Formerly an architect in New York City, Jim Thompson ended up in Thailand at the end of World War II, after a stint as an officer of the OSS (an organization that preceded the CIA). After a couple of other business ventures, he moved into silk and is credited with revitalizing Thailand's moribund silk industry. The success of this project alone would have made him a legend, but the house he left behind is also a national treasure. Thompson imported parts of several up-country buildings, some as old as 150 years, to construct his compound of six Thai houses (three are still exactly the same as their originals, including details of the interior layout). With true appreciation and a connoisseur's eye, Thompson then furnished them with what are now priceless pieces of Southeast Asian art. Adding to Thompson's notoriety is his disappearance: in 1967 he went to the Malaysian Cameron Highlands for a quiet holiday and was never heard from again.
The entrance to the house is easy to miss—it's
at the end of an unprepossessing lane, leading north off Rama I Road, west of Phayathai Road (the house is on your left). A good landmark is the National Stadium Skytrain station—the house is north of the station, just down the street from it. An informative 30-minute guided tour starts every 15 minutes and is included in the admission fee. The grounds also include a silk and souvenir shop and a restaurant that's great for a coffee or cold-drink break.