On Thursday we got up early and headed into town to visit Jim Thompson’s house. I have never visited before but have seen the shops of the same name dotted around town and heard the tale of his mysterious disappearance. The house is a short walk from National Stadium BTS and was pretty well signposted for Bangkok. We arrived about 9.30am to find entry was only 100 baht which also included a 45 minute guided tour around Jim’s crib as we affectionately called it.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story (…in a nutshell…), Jim Thompson was an American born in 1906, who came to Thailand when he was in the military and fell in love with the country and the people. On his retirement from the forces he returned permanently and discovered silk weaving, an art that had long been neglected in Thailand, subsequently he devoted the remainder of his life to reviving this beautiful trade. On March 26th 1967, whilst visiting the highlands of Malaysia, Thompson disappeared never to be seen again, his beautiful house was gifted to the people of Thailand by his family.
Said to be one of the best preserved traditional houses in Bangkok, the house is simply amazing. In the center of Bangkok, the compound is filled with tall trees, lush greenery and babbling ponds filled with fish that make it feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, only the sound of the boats passing up and down on the neighbouring klong disturb the utter tranquility. Thompson created the house in the late 1950’s by combining 6 traditional Thai teak houses, on the tour we learnt that some were two centuries old and were brought to Bangkok from as far away as Ayutthaya and assembled in a fashion more suited to the western preference of living i.e. there were separate living and dining rooms and a kitchen. Thompson was an avid collector of Asian artifacts and antiques and the house features a beautifully curated selection.
The tour took in the small grounds and then we removed our shoes to explore the main house…note to self, next time don’t put foot powder in your pumps. Our guide was lovely, her English was fantastic and she explained everything so well without baffling us or overloading us with information, it was really interesting. She pointed out really quirky things in the house that Thompson had collected that you would just walk past otherwise such as the little boys chamber pot shaped like a cat.
It was really cool to see inside a more traditional house, especially one that is so beautifully decorated, if I was still working I’d definitely be using Jim’s crib as inspiration!
I would recommend going early as it was getting busy and the tours were twice as big by the time we left. After our tour we wandered by ourselves looking closer at me of his collections. Then we visited the shop which sells the most gorgeous silk scarves alongside many other beautiful items which would make ideal gifts for people. There home furnishings particularly caught my eye (stunning cushion covers!). We stopped for a drink in the cafe where the range of lychee based drinks of course gained our attention; Hannah went for lychee and mint, Rich went lychee and ginger, I went straight lychee. All were delicious but special mention has to go to the lychee and mint combo which was insanely good…who would have thought it!
We took the complimentary tuk tuk back down to the main road where we planned to go to China Town next. We hopped in another tuk tuk (well you’ve got to do it) and set off. Our driver spoke pretty good English and explained as part of the price we’d negotiated he’d take us to the Golden Buddha…and a silk shop despite our protests. I’ve read about these scams so fully aware we hopped out at the silk shop, did a lap round it, said no to a ‘pretty dress’ and returned to the tuk tuk, in and out in under 2 minutes. He then took us to the Golden Buddha, thanked us for going to the silk shop and that was that.Han and I hadn’t gone dressed for visiting temples so rented a couple of sarongs with our entry tickets (some entertaining gestures ensued as the first scarves he tried to give us weren’t actually longer than our shorts…us westerners with giant legs!). The Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) was beautiful, I get what people mean when they say it appears to glow. It is 4m high and made of solid gold, something that was only discovered in 1955 when the plaster casing cracked to reveal the golden Buddha inside. This is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We then headed over to China Town. We took in one temple before we got talking to a kindly older Chinese man who told us we were too early for China Town…well it was only midday and he could recommend some places for us to see instead. I know, I know, I’ve read about this too and should have known better but before we knew if we were in a bargainous 50 baht tuk tuk off to visit some other places at the gentleman’s recommendation. First we were taken to this quiet, beautifully peaceful temple (god knows where), it was stunning and we had a good wander.
Then we jumped back in ready for destination number 2 which we were then told was the Queens personal silk shop where there was an offer to help raise funds for refugees in the north of the country…yep we smelt a rat too. Of course, as we were driving through the streets, they started to look familiar and then we arrived straight back in front of the silk shop we’d already done a customary walk round about 2 hours earlier. A swift exit seemed like the best course of action so we paid the driver and hailed a cab back to Siam, as I had no idea where we were it felt like the safest solution. Another note to self…don’t be so bloody British and polite, next time you sense a scam trust your gut and say no.
After our morning adventures we were pretty hungry so headed to Terminal 21 in Asok and ate at Sunrise Tacos, pretty good food if your feeling a bit Mexican. Then we shopped. Terminal 21 is the mall where each floor is a different city and the security guards are dressed as pilots, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it previously (if you do happen to visit make sure you go to the loo…odd recommendation I know but they’re Japanese toilets with all the buttons, my personal favourite is the seat temperature). Anyway, It is a great mall with lots of little independent boutiques selling really unusual things, needless to say a few hours passed before we knew it and we needed to head home to get sorted for that evening.
