google-site-verification=-dZePfgWB2ZtA3dxPB_nPrOD55Shnmh0iXAEngMSTwE dZePfgWB2ZtA3dxPB_nPrOD55Shnmh0iXAEngMSTwE
jimthompson1

The Legend of Jim Thompson

The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok pays homage to one of the Kingdom’s most influential expats and one of Asia’s greatest mysteries that has never been solved.

Ok, I admit it. I’ve always been a sucker for a great expat story. Stories of success – or complete failures – of expats in their chosen countries have always fascinated me. Most everyone has a great story of someone who completely went off the deep end, but it’s the stories of those that have succeeded away from home that rarely get the recognition they deserve.

Jim Thompson’s story, however – a man who, at the time, in the 1960s, was one of the most revered expats in Asia – is one that even 47 years after his demise is still being debated today.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 5.26.14 PM
Jim Thompson House

For those who have never heard of him, Thompson was an American operative in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the forerunner of the CIA in the 1940s. He later became an investor in the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok after retirement, and eventually, after a falling out with his partners, became better known as the man who is often credited for single handedly reviving the silk industry in Thailand.

The charismatic Thompson eventually became one of the most influential people in high society in Thailand. That honor, of course, brought with it a multitude of enemies due to jealousy from competitors and local government officials, not to mention a home government that was not impressed with his vocal displeasure of the then-ongoing Vietnam war.

His architectural background, which he learned through Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania and a 10-year career in the US, helped him establish one of the most well-known houses in Bangkok – a six-building home built from century-old wood, which he had disassembled and had boated down the river from Ayutthaya at a time when such Thai-style teak houses had gone out of vogue. In 1958, the house, built on stilts among a lush canopy of lavish gardens and immaculately decorated with ancient Asian art and antiques, became a showcase for Thai history and culture.

The Jim Thompson House, as it became known, complete with Buddhist treasures and antiques from Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand – including a dining table used by King Rama V – became a landmark architectural achievement and the city’s most celebrated social center, where Thompson hosted nightly parties for the elite and visiting dignitaries.


JimThompson5


Biographer Joshua Kurlantzick noted that the American’s amazing accomplishments brought some inevitable resentment from some Thai’s. William Warren, author of Jim Thompson – The Legendary American in Thailand, also noted in an excerpt from his book just how much of a legend he had become.

“In the twenty years … he had accomplished more than most men in a full life. He had built a major industry in a remote and little known country whose language he could not speak; he had become an authority on an art that, previously, he scarcely knew existed and had assembled a collection that attracted scholars from all over the world; he had built a home that was a work of art in itself and one of the landmarks of Bangkok; and, in the process of doing all this, he had become a sort of landmark himself, a personality so widely known in his adopted homeland that a letter addressed simply ‘Jim Thompson, Bangkok’ found its way to him in a city of three and a half million people.”

At the age of 61 and the height of his success, Thompson mysteriously vanished on a trip to Malaysia. His demise, which to this day has never been solved, has always elicited theories of what actually happened on March 26, 1967 in the Cameron Highlands, after he embarked on a simple hike that was supposed to last, at most, a couple of hours.

His remains have never been found, of course raising the notion of foul play, though authorities searched the area for a month to no avail in Malaysia’s largest manhunt ever.

Thompson, an experienced hiker and survivalist, would more than likely not have had a struggle navigating out of the jungle terrain with his past field training experience from his days in the army, leading many to suspect he was murdered and his body disposed of.

Questions of his disappearance have always raised suspicions. Did he fake his disappearance to reinvent his life elsewhere? Was he murdered by competitors or rivals who would benefit from his demise? Did the Thai, or American government for that matter, have anything to do with his disappearance?

We’ll probably never, ever know.

In 1976, the court-appointed administrator for the property of Jim Thompson received permission from government ministries of the Kingdom of Thailand to establish the Jim Thompson House as a foundation and museum to help preserve and maintain Thailand’s traditional culture.

Though Thompson’s disappearance is one of Southeast Asia’s greatest mysteries that may never be solved, what does remain of his legacy is the monument to Thai culture and history that is a must-visit on any trip to Bangkok.

