend Princeton University and competed in the 1928 Olympics in the 6m sailing event. After university, he pursued a successful career as an architect, before deciding to enlist in the army in 1941.
His time in the military took him to many places around the world. Around the same time, he was recruited by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner of the CIA.
Here, his travels increased, as in this line of work. Finally, he went to Thailand, to which he would return years later. This time, it was because of the business opportunities presented by the city in the midst of a deteriorating silk industry.
Perhaps it was Jim Thompson’s experience growing up around a successful textile business, but he saw something in the Thai silk industry that appealed to his keen nose for a good business opportunity.
Jim Thompson revolutionized the silk industry in Bangkok. She did her homework and it didn’t take her long to find the source of the finest silks.
Historiography of Jim Thompson
It was along the Klong Canal that Saen Saep settled. Across small creeks from the best in the country.
So instead of opening large workshops, it allowed local artisans to stay home and work as usual. This endeared him to the locals and he became a popular figure in Bangkok.
His business career in the Silk Industry flourished and became an international success after applying his skills in New York.
There, they appeared in costume on stage in the Broadway production of “The King and I.” The bright colors and characteristic designs of Jim Thompson’s Silk hit the big time, and its star continued to rise.
In Bangkok, its silk workers who had lived in abject poverty before the arrival of Jim Thompson now also lived in greater comfort.
It was in 1958 that he decided to construct a building that he could use to display his unique and extensive collection of antiques acquired during his stay in Southeast Asia.
Some of these artifacts are hundreds and hundreds of years old, treasured by not just him but all Thai people to this day.
Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared from Malaysia in 1967. He was on a trip to visit friends and disappeared without a trace while in Cameron Highlands.
Despite numerous investigations over the next few years, nothing was found as to what might have happened to him.
What to do when you arrive at the Jim Thompson House Museum
Getting to the Jim Thompson House Museum is fairly easy from most parts of Bangkok. Public transport is very close, so you can choose depending on where you live.
Subway – The subway is nearby, with the National Stadium BTS station just a few hundred meters walk to the Jim Thompson House Museum.
Water Taxi – The canal behind the Jim Thompson House Museum – used by Jim himself to revolutionize the Thai Silk Industry – can be used to take you back home.
Just get off at Hua Chang (Siam Square) stop and you only need to walk a few hundred meters. The canal is 75 km long and can be accessed from the main river, not far from where the Hop on Hop off tourist boat drops you off.
Taxi or Tuk Tuk – These traditional means of transportation are easy, and everyone knows where the Jim Thompson House Museum is located. Beware of the Tuk Tuk’s as they often attempt the same scam as the Grand Palace!
Bus – Being so close to major shopping malls, there are many public buses that pass by.
Tour – In fact, you can take a tour that will take you there too! Click HERE to view a full-day customized private tour.
Walk – On my last trip to Bangkok, I chose to stay close. There are nearby accommodations within walking distance. See my “Accommodation” section below.
Hours of Operation and Admission Fee
The Jim Thompson House Museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The last guided tour is at 5pm, so if you arrive later in the day, you’ll want to be there at least half an hour earlier to have a chance to catch it.
There are no reservations required for the tours, and they are given out when you purchase your ticket.
Tickets cost 200 Baht for adult visitors. For children under 22, 100 Baht. Children under 10 years old stay free when accompanied by an adult.
Tour of the Jim Thompson House Museum
Anyone visiting the Jim Thompson House Museum should take a tour. Your admission fee includes a tour, so why not? When you purchase your ticket, you will receive a timetable. Hopefully, given how busy it is, you won’t have to wait long. Otherwise, there is a nice restaurant on site and a cafe next door if you have time to kill.
You will be asked to wait in the garden area for the tour to begin. As soon as you are invited, the tour will begin immediately. Also worth mentioning is that they host some very different
languages on the trips, not only English but also French, Japanese, Chinese, and of course Thai.
Your guide will follow the script you’ve learned, but they also know a lot about the house, as does Jim Thompson himself. So don’t be afraid to ask questions. Generally, the tour will start in the Garden, following the path around until reaching the starting point again.
