Day 8: Monday, 2 September 2013
Have you ever heard of Jim Thompson?
His story is a mysterious one. He was an American who revived the Thai silk industry in the 1960s but became famous for his disappearance in 1967. He was staying in Bangkok before going to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia for a holiday. He went into the jungle one fine evening to take a stroll when he suddenly disappeared without traces to this very day. That’s about it.
Although he went missing, his legacy continues. In Bangkok, his former house has been converted into a museum, a gallery of sort. I have been wanting to visit The Jim Thompson House ever since my first visit to Bangkok in 2011 but it never materialized. Since I decided to spend another night in Bangkok, I thought this is the right time to go and have a visit.
I really wanted to visit the house because of 2 reasons. First – He disappeared mysteriously. Secondly – He disappeared in my home country, Malaysia. I would like to see his legacy, one of those is his house, which I read was built based on his own preferences. I thought the man was a genius for wanting a traditional Thai house when most white people who stayed in Asia those days built European style houses.
As soon as I woke up from my nap, I cleanse myself and headed to Surasak BTS Station. I bought a ticket to National Stadium station and alighted there. I did not have any map. From my readings, I knew that National Stadium station is the closest station to The Jim Thompson House (note: Wang Mai, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand) but I did not see any signboard. Instead, I saw a sculpture which hands are as if it is taking a selfie.
I decided to just walk and walk without knowing where to head. I walked pass the big buildings, heading towards a flyover crossing a bridge. I was sweating like crazy. I knew I was lost. I got panicked. So, I decided to turn back until I saw a make-shift food stall near the river. There is a pedestrian walk along the river and I just followed the path until I saw the signboard showing The Jim Thompson House.
It was a relief to finally found the house. Being in a different country alone is fine but once you are lost, the feeling changed. I entered into the house, paid the 100 Baht ticket and waited for my turn to enter into the house with the compulsory English speaking guide together with several others.
As I toured the house (no photography allowed), I felt amazing with the design, the architecture of it. How the gardens blend well with the house. The main living hall is an open area facing the garden. I could not help but to imagine Jim Thompson sitting there, drinking coffee perhaps while the breeze brushes his face. It was devastating to think that the very man who built the house gone missing just like that.
When I walked out from the house to the main road (which is very close to the BTS station I mentioned earlier actually), I felt sorry for Jim. I felt sorry for his family.
I got lost looking for his house but I finally found it. However, he was lost and never returned. It is a sad story indeed.
So take a look at me now
There’s just an empty space
There’s nothing left here to remind me
Just the memory of your face
-Phil Collins, Against All Odds