The Jim Thompson House is located on 6 Soi Kasemsan (2) Song on Rama I Road and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 100 baht and includes a guided English or French tour. Call (662) 216-7368 for more information.


JimThompson2

JimThompson4

JimThompson3

JimThompson6


The Latest Haps

NewsEntertainmentLifestyleFood/DrinkTravelSports
busan subway station

Subway Service Disruptions Expected Due to Union Strike

Busan Subway Lines 1, 2 and 3 have begun emergency services today due to a general strike of the Busan Metro Labor Union.

0 comments
busstop

Public Preference Survey for the Busan City Bus Design Improvement Project

The city of Busan is looking for public input as they plan to change the look of the city’s buses for the first time in 16 years.

0 comments
ktx seoul

Railroad Strike Planned for Next Week

The government is hoping railway services will be running without any major disruption despite a unionized railroad workers’ scheduled strike next week.

0 comments
bulguksa-temple-gyeongju

Aftershocks May Continue for Months

The Korea Meteorological Administration(KMA) is predicting that more aftershocks with a magnitude of three to four will likely continue in Gyeongju, for as long as several months.

0 comments
Image: Busan One Asia Festival

Busan One Asia Festival Main Music Line-up

The Busan One Asia Festival will have five main K-pop concerts at the Busan Asiad Gymnasium throughout the first 23 days of October.

0 comments
open-talk-660x330

21st BIFF Event Schedule

The Busan International Film Festival has released its main event schedule for this year’s 21st edition. Updates as of September 22, 2016.

0 comments
bigdatahaps

“Wired” Magazine Chooses Big Data as Top 5 Podcast

Wired magazine has chosen local cartoonist Ryan Estrada’s “Big Data” as one of its top 5 podcasts of the week.

0 comments
drive

City Looks to Lower Speed Limit on Main Roads

The speed limit on main roads in Busan’s downtown might be lowered to 50 km per hour, which is 10 km less than the previous speed limit.

0 comments
health

Seomyeon Medical Street Festival to Run for Two Days

The 6th Seomyeon Medical Street Festival is starting on September 30th.

0 comments
friends

You Can Choose Your Family But You Can’t Choose Your Friends

That’s not a misprint, but just the way it seems to work when you live abroad. John Bocskay explains.

0 comments
Image: Pei Wei

Pei Wei Asian Diner is Coming to Busan

Pei Wei Asian Diner is set to open a location in Busan by the end of 2017 according to a company press release.

0 comments
chicken-mac

McDonald’s Korea Introduces the “Chicken Mac”

McDonald’s Korea has introduced its newest offering, the Chicken Mac.

0 comments
Image: Facebook

Galmegi Brewing Co. Launches New Fried Chicken

Galmegi Brewing Company has announced its newest menu item, “Nashville Fried Chicken”.

0 comments
Seoul

Seoul #10 Most Popular Travel City

A new survey by MasterCard shows that Seoul is once again the 10th most popular city for travel in the world.

0 comments
ulsan

Travel Korea: Daytripping in Ulsan

Busan’s neighbor to the north has a lot going for it for a fun weekend that’s not so far from home.

0 comments
Image: Wikicommons

International Travel: Wats Happening in Chiang Mai

While many head to Thailand in search of its magnificent culture, Chiang Mai is a great place to start and one of her best offerings are her awesome temples, known as “Wats”.

0 comments
Image: YouTube

Is this the Worst Goalkeeper Blunder Ever?

North Korea’s goalkeeper gives up one of the worst goals ever — to the opponent’s goalkeeper in an AFC U-16 championship match.

0 comments
bungee-vid

Video: Safety Rope Fails from 42m Bungee Jump

A 29-year-old woman was seriously injured this month when a bungee jump operator failed to secure her rope to the safety hook.

0 comments
paddle

Suyeong-gu Office Runs the SUP Academy at Gwangalli Beach

Suyeong-gu Office runs the Stand Up Paddle Board Academy at Gwangalli Beach in September and October.

0 comments

Comments

comments

About Jeff Liebsch

Jeff Liebsch has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Eurobasket, Tribal Football and Yonhap News. He can be followed on Twitter at @chevybusan.

Check Also

plane

Traveling From UK to Busan to Become Cheaper

Travel costs between the UK and Busan will soon become more affordable.

Leave a Reply