Jim Thompson – Thailand

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At the end of our trip we spent time in Bangkok and visited Jim Thompson’s home, situated in the middle of Bangkok, on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song.  This interesting home belonged to a remarkable man, Jim Thompson, an american.  Jim Thompson’s home and textiles are a tribute to his love for Thailand’s rich culture.

James H.W. Thompson was born in Greenville, Delaware, in 1906.  He was educated in Princeton and went to university in Pennsylvania, and later worked as an architect in New York until the beginning of the Second World War.  During his time in the army he ended up in Thailand and fell in love with the beauty and friendliness of the people and country, at the end of the war he decided to make it his home.

After restoring the old Oriental Hotel, his interest turned to the commercial possibilities of Thai Silk, an ancient craft that was fast disappearing.  He was convinced the beauty and quality of the material would have a huge appeal outside of the country so took the product back to New York.  A group of shareholders started the Thai Silk Company Ltd.  This business was not an overnight success, its turning point was the decision to use Thai Silk for the costumes in “The King and I’, both the stage and film version.  Fabric designers and interior decorators became increasingly interested in the shimmering fabrics, and exports as well as local sales, began to expand.  And to this day you will find Jim Thompson fabrics world wide.

In March 1967, Jim Thompson went on holiday with friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.  It is the understanding that Jim went for a walk in the surrounding jungle and never returned, and to this day it is still a mystery how he disappeared.

As you walk on to the famous thai property of Jim Thompson, you feel this lovely sense of calm and tranquility.  You will see someone sitting and spinning silk from silkworm cocoons, big koi ponds with lovely turtles and koi, a very tropical garden, in and around the home, restaurant, office and shop.  All these buildings have been styled to match Thompson’s home.

We needed to wait for our tour through the house and sat on the edge of the koi ponds and realised the one turtle had got stuck on the edge of the pond, and next minute one of his friends came up and attacked him.  It was so funny to see these two who could hardly move have a good go at each other.  One of the ladies working there came and pushed the mean one back in the water and moved the other one off in the opposite direction.

The Jim Thompson house is well worth a visit, actually I could easily have spent more time there, stayed and had a coffee or lunch in the restaurant, it really is an oasis in amongst a very big noisy city. 

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These are copies of old documents of silk, and of the eastern horiscopes, that one can buy.

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Thompson’s home is very interesting, with high stepped doorways, to keep out the evil spirits, he kept everything within the thai way of designing and building a home.  In the outside areas of the home, there are old weaving looms and block print screens, all from his textile company.

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You are not allowed to take photographs in the house, at the end of the tour they allow you to stand on the patio outside the lounge and take some photographs.  The fabrics found in the house are very traditional of the Jim Thompson decorating fabric range.  There are also many large silk documents on the walls in the house, and many of these documents will be used in the designs and fabric ranges.

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There are some very special and extremely valuable artifacts in and around the home.  This torso of a buddha in grey limestone is from the 7th-8th century, from the Lophuri region.

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This is the Jim Thompson interior decorating fabric show room in Johannesburg South Africa.

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