Exploring Bangkok

I never tire of Bangkok. I’ve been coming here for years and although the city itself has changed, a new building here, a shopping center there, the essential feel of the place hasn’t changed at all…and that’s what I love about it.

There’s something in the air in Thailand’s capital. It’s a city for city lovers…partygoers…travelers and adventure-seekers. It’s crammed with exotic, bustling markets…17th-century temples…art-deco hotels and has fast-food stalls on every corner. For 24 hours of the day, people are living and making a living all around you. If you love cities, you’ll love Bangkok.

Despite an increase in prices since I first visited many years ago, it’s still one of the cheapest cities in Asia. You’ll find a good clean place to stay for as little as $20, you can sit down to a three-course meal for less than $10 or you can grab a trademark Thai snack like sticky rice mixed with coconut milk, fruit shavings and red beans all wrapped in a banana leaf from a street stall for 20 cents.

One of the main attractions for me, and it’s become one I visit almost religiously whenever I’m in town, is the former house of Thailand’s most famous American expat, Jim Thompson. It’s now a museum and restaurant. It’s a perfect air-conditioned retreat from the hot, bustling streets and happens to serve probably the coldest beer I’ve ever had alongside good authentic Thai food.

Originally from Delaware, Thompson fought in WWII, worked for the Office of Strategic Services (a forerunner to the CIA) and spent time in France, Italy and Asia. He is credited as the savior of Thailand’s waning silk industry which he reenergized by arranging to have it feature heavily in 1956 Hollywood movie, The King and I.

Then one day in 1967, on a jungle walk in the Cameron Highlands, Thompson disappeared. The man who had become the most famous American expat in Asia was never heard from again.

Thompson’s former Bangkok home consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures that were purchased from several owners and brought to the present location from various parts of Thailand. Construction was completed in 1959.

Although Thompson’s house is a major draw card, I think it’s the mystery of Jim Thompson’s disappearance over 40 years ago that still attracts tourists to this tranquil place. For me, it’s a place of contemplation. There is an energy in the grounds that’s both soothing and inspirational. I remember reading somewhere, probably in a worn travel magazine, that Thompson felt the same way. It was certainly one of the reasons why he decided to build his house in this particular spot. And it’s one of the reasons that I love coming here to write.

I’m a writer for International Living magazine. It’s an incredible job that has enabled me to travel throughout Asia and get paid to do so. The drudgery of a regular office job doesn’t exist for me—my working day is an absolute joy.

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