Along the way, you’ll learn a bit about everyday life at the house
Along the way, you’ll learn a bit about everyday life at the house and some of the superb surroundings and unique sculptures and ornaments to be found in the garden areas.
Don’t worry about taking photos for this part of the tour, as you are free to wander around the grounds after the tour and take your photos. Minus the dozen other people who are with you on tour!
Once you return to the starting area, you will be asked to remove your shoes and place them in the closet with the cameras and video equipment.
The tour is about to go up and there is a no-shoes policy. Photography is also not allowed inside the building.
The house itself is beautiful. Some of the artifacts are incredible, and if I have one criticism of the tours, it’s that you don’t spend enough time in one spot to take it all in.
You have to keep moving as there will be another group right behind.
Note the wonderful hardwood floors and amazing furniture. Italian marble-made black and white tiles can be seen in several locations.
At the time, it was what was used in the Palace, so Jim Thompson wanted it too! In a natural way.
Other features I found interesting were the raised steps between the rooms. This is not only to keep kids inside, but to keep evil spirits OUTSIDE as it is believed that they can only walk on flat floors.
The window shutters were uniquely designed by Jim to open unlike the typical Thai style, and he installed traditional wood carvings facing the interior instead of the typical exterior.
Jim Thompson House Museum
Simply because he would have been able to appreciate them more.
The fact that Jim Thompson is the architect and designer is prevalent in much of the building. The walls curve inward slightly to strengthen the structure.
There are synthetic lights, just because he saw the possibility of making something really cool. In one room, he closed the windows and made a built-in display case out of them.
Another aspect of the accommodation is the addition of western style bathrooms including toilets. This was not seen in Thai homes before Jim Thompson came along.
Once your visit to the Jim Thompson House Museum is complete, gather your belongings and you are free to roam the grounds.
Here you can take a closer look at some of what you saw on the tour. You are not allowed to climb the stairs as you can only go up there on the promenade itself.
Once you’re done with the Jim Thompson House Museum, you’ll have plenty more to do in the area. This is good to know, as the journey takes just over half an hour.
So if you arrive early, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore this part of Bangkok.
Eat lunch there – The Jim Thompson House Museum features a restaurant of its own. It’s a bit pricey, as you can imagine, but the food is amazing!
Visit the Jim Thompson Art Center, which is located directly next door. There is a very nice little cafe upstairs and a gallery style gift shop where you can buy souvenirs or some Jim Thompson stuff. Also, the roof has a nice view if you want to check it out.
Take the water taxi to Platinum Fashion Mall – This is a huge and affordable mall located right down the canal. Right next door is Pratunam Market, known as one of the cheapest fashion markets in Bangkok.
Go shopping at Siam Paragon and MBK – Both of these malls are just a few hundred meters from the Jim Thompson House Museum, and are completely different.
Siam Paragon is an upscale shopping mall, while MBK is full of traditional markets and is a great place to buy electronic accessories.
With the metro so close, as well as the water taxi, you can also easily get to other parts of Bangkok from the Jim Thompson House Museum.
There are many great places to stay near the Jim Thompson House Museum. In fact, many people who really enjoy shopping will definitely choose this part of Bangkok to stay during their visit. It’s a very nice part of town to easily walk around and explore.
We stayed at Patumwan House while we visited the Jim Thompson House Museum. It’s right on the corner, and you can actually see it from the front door.
The accommodation was like a studio, very spacious and convenient for a reasonable price!
Inn Biscayne Bangkok Siam
Ibis Bangkok Siam is a very convenient 3 star hotel just around the corner. It’s comfortable and many visitors love it simply because of the location.
You can’t get anywhere near Bangkok’s amazing malls unless you set up a tent in the food courts!
Historic Hotel Hua Chang
Hua Chang Heritage Hotel is a short walk from Jim Thompson House Museum and almost next to Patumwan House.
It’s 5 stars, and everyone who lives there raves about the food and facilities. If you’re looking to stay in this part of town, you can’t go wrong with Hua Chang, especially for its amazing location.
The bottom line
If you are visiting Bangkok, you should definitely visit the Jim Thompson House Museum. Not only is this an amazing sight to behold, but also a history lesson in a very special, if not unique, part of Bangkok.
Did you find this article useful? So be sure to leave me a comment to let me know!