No one can come to Bangkok without visiting the obligatory sky bar. I promise at some point we will visit another one but for ease we went to our favourite, the Octave at the Marriott. I should probably tell you why this is our favourite; firstly it is in Thong lo which is really convenient from our apartment and secondly their dress code is way more relaxed than others. Unlike others where men have to wear chinos, shirt and proper shoes to gain entry, the Octave just requires covered shoes (for men, Dave’s worn smart trainers before) and shorts are ok. That’s not to say you can go up looking scruffy, the patrons there still look pretty glam, it just has a more relaxed feel than other sky bars and when the temperature’s 35 degrees the last thing anyone feels like doing is putting on trousers never mind shoes and socks. Its a great one for visitors to Bangkok who haven’t packed their finery! Anyway we had a great time as usual, supping numerous cocktails and scoffing their delicious nuts! Dave and I also used the view to scope out potential condos for July when we need to move.
We went to Soul Food for dinner; excellent Thai food guaranteed although we were sat next to the loudest group of Japanese business people I have ever encountered so we ate and left much quicker than we normally would, before we all lost out hearing permanently. The night was still young so we cabbed it down to Roast for dessert. As yummy as always!
Lumpini Park is a great place to wander and watch the locals do their morning Tai Chi as well as watch the turtles and lizards. I obviously hadn’t thought this one through completely as during our time island hopping I had discovered that Han is petrified of snakes…or anything ‘snakey’. We got up early on Friday and headed to Lumpini.
Within five minutes of being in the park we observed our first monitor lizard, he was a lil baby one, totally harmless, sat on the tree but within a minute we rounded on a giant two metre long monster…Han did really well and only shrieked a few times. What was more entertaining was that her nervousness rubbed off on me and Rich and we were soon freaking out more than her! You do see a lot of them swimming in the lake, wandering in the park and sunbathing but they are generally harmless unless you get too close or they feel threatened. It was an entertaining hour and a half but we decided not to hire a swan boat and instead head back into town to the relative safety of a shopping mall!
For lunch we went to the White Flower Factory in Siam Square One, a mall I hadn’t visited before. We were the only westerners in the really quite ‘trendy’ restaurant which is just off the BTS and opposite Siam Paragon. The food is mainly Thai with some western options like soups and salads as well as a seriously impressive cake counter. The food was good, I would describe it as Thai with a twist.
As our time in Terminal 21 had been cut short yesterday, we went back to finish all the ‘cities’ today. After a dessert of a final Swensen’s we hit the shops again for a few hours. After a quick detour via Tesco Lotus to pick up pomelo, grape juice and half a watermelon, we went home to get ready for our last night out together (sad face) plus Han and Rich had to try and fit all their purchases into their suitcases!
That night a group of us went to Medinii at The Continent Hotel in Asok. They do an all you can eat and drink offer where for 999 baht each you get unlimited pizza and pasta, a main course and a dessert as well as unlimited cocktails, wine and beer until 10pm. We arrived at 7pm and were given a private room with floor to ceiling windows showcasing the incredible view from the 35th floor restaurant.
The food was really good, all made fresh, we tried to pace ourselves on the pizza and pasta knowing we’d fill up too quick but it was just so good and the service was so attentive we got through quite a lot! Han made it her mission to try every cocktail on the menu, a challenge of course she completed with relish! For main course I chose the steak which was delicious, murmurs around the table also said the lamb shank was good. My creme brûlée was overcooked to the consistency of scrambled egg but everyone else desserts were fine and to be honest I was so full I didn’t really care!
We ventured down to Soi Cowboy next, a street that comes alive at night with go-go bars and ping pong shows. I haven’t been before and well, it was an experience (I will never look at a banana in the same way) and one that I appreciate people expect you to have if you live in or visit Bangkok. I’m glad I’ve been and seen it for myself but I won’t be going again.
A few beers at Craft rounded off the night nicely and we headed home really sad that Han and Rich’s two weeks were over but so glad that we’d managed to do as many things and see as many things as we had. The last thing we managed to squeeze in was an obligatory 2am 7/11 toastie, just what you need after a night of cocktails and beer, a 26p ham and cheese toastie!
They left at 9.30 the next morning and the flat felt so quiet and empty afterwards. We had a really lazy weekend just sunbathing and watching TV and kind of moping! Actually, I’m glad I’ve written these posts over the course of another week as its made it feel like our visitors are still here. We had such a fab time with Hannah and Rich, I just hope they enjoyed their Thailand experience as much as we enjoyed having them.
On a cheery note, we only have 2 and a half weeks until out next visitors arrive, hopefully my tour guide routine will be even better the second time round!