Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bankok: Jim Thompson House Museum

Until arriving in Bangkok, I had never heard of the Jim Thompson Museum. It is certainly worth a visit, especially on a day when it's raining so hard the streets flow like rivers and cars float. In other words:  Wednesday.

Silk yarn with silk cocoons in
the background
Jim Thompson, a designer and architect, almost single-handedly revived the ancient village art of silk weaving by sending brightly colored samples to his friends in New York in the 1950s. He became the most recognized and well-known foreigner in SE Asia after he divorced his wife, moved to Bangkok, and began a successful export business. He also purchased five old teak houses, had them dismantled, and reassembled on land he owned, now in the center of Bangkok. It took over a year to accomplish the task, and he didn't move in until everything was finished, including ceremonies to appease the spirits and only after Buddhist monk astrologers picked an auspicious day.

In the garden there is a little house where the spirits, who inhabited the land before the house was built, are presented with food, incense, flowers, water and other tasty beverages every morning. This has ensured over the last 60+ years that the house remains safe from evil and its purpose as a museum and cultural center continues. Read more about it if you are interested at this link:  JimThompsonHouseMuseum

Thompson always wanted his property to become a museum, and it did, though a bit prematurely. He disappeared in 1967 while visiting friends in Malaysia. After extensive searches, no trace of his body was ever found. So his will was executed and the house became one of the most popular non-temple attractions in Bangkok.

Lotus Flowers 
The tour takes about an hour, starting off with a brief walk-through in the gardens and outdoor living spaces. Then, with shoes off in the traditional Thai maner, tours are given of the house itself. Walls tilt inwards in nail-free traditional wooden structures to give strength to the roof. The first floor of a house is actually up a flight of stairs because the house is built on stilts. There are no windows, only shutters that remain open except for times of inclement weather. Photos were not permitted inside, which is a shame (to me!). However, a few photos are available on this webpage: InsideThompsonHouse

The overall feel of the house is one of understated luxury, with silk covered pillows and cushions, finely waxed and carved wooden furniture, and a large lounging couch, customary in Thai homes.

Spirit House in the garden. The squirrels are well-fed
with food offerings.

The main house, note the tilted walls and deep overhangs