Museums, Thailand, Travel

Mystery and Silk: Jim Thompson House

November 9, 2015

Jim Thompson House

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Stepping out of the air-conditioned van into the humidity of Bangkok, I realized this experience would be different from the rest of my time in there. The noise of cars and motorbikes had disappeared to be replaced by the sounds of boats in the canal nearby. Walking down a gravel path past the gift shop and restaurant, the giant plants of the garden almost obscured the house from view. Having arrived before opening, I took the time to walk around the garden to explore. Plants seemed to grow to extreme sizes due to the humidity and rain. Giant coy fish also appear to have developed unencumbered in their pond.

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Knowing little about the man who’s house I was about to explore, I was glad when the tour started for the Jim Thompson House. But this is also where the mystery begins. Jim Thompson revived the silk trade in Thailand in the late 1940s after World War II ended. During the war, he had served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After the war had ended, he was assigned to set up the OSS office in Bangkok. In 1946, he was discharged from the army, and he returned to Bangkok to work on the Oriental Hotel, but after some disagreements with other shareholders, he turned his attention to Thai silk.

Jim Thompson started his own company to export Thai silk and had great success. He even provided the Thai silk for the movie production of “The King and I.” Jim Thompson was also an architect and designed and built the house. He noticed many of the old style Thai houses were still in excellent condition and decided to create his own in the Thai style along with some western touches, such as an internal staircase.

Jim Thompson House

After much success and opening a physical store on March 21, 1967, Mr. Thompson took a holiday to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Five days later Mr. Thompson disappeared and has never been seen again. Many theories abound as to what happened to Jim Thompson. Was he kidnapped? No ransom has ever been asked for. Was he killed? No body has never been found. Was he a double agent about to be exposed and he deliberately disappeared? There was a supposed sighting of him in Tahiti a few months after the disappearance, but nothing sense. Did he get lost or die of starvation or was attacked by an animal? This is highly unlikely as he was trained in jungle survival as a part of his OSS training. Was he still a spy and he was captured? No government has ever claimed to be his abductors or asked for a prisoner trade for him. Adding to this mystery is that his sister was murdered six months later in her home in the United States.

Jim Thompson House

Eventually, people stopped looking for Jim Thompson, and his house became a museum. His company still runs and produces the bright Thai silk that he made famous. The house is basically untouched from when he left for his trip to Malaysia. While his disappearance was only briefly mentioned on the tour, it hung in the air while the tour continued around the house. You could almost sense that his possessions were awaiting him to walk through and sit down on the silk divan to take his regular nap.

How to Visit the Jim Thompson House: The Jim Thompson House is conveniently located less than a five-minute walk from the BTS Skytrain National Stadium stop. The hours are 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, however when we were there, I think they opened at 9:30. The entrance fee is 150 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for students under the age of 22. The guided tour is mandatory, and your shoes must be removed to tour the house. Photography is not allowed inside the house.

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  • Reply Patter Travelers November 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    What a crazy story! #beinspired

    • Reply Tiffany November 9, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Right! I want to go look for him. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Reply Lew Toulmin January 5, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Please be aware that I have recently published a major new report on the Jim Thompson disappearance, from a scientific, modern search and rescue (SAR) perspective. My main contributions were to(for the first time) locate and interview search leaders and participants, evaluate their search strategy, tactics and execution; to analyze the cited possible causes for the disappearance and dismiss about half, as impossible or statistically unlikely; to evaluate Thompson as a search subject (state of mind, meds, health, wills, enemies, associates, knowledge of the terrain, etc.); and to mathematically calculate the area that needed to be searched, the estimated number of search days delivered, the area that was searched, and the PoD, PoA and PoS (probability of detection, area and success). I also evaluated the still unsolved murder of Thompson’s sister in PA several months after the disappearance, and compiled all the primary documents on the case (including OSS, CIA, US DoS, FBI, previously unpublished Thompson letters, etc.) into appendices of the report.
      The report is available gratis on my website at: It is the second document on that page.
      Good hunting!
      Lew Toulmin, Ph.D., F.R.G.S.
      Travel/Adventure Editor
      The Montgomery Sentinel
      Silver Spring, Maryland

      • Reply Tiffany January 5, 2016 at 10:27 am

        Thanks for stopping by Lew and for leaving your link to your article on Jim Thompson’s disappearance. I will check it out! I am very intrigued to know what really happened.

  • Reply Justine November 9, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    what made you interested in visiting this house? was it worth it?

    • Reply Tiffany November 9, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      This was part of a tour of museums in Bangkok and many of my friends that had been to Bangkok had recommended it. I didn’t know the story before I went. It was very worth it. The house is beautiful and the entry fee is very low. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Heather with WELLFITandFED November 10, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I love the vegetation in your photos. The redness of the home I love as well as it blends so beautiful into the environment. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Tiffany November 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you. It was an amazing house. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Liesbeth - Lili's travel plans November 11, 2015 at 3:20 am

    This was one of my favorite places during my visit to Bangkok last year! I loved the house, the story, the atmosphere, … A great experience!!

    • Reply Tiffany November 11, 2015 at 8:09 am

      Oh I am so glad you liked it too! I wanted to move in! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Lux November 11, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Ooh, I’m intrigued. Maybe I’ll visit too for the books. 🙂

    • Reply Tiffany November 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

      I highly recommend going! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Amber Adrian November 11, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I’ve never been to Bankok – now I want to visit!

    • Reply Tiffany November 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      You should go! If you go get a Thai Massage!

  • Reply Shell | Kitty & Buck November 13, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Wow, looks fascinating! I love visiting places with a story.

    • Reply Tiffany November 13, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      I do too! Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Reply Lyne November 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Thanks Tiffany. By reading your post I felt like I was there. Continue your great job!

    • Reply Tiffany November 13, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you Lyne! That means a lot. So glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Julie @ Girl on the Move November 14, 2015 at 12:55 am

    I love hearing the stories behind places I visit and this story sounds fascinating! Thanks for linking up with Travel Tales!

    • Reply Tiffany November 14, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Thank you for hosting it. I am enjoying it.

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