This morning we got up early again and everyone got ready for our outing. Carol was feeling better, so she joined us too.
We took off around 8:30am after we caught a taxi from our hotel. We paid 200 Baht for a ride over to the Jim Thompson house. Mr. Thompson was born in Delaware in the early 1900’s, spent time in Southeast Asia towards the end of WWII while working for the US government, and is the main person that supposedly kept the Thai silk industry from complete collapse after introducing the products to the US.
I had wanted to visit the Jim Thompson house back in 2009 when I was in Bangkok, but I didn’t make the effort, so I wanted to make sure to check it out on this visit. We bought our tickets (children are free, and I think it was 150 Baht for each adult); the ticket includes a guided tour so we waited for about 5 minutes while our group gathered, then we were led around the garden and through his home over the next 40 minutes.
The entire complex was absolutely gorgeous. He apparently purchased several traditional Thai homes and had them interconnected together with Western additions. Traditional Thai homes are on stilts to avoid flooding, so the living space was all raised on a second level. There was a little canal about 20 feet from the home and the tour guide said that there was a small dock there from Mr. Thompson’s day.
The first portion of the tour was through the gardens, which were tropical — lots of lush vegetation and about a billion mosquitoes. I was attacked like never before. I really hope they weren’t carrying dengue or malaria because I have about 20 bites on my legs. Amazingly the girls only got a total of 4-5 bites. I wish I had used some spray, but we shall see what happens over the next week or two – hopefully no hospitalizations. I miss the days from my youth in Florida when mosquito bites were just itchy instead of a possible path to a deadly disease.
After we left the garden we stopped so everyone could take off their shoes and lockup their bags in lockers, then we went inside. The tour guide said that one of the “Western” additions to the home was the staircase that’s inside the house, leading to the second floor. She said traditional Thai homes never have stairs inside, as they’re always external to the house. She showed us all the key items in Mr. Thompson’s art collection, from a 400 year old teak Buddha statue to a 200 year old map showing the land that was all part of the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand).
We made our way upstairs and into several rooms. The doorways between each room had a 12-14 inch wooden partition at the bottom that Logan had a difficult time climbing over. One of the ladies on the tour asked why they were so high and the tour guide said that they give support to the overall structure and that they had them this way to keep babies inside of certain rooms so they wouldn’t wander out and fall to the ground level.
The house was like a poor man’s version of the Gamble House in Pasadena. It really reminded me of my previous visits to the Gamble House, and not only because they don’t allow photos inside. Everything is made of wood and has a high level of detail, all handmade from artisans. I love the smooth look and feel of the wood; the hardwoods are exceptional – he used teak in many areas.
When we got to the dining room the tour guide pointed out that traditionally Thais eat on the floor on top of mats but that Jim Thompson chose to skip that and instead focused on the comfort of his guests because he had an old ornately carved Chinese dining table put in there. Other tables in that room had impressive pearl inlay work.
In the main salon the room was wide open and felt incredible. It was exceptional and I can only imagine how nice it would have been to have lived in such a nice place along a little canal in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The final note about Western additions that our tour guide mentioned was that Mr. Thompson had a toilet installed inside between the guest bedroom and his bedroom, whereas traditional Thai homes always had outdoor facilities. She did point out the chamber pots for boys and girls.
My favorite decoration in the home was the “mouse house”, which also impressed Zoe and Logan. It was a box with a glass front that had several levels of a “maze” for mice to go through. The guide said it was used for entertainment and also for gambling, where several different colored mice would be dropped inside and wagers made on which would get to the end first.
After we finished the tour we went inside their shop for a little bit. Carolyn picked up a something for the girls and a silk scarf for herself, then we took their complimentary tuk-tuk service to the main road and caught a taxi back to our hotel.
We ate lunch at our hotel’s restaurant. The girls spent quite a while looking out the window at the different boats passing by on the Chao Phraya River. Zoe had to lift Logan up so she could see out the window and point to all the boats.
After lunch I went to the room with Zoe and we relaxed while Carolyn and Logan caught a taxi to a huge mall here in Bangkok, Siam Paragon. Carol said she’d be gone for 4 hours, but 6 hours later when Zoe and I were literally outside our room’s door and closing it to head down into the streets for some fruit drinks we heard footsteps coming up the stairs and saw Carol and Loggie. Carol said she enjoyed the mall, which was obvious based on the two handfuls of bags she was carrying.
It’s not quite 8pm yet, but we’re getting all packed up because we’re leaving Bangkok early to fly back to KL. We had fun, but the trip wasn’t long enough. If we’d had another 2 full days in Bangkok it would have been perfect, but we should have some other opportunities to return in the future. Bangkok is a pretty neat city, with lots to see and do, and the people are mostly really friendly. It was hot and we were sweaty when we walked around outside for more than an hour, but it actually was much cooler than JB. There was a good breeze most of the time and the humidity felt much lower for some reason.
Here are the photos from today, but first, here’s another quick tidbit about Jim Thompson: he mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while out for a short hike in the mountains while he was staying with a friend in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. He never returned from his walk and nobody knows what ultimately became of him, but his legacy is that the Thai silk industry took off and still exists today, in part because of his work.