Jim Thompson House
To visit the Jim Thompson House at Klong Saen Saep is one of the most impressive and exciting ways to explore Thai History, through the art collection of Mr. Thompson. Looking back, the art of silk weaving belongs to an ancient culture of the Khmer people who migrated to Thailand in the early Rattanakosin era. The significant change of Thai silk, however, took place in 1955 when James Harrison Wilson Thompson (or Jim Thompson) was on his journey throughout Thailand for the ideal Thai silk. He visited Baan Krua, a small weaving community of 8 families in Bangkok, to buy a piece of sarong. He was immediately impressed by the marvelous silk from the stunning skills of Baan Krua residents.
For more information, visit Jim Thompson house website:
You will reach Jim Thompson House via BTS Skytrain or by taking a public boat on Saen Saeb canal and getting off at the boat stop Baan Krua Nua, next to the museum.
Address: Jim Thompson House, 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok
public boat ride along Saen Saeb canal, starting at Klong Maha Nak
Baan Krua Community and Jim Thompson:
At the end of my journey in March 2011, I visited Jim Thompson House for a guided tour and asked where the silk for Jim Thompson products is coming from. Where does the company obtain the silk for their beautiful products? The guide said that
the silk for the Jim Thompson products is coming from Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima). At Nakhon Ratchasim district also other companies are raising silkworms for their silk production.
But in earlier decades the silk was woven just across the Klong Saen Sab (Saen Saeb
canal), at Baan Krua (Muslim Family Village) the guide said and made me a sketch to get there. After visiting the exquisite boutique at Jim Thompson House, I crossed the pedestrian bridge for a walk along a narrow footpath on the Saen Saeb canal to
find Soi 9, which is almost right across Jim Thompson House. Look for a sign overhead which reads “Jim Thompson Thai Silk”.
History of Baan Krua:
Baan Krua is one of Bangkok's oldest communities. It dates to the turbulent years at the end of the 18th century, when
Cham Muslims from Cambodia and Vietnam fought on the side of the new Thai King Rama I during the Burmese-Siamese
wars and were rewarded with this plot of land east of the new capital.
(More about Cham people at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chams)
These immigrants brought their silk–weaving traditions with them, and the community grew with the arrival of other Muslims. The weavers supplied Mr. Thompson with their silk when he started his Thai Silk Company in 1948. He asked them to
produce a sample batch of silks which he took to New York. The silks hit Vogue magazine and from then on Jim Thompson
silk took off. Thompson worked with a group of eight Cham families who produced the silk for his Thai Silk Company. In the 1950s and 60s he exported Thai silk around the globe.
After Jim Thompson disappeared in the jungle of Malaysia, the production was moved to Khorat (short name for Nathon Ratchasima) district and a lot of the Muslim families have moved out of the area.
But one of the original families is still weaving silk on old teak looms:
The family of Niphon Manuthas (http://www.phamaibaankrua.com)
Khun Niphon ist the only descendant from the original eight families. Phamai Baan Krua today deals directly with their costumers. They do not supply Jim Thompson stores since the Thompson Silk Company has its own factory in Khorat.
The village consists of tiny little homes and narrow footpaths inbetween. I loved strolling around there and see how
people live. But please bring to your mind that you are walking through other peoples’ gardens and backyards.
I could easily find Soi 9 and the tiny silk manufactory of Khun Niphon Manuthat, who runs Phamai Baan Krua.
The owner asked me to step in and within a few minutes the atmosphere got me completely.
Right behind the weaving workshop men dyed silk in different colors like magenta, turquoise and yellow.
In another room the yarn was spooled on coils to prepare it for the shuttle for weaving.