A visit to Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson HouseToday we visited the Jim Thompson House, a museum in the former home of an American architect who lived in Thailand for twenty-two years before he disappeared in Malaysia in 1967. The house is comprised of six traditional Thai houses that Jim Thompson moved from various parts of Thailand to Bangkok and reassembled in authentic style. It is filled with some incredible antiques that he collected during his time here, including some rare Buddhas from the seventh and eighth centuries.

The 100 baht (US$2.50) entrance fee included a 35 minute tour in English which highlighted the architectural twists Thompson made on his traditional Thai structure. Since Thai houses are built without nails and in panels, they are easy to break down and move by boat (so people could relocate to better farmland as necessary). Thompson reassembled his several small houses into one large Western-style house. He placed some of the panels backwards, so that the innate carving usually seen on the outside of the house could instead be appreciated by those on the inside. He mixed Western elements, such as glass chandeliers, with Asian antiques like temple paintings and Buddha statues. He also took Asian items and reworked them to create Western furniture, for example two mah jong tables pushed together to make a dining room table. (Thais traditionally sat on the floor to eat.) He also took small drums and turned them into lamps.

Alas, no pictures were allowed inside, so you'll just have to imagine it all (and look at the website). The whole place had such a lovely, airy, minimalist, tropical feel. It was gracious and understated, calming, and surrounded by lush gardens. If I were to live in Bangkok, this is the house I would want to live in. And seeing it made me sad that Jim Thompson isn't alive today. It seems like he would be a really interesting person to meet.