Jim Thompson …architect, art collector, entrepreneur and secret agent

South East Asia has had it’s share of mysterious and enigmatic figures over the years, including Jim Thompson. An American, he trained as an architect before joining the Army during the Second World War, and then the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

jim-thompson-house-5After serving in North Africa and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) he was sent to Thailand at the end of the war, to become chief spook at OSS Bangkok HQ. While here he fell in love with the country and after being discharged from military service he returned to Bangkok  to eventually set up a small silk export company, which hit the big time when it supplied the silk for costumes in The King and I musical.

Bangkok in the late 1940s must have been very different to now, and while his house is now surrounded by hotels and shopping malls in his time it was probably nearly jungle in places.

His house is actually built from several old houses brought to Bangkok and reassembled as one big house, facing onto a small river.

jim-thompson-house-4It must have been a very pleasant life, living the life of a white man in tropical exile, in a huge house filled with antiques and art, with servants at his beck and call…. like something out of a Humphrey Bogart movie ? ( I wish my expat life was like that 🙂 )

I do love the color and general confusion of the Far East. There is so much to see and learn out here. (Jim Thompson)


Heliconias in the garden of Jim Thompson museum

In 1967 Jim Thompson went to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia with friends. One afternoon he went for a stroll, never to be seen again. Despite the biggest search in Malaysia’s history no trace was ever found of him. Was he eaten by a tiger ? kidnapped by Russian spies because they thought he was still working for the Secret Service ? Or just the victim of a hit and run driver ? Lots of theories but nothing ever proven, he was even supposed to have been seen in Tahiti afterwards !

Anyway his company is still going, selling thousands of silk ties and shirts to tourists every year, and his house is now a museum still filled with many of his antiques.

jim-thompson-house-1jim-thompson-house-2Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos inside the house but the lush tropical garden is a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bangkok just outside it’s walls. It’s all well worth a visit, and just a short walk from the National Stadium skytrain station.


About Mike

A recently retired "Baby Boomer" , looking forward to having more time for my photography and travel.
This entry was posted in Explorations, Photography, Thailand, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jim Thompson …architect, art collector, entrepreneur and secret agent

  1. Pingback: Bangkok graffiti (or street art ?) | Changes in latitude, changes in attitude

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