Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Amelia Earhart of Thailand

Yesterday was our preparation day.  After cleaning the condo and doing laundry, Sister Meeker and I were able to visit a famous location here in Bangkok Thailand.  We went with the Mission President and his wife.  We visited the former home of Jim Thompson.  We got there by getting on the BTS (above ground train) for 4 stops transferring to a different BTS line and going to the end.  It was then a short walk of a couple hundred yards to the house/museum.

We toured the house which was actually 6 original Thai houses from around the country that were moved to the site and assembled into more of a western  style home.  Some of the features he added included indoor plumbing and an interior stairway etc.  The original homes are more than a hundred years old.  They are all made with Teak wood and very beautiful. Mr. Thompson was an architect by schooling (although he never got his degree - couldn't pass the Calculus class).

The Drawing (Living) Room - View for arriving guests by way of the canal

Jim Thompson was member of the OSS (precursor) to the CIA during World War II.  In August 1945, Thompson was about to be sent into Thailand, when the Surrender of Japan officially ended World War II. He arrived in Thailand shortly after Victory over Japan Day and organized the Bangkok OSS office.

Thompson left the army in 1946. After his divorce from Patricia Thraves, he returned to Thailand to devote himself to revitalizing a cottage industry of hand-woven silk.

 In 1948, he partnered with George Barrie to found the Thai Silk Company. It was capitalized at US$25,000. They each bought eighteen percent of the shares. The remaining sixty-four percent were sold to Thai and foreign investors.

The firm achieved a coup in 1951 when designer Irene Sharaff made use of Thai silk fabrics for the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. From then on, the company prospered.

One of the things Mr. Thompson did was design and develop printing dies.  See the picture to the right to see an original wood carved design hanging on the wall behind the tour guide.  The pattern  was painted with dye and the design was transferred to the silk cloth by pressing it against the carved wood pattern. Note the pottery in the picture was also designed by Mr. Thompson.  It has the same themed pattern as the wood carved die.

Now to get to the reason for this Post's title.  The Amelia Earhart of Thailand.  In 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared  without a trace.  (If you want to know the details see this link). He has never been seen or heard from again.  He was visiting Malaysia in March of 1967.  He went for a walk and never returned.  Many days of searching and rewards for information brought forth no results.  Nothing has ever turned up.  He never had any children, so his nephew inherited the home.  The nephew donated the house to a foundation which has maintained the house as a Museum since 1976 (The guide shared the fact that the 92 year old nephew visited the home last year). The home tours provide an opportunity to see the many Asian artifacts that he collected during his life.  In addition they share the method of silk making and of course have a gift shop where you can buy silk products. 

After the tour We had lunch at the on property restaurant.  I had some great curry and Sister Meeker had some Thai Pomelo salad. Sounds kind of strange but it is actually very good.     


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