Thailand is known for its silk, adapted from the merchants and artisans from China and India through trade. Not until the 20th century though that the silk industry in Thailand expand for international market with the promotion from an American named Jim Thomson (full name: James Harrison Wilson “Jim” Thompson). Mr. Thompson was a former Office of Strategic Services (OSS, now CIA) and he was stationed in Thailand from 1945. In 1948, he established Thai Silk Company Limited with George Barrie. He brought the silk to New York and advertised the silk as a traditional Siam pattern.
Through working with Kenneth Landon and his wife, Margaret Landon, writer of Anna and the King of Siam, Mr. Thompson brought the Thai silk into the silver screen with the movie “The King and I” in 1951. The costumes for the movie was made by fashion designer designer Irene Sharaff that won her the Tony Award and bring the silk industry in Thailand to a new height.
In 1967, Mr. Thompson went on vacation, meeting a friend in Penang, Malaysia. He later stayed in the Cameron Highlands with some of his friends. When he was taking a walk, he didn’t return for certain time. The search involved the police, army, locals and trackers found nothing for months.
Rumours have it that someone kidnapped him or he was murdered either from rivals of the business, money or his previous work as a spy and network. Until now, his remains and his disappearance remain a mystery. Yet his legacy live on.
Mr. Thompson was also an architecture and a collector of the arts. His design and collections are exhibited in a house he built near the klong (canal).
The six traditional Thai houses made with teakwood are designed and connecting to each other. The houses are mostly from Ayutthaya and the largest one from Bang Krua. The construction was finish in 1959.
The windows and the doors are position in certain ways to ease the air circulation and natural lights around the house. This keep the house cool and plenty of light.
The Canal entrance but now bricked and fenced.
Currently the museum house is located at under The James H. W. Thompson Foundation with the royal patronage of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Guided tours are available daily. Admittance cost around 150 baht
The structures are elevated to give a second floor for his former resident and the first floor for the show case area. Visitors need to take off his/her shoes/sandals before entering the house. There’s a locker room where we can keep our belongings too.
The living room part of the house came from Bang Krua
The wooden wall frame and pillars are structured and constructed without nails.
The space between houses with a connecting ‘room’ in between or the threshold structure to hold the house
The guide said that if you stumbled from this barrier, you’ll get bad luck. Waa~~
Door decoration, a naga from Thai folk lore.
A scene from Buddhist Jataka tales by U Khin, an artist with Burmese style, the shwe chi doe using using silk, gold, silver embroidery sequins with jade and gemstones.
The (former) kitchen area with various wooden statues.
Various Burmese paintings
Various paintings of Vessantara Jataka
Thai art horoscope at the painting library
Decorative wooden panels at the pavilion
Image of thai characters in gold sheets
Various artifacts from around South East Asian countries
In certain time, there’s also an exhibition from the local Thai showcase harvesting the silk from the silk worm
After feasting the leaves of mulberry trees, the silkworm from domesticated silk moth Bombyx mori formed cocoon. The weavers then soak them in a boiling water to separate the silk thread from the inside.
Each cocoon can produced from 500 to 1,500 yards of light gold or light green silk threads
Spin, spin, spin the thread
The women then combine several thin thread to produce thicker fiber by reeling the threads on a wooden spindle. Approx. 40 hours just for a 1/2 KG of Thai silk.
Strand of raw silk soaked in hot water and bleached with natural colours. Wash and dry, the silk then woven in a traditional loom
Traditional Thai silk have distinctive character and lustre. It change colours in certain light. Hence, they are more expensive than artificial silk.
Block print for fabric
To take care of silk fabric, it should be hand washed only with mild soap/detergent in tepid water. No wringing involve please. Add clear white vinegar in the last wash to keep it lustre and dried it in the shade.
The Jim Thompson store. The Jim Thompson store brand and design also available in Bangkok airport and several countries. Check the official website.
A cold pomelo drink (25 bath) for the road.
How to get there: From BTS Sky Train The National Stadium, just walk along Rama I road and turn right to Kasem San 2, follow the alley street until almost to the end. The museum is on the left.
Jim Thompson House & Museum
6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road
Phone: 66 2612 3601