Beautiful Bangkok; Barefeet, Botanics and Buildings

Today was my first day out on my own in Bangkok.

As a solo female traveller, the idea of travelling around this hustle bustle city was both terrifying and exciting at the same time. I have travelled on my own in the past, but only to places where I have spoken the language with reasonable fluency. I can’t say that I was that confident that my four phrases in Thai were going to be enough to get me around and keep me out of trouble.

Despite this, I set off, on today’s agenda; visiting Jim Thomson‘s house and the infamous MBK discount mall.

The house is an easy journey on the BTS sky train from Saphin Taskin. The National Stadium stop is only two stops away, and in air conditioned comfort, you cannot help but enjoy the efficiency. But, stepping off the train, the woosh of swimming pool humidity hits you with vengeance.

The Jim Thomson house is only a short walk from the train station, around ten minutes perhaps? However if this doesn’t take your fancy, you can also take the free golf cart shuttle they run every ten to fifteen minutes. I was picked up about 150 metres from the entrance.

The entrance to Jim Thomson's home
The entrance to Jim Thomson’s home

Entering the house grounds is like stepping into a little piece of paradise. Suddenly all the chaotic noise fades away and is replaced by the gentle trickling of waterfalls.

Jim Thomson (1906 – 1967) was an American architect who made his home in Bangkok after falling in love with the place during his service in WWII. His main business in Bangkok was producing Thai silk.

Once Thomson saw the quality and beauty of the silk, he took it overseas and began to produce and export it internationally. The silk’s claim to fame was guaranteed in 1951, when it was used to create the stunning costumes in “The King and I“. His silk has featured in the likes of Vogue and is still used by many top designers. Time Magazine claims that without his revitalisation of the Thai silk industry, it would’ve faded into insignificance.

Other than his silk company, Thomson was also a serious art collector. The house is filled with interesting and notable Asian artefacts and pieces of art that hint at a decadent era.

An Oasis of calm
An Oasis of calm

The house itself on the other hand, is also considered a work of art. As an architect, Thomson combined elements of traditional Thai houses, such as stilts and open platforms, with western elements such as indoor staircases and interconnected rooms. The house is constructed out of Teak – native to Thailand and admired for it’s durability and water resistant nature.

The Garden
The Garden

The upper floors are constructed to maintain indoor-outdoor flow by creating wide open spaces which exude light and an airiness that seems out of place in such a hot and sticky place. Each room has been tastefully decorated by combining Thomson’s love of art with his admiration of European style. The decorations are a virtual melting pot of the best elements of European and Asian design.

Floating water lilies flank the house
Floating water lilies flank the house

Jim Thomson disappeared in 1967 on a holiday to Malaysia. Little is known about his disappearance despite extensive searches. The loss of this patron of Thai silk, was and continues to be a subject of great mystery and sadness for the Thai people.

Entry to the house costs a mere 100Baht (50 Baht if you are under 25) and you receive a guided tour of the property. The entrance fees are donated to the Jim Thomson foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the cultural beauty of Thailand and supporting textile products. It is such a small price to pay for a walk through history and slice of serenity.

Standing near one of the Ponds at Jim Thomson's house
Standing near one of the Ponds at Jim Thomson’s house

MBK on the other hand is a complete juxtaposition. This insanely huge 7 storey discount mall, literally crawls with the wheels of commerce. Bargain hunters and store keepers alike flock here to make/save money and bartering is not only expected but considered an Olympic sport. The hour and a half I spent here, merely allowed me to explore two of the seven floors and despite the air conditioning and vast bargains, I felt a need to escape and return to the serenity of the Thomson house.

So it was back for a lunch date with my husband, Pad Thai, NOM!

Pad Thai at Queen of Curries
Pad Thai at Queen of Curries

Tomorrow is a crazy day of tours.

Ginga Musings Out.

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