Many people come to Thailand, fall in love with it and never leave. Jim Thompson was one of them..
Born in Delaware, USA in 1906, Thompson worked as an architect until World War II, when he volunteered for service and was sent to the European theatre. Towards the end of the war he was posted to Bangkok, where he worked in military intelligence for the O.S.S. After his repatriation and release from the military, Jim Thompson returned to Thailand forever.
The art of Thai silk weaving captured Jim Thompson’s imagination and he set about reviving this almost lost industry. With his talents as a designer and textile colorist, he had a great deal to contribute to the manufacture and production process. A skilled marketer and promoter, he soon won worldwide recognition for Thai silk and it became a highly desirable commodity. The production of exquisitely designed and produced silks still continues under the Jim Thompson label. The main showroom is 9 Surawongse Road in Bangkok but Thompson silks can be found all over Thailand in prestige boutiques and top-end department stores.
Just as famous as Thompson silk is the Jim Thompson house, or rather complex of houses, on the Klong (canal) at 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1, Road Bangkok. Consisting of six teak houses, which Thompson dismantled brought from sites all over Thailand, It represents the best in traditional Thai architecture,
Authentic Thai traditions were followed in the construction of the Jim Thompson House. All the buildings were elevated a full story above ground to avoid floods in the rainy season. The roof tiles were fired in Ayudhya using an ancient design. The outside walls were preserved with rare, old red paint. Even the “modern” chandeliers came from 18th and 19th century Bangkok palaces.
In 1959 the house was finished. After all the correct traditional religious observances and on an astrologically auspicious day, Jim Thompson moved in. In time, the house and its collection of art and antiques, became such a point interest to Thais and tourists alike, that he opened it to the public. All revenue from the Jim Thompson House is donated to the preservation of Thailand’s cultural heritage.
On March 27, 1967, while on holiday in Malaysia’s Cameroon Highlands, Jim Thompson vanished. The mystery of his disappearance has never been solved. Still his beautiful silks and his famous Thai house remain as lasting evidence of his creativity and his love of Thailand.