In Thailand and internationally the name Jim Thompson is synonymous with good quality Thai silk. There are Jim Thomson shops in many of the five-star hotels in Bangkok as well as the main shop in Surawong Road.
Jim Thompson is a legend in South East Asia. He was a colourful and charismatic character who lived in Thailand for 22 years until his disappearance in 1967. He was an American Army officer who went to Bangkok when young, attached to the OSS in military intelligence. After leaving the service he decided to make Thailand his permanent home.
Silk hand weaving caught his attention and he decided to help revive the flagging craft. He was a highly gifted designer and worked closely with the Thai people to ensure good quality products were created. He then used his contacts to start exporting them to Europe and America, often dressing people in high society.
He was also well known for the construction of his house in Bangkok. It is now a tourist destination second only to the Grand Palace. He scoured the country for traditional houses and bought many, dismantling them and bringing them all together to create the structure that you can still see today. It was completed in 1957 and became an instant landmark in the city.
During a trip to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia in 1967 he disappeared while out walking and no trace was ever found. Instantly the Jim Thompson legend was born.
Now his name is such a well-known brand that shops, cafes, bars and restaurants have all been opened, relying on his name to draw in the crowds. There is even a Jim Thompson farm and Isan village in Nakhon Ratchasima with guided tours.
But it is still his silks which sell around the world. Thai silk is famous for its striking colours, sheen and exceptional texture. The Jim Thompson shops sell silk ties, dressing gowns, shirts, cushions, handbags and other accessories. The stuffed toy elephants are particularly popular with children. They do not come cheap, and the price tags reflect the work that has gone into each piece.
Jim Thompson shops can now be found in all the main shopping centres in Bangkok, including The Emporium, Siam Paragon and Central World Plaza. The Isetan department store also stocks their products. You can always be assured of excellent customer service in the shops and the products themselves are beautifully presented.
The main shop in Surawong Road is definitely worth a visit. It has four floors, the bottom two stocking clothes and silk products and the top two floors for furnishings and furniture, including beds and tables. Although pricey, it is still cheaper to shop for Jim Thompson products in Bangkok than internationally. For further discounts you can go to the Jim Thompson factory outlets which sell seconds and silk off the roll at about half the price of the main shops.
For memorable, quality products that will remind you of Thailand there is no better place to shop. Thai silk will last for years and will keep its colour and texture, guaranteeing you compliments wherever you are in the world. The Jim Thompson legend will also provide you with a story to accompany any description of gifts and ensure that they are properly appreciated.
Main shop: Surawong Road, Bangkok.
Other outlets in Bangkok:
Central World Plaza
Four Seasons Hotel
The Peninsula Hotel
Opening hours: 9am 9pm