Jim Thompson arrived in Bangkok in 1945 to set up the local office of the OSS (later known as the CIA) and subsequently became Military Attaché at the US embassy. On leaving the army he created a business dealing in Thai silk, the huge success of his enterprise saving the country's ancient but then dying craft of silk weaving. He was an art collector and brought six old teak houses to Bangkok from the countryside and reassembled them as one house for himself and his treasures.
Thompson collected objet d’art from all over SE Asia including many statues, some like this one (outside, so photography was permitted!) lacking heads or other parts of their anatomy. To Thais this is eccentric behaviour; damaged statues bring bad luck and should be destroyed, not collected.
In 1967, while visited friends in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, Thompson went out for a stroll after lunch and disappeared. Despite extensive searches no trace of him has ever been found. Many theories have been put forward and some, given his CIA background, involve interesting if improbable conspiracies. To our guide the answer was simple: that’s what happens when you collect broken statues.
Some poor map reading made it an unnecessarily long walk to Nai Lