Friday, February 14, 2014

Bangkok: Jim Thompson House Museum

Looking for something quick to do today and still being a bit tired, I opted to go to the Jim Thompson house/museum.  (Other choices, maybe to do with Marcy is to take a canal tour in a small boat, along where traditional houses are or to go to the National Museum.)

You can read about it at:

I was told a cab would cost about 70 baht ($2+) but the first tuk tuk asked for 200.  We finally settled on 100.  A tuk tuk is a motorcycle with an open cab on it that can seat 2 or 3.  It was definitely windy

Typical tuk tuk
View from back seat of tuk tuk

.  The area is very crowded so with the motorcycle base he could make u-turns on a dime in the middle of a block.  He dropped me off about 6 blocks away as the street was being closed off by anti-govt demonstrators. 

  With a lot of help, I found the Jim Thompson house at the end of a nondescript lane.

Thompson was an American architect born in 1906.  He volunteered in WWII but saw no real action but worked for the OSS.  He was based in Thailand, fell in love with it and returned after the war.  He founded the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company, reviving the silk industry in Thailand and adding many colors. 

He welcomed many visitors to Thailand. and to his home that was finished in 1959.    In 1967, Jim Thompson went on holiday with friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. There he set out for a walk in the surrounding jungle but never returned.

Jim Thompson
in his house, with Cocky,
his pet white cockatoo.

For his contribution to the development of the Thai Silk industry, Jim Thompson was awarded the Order of the White Elephant, a decoration bestowed upon foreigners for having rendered exceptional service to Thailand.


I paid 100 baht (($3) to get in and for a 40-min group tour by a very competent young woman.  First and afterwards I walked around the gardens a bit.

Jim Thompson's Thai teak house stands on one 'rai' of land, (equivalent to approximately half an acre) and is enveloped by beautifully landscaped gardens. Thompson found the haphazard look of nature's lush tropical jungles appealing. This jungle landscape in the midst of the city gives the house its unique appeal.

The house consists of 6 traditional Thai houses that he bought and moved to the location. the main part, the living room is the oldest and is over 200 years old. 

We could not take photos inside the house but could of the gardens and 2 other houses int he complex, origianlly for servants and grounds keepers.  He collected a lot of art from many places in the area, the Thai kingdom, China, etc.  Some of the pottery was of Thai design but made in China in the 18th and 19th century as Thais did not do that kind of work.

The original entrance to the house was off of the canal. 
Living quarters are up a story, on stilts. 
Now part of the garden is under the house.  His most important/oldest item int he collection is a 7th century Buddha without arms and a head, which probably were destroyed int he war. 

There is a small Spirit "house" with yellow flowers in the NE corner of the property, to avoid having the shadow of the house ever fall on it.  It is tp protect the house from evil spirits.  Gifts are given to the spirits in the form of flowers, food and incense. 

While inside the house, there was a short but strong rain fall outside. 

The house frames were slanted slighted to help stabilize the traditional buildings which are on stilts, and without nails, just pegs. 

We took off our shoes to enter the main house.  Thai people traditionally ate on the floor so tookshoes off for cleanliness.

The house was a mix of Thai tradition and Western furniture. 

Between rooms, people step up over a threshhold.  It helps to stabilize the house,keeps out evil spirits (who would trip over it) and keep babies in the rooms.

Thais traditionally used the house (on stilts) for sleeping. The ate and socialized on a covered porch off the house, also on stilts.  When asked what Thais traditionally used to protect themselves from insects, were were told lemon grass oil, incense, and mosquito nettng at night. 

Some interesting artifacts inside the house:  a small "mouse" house for children's entertainment, and porcelain chamber pots (one in the shape of a cat where the head is removed--best for men.)

After walking through the outside structures on my own, I got a free tuk tuk ride about 6 blocks to the main street.  However, it was blocked off by government protestors. Some were selling shirts, etc. for the protest but many were selling food, etc.  I walked another 2 blocks, found tuk tuks, negotiated a ride back from 400 baht to 100, and returned to the hotel.  Thank goodness I had the hotel card with me in Thai (and English) writing too.

I would not rate this as a top thing to do in Bangkok, but it game me a chance for a bit of quiet and beauty in this very busy city

This will probably be the most I write on this blog as I have time now on the  hotel computer while I am waiting for Marcy who should be landing at any moment. 


Starting our Mekong Adventure, Feb. 12--March 9, Bangkok arrival

I flew from Seattle to Bangkok on Feb. 12 on Asiana Airlines.  It is a wonderful airline, with plenty of leg room in economy. The stewardesses were very polite, all wore their hair in a bun, and were very helpful.  The first flight was 12 hours to Incheon airport, on an island outside of Seoul.  I was given two meals--too bad I got vegetarian as it was vegan pasta both times and the regular meal offered Bim Bam Bop or steak.    The second meal was fish, rice and veggies and the stewardess got me one.  I had an open seat next to me the back of the plane, so I stretched out and rested about 7 hours but did not sleep.

Incheon airport is beautiful and very traveler friendly.  I look forward to exploring it when I get back, esp. the cultural area and museum.  People can take short free (?) tours into Incheon if they have a longer layover.

The 6-hour flight to Bangkok was mostly full.  Ttravelers on both flights were mostly Korean. The announcements were in Korean first.  I slept for 4 hours.  The airport in Bangkok was huge and a bit confusing.  Visa/customs were easy and I went to wait for my ride at the information center/door 3.  She was not there, but a nice staffer helped me.  The ride was 30 minutes but can be up to 2 hours at other times.  I did not realize that Thai drive on the left, so the driver was on the right.  She drove a new Toyota Camry.  She paid tolls twice.  The first one was 25 baht (33 baht to the dollar) for cars under 4 years old, 35 baht for cars 4 -8 (?) yr old, and 45 baht for older cards. The next toll on a different road was 50/75/100 baht.

I got into my hotel around 2 a.m., and even though I slept 4 hours on the flight from Seoul to Bangkok, I managed to sleep another 4+ hours at the hotel.
It took me a bit to realize that I had to leave the key card in a slot for the lights to work, similar to my trip to Spain 12 years ago.

The hotel is very close to the central train station, and we can see it from the breakfast room window.  It is a bit hard to reach from the hotel as a lot of construction is going on in the three blocks between them.

I had a wonderful breakfast--both western style and Asian food offered.

Then after talking to several people who just came back from a GAdventure trip, I heard that we are in for a wonderful experience. I also met and found out we will have their same wonderful guide, a former school teacher named Kakada, who changed professions so that he could make a living as teachers are paid so poorly, but he still helps run a school. The women I met said that several times Kakada arranged dinners in people's homes as an alternative to a restaurant for those interested. Count me in.

I headed out, walked about 3/4 mile and with a lot of help found the pier.  I walked along the rather odiferous Phadung Krunk Kasem canal across from the hotel

and then cut across by the Sheraton to find stop #3 on the regular boat at Sri Phraya.    Then I took a river boat for about 45 cents (15 baht).  It was crowded, noisy and the smell of gas was around.

My map showed which boats stopped there--orange/red is the "local."    I talked with people who were British, Swedish, Spanish, and from Khurdistan.   We went by another famous Wat (temple) on the other side fo the river where one can get a great view of the city.
 We went toward the Emerald Buddha/Grand Palace (stop 9)  only to find out after walking more that the Palace was closed (to tourists) for a special Buddhist holiday, called Makha Bucha Day, which falls on the full moon of the third lunar month. It commemorates the following:  1250 monks who had attained nirvana spontaneously visited Lorda Buddha at the Weluwan Temple in India 2500+ years ago.  50+ temples are holding special events for youth to be mindful and think in positive ways (and not over focus on Valentine's Day). 

Note sign in lower right corner:
So I walked more, at least 1/2 mile, and went to Wat Phra, where an enormous reclining Buddha is on display.

  It is 15 meters high and 43 meters long with his right arm supporting the head. The foot are 3 meters high and 4.5 meters long with inlaid mother-of-pearl. It definitely was impressive!  We took off our shoes to enter the temple and were given a bag to carry them. 
Close up of reclining Buddha's head

Full length of reclining Buddha

A tiny model of this immense statue made in the 1800s
The walls inside had many paintings around and the ceiling had special carvings too. The paintings, I think, represented different times in Buddha's life. 

 For more information on the Reclining Buddha, go to

 Wat Pho  

There were a number of stupa in the general area of the Wat but outside of the reclining Buddha area.
I only learned later that stupas were special memorials where people were buried, in this area important people.
 There was also a special school for massage there but I didn't discover it.

I took an express boat back for 40 baht.  Several of us were just happy to get on a boat as it was hot and crowded.  It would have been very expensive to take a taxi back and much longer because of the holiday traffic .  I could easily pay the $10 US but didn't want it to take so much longer!!   I came back to the room, lay down to rest at 5 and woke up at 9 p.m.  I was too tired to look for food, ate a bar, and went back to sleep until 2:30 a.m. and rested/slept off and on to about 7.

By the way, the majority of the taxis in this area are pink. They definitely catch one's attention.
 Marcy left DC in a blizzard 4 hours late, so missed her connection in Korea.  She will arrive in Bangkok about 1 p.m. today.  Thank goodness we had an emergency # in Bangkok for our travel group as the hotel only had the regular (M-F) office hours for GAdventures here.  They helped me reach the # and arranged Marcy's pick up at the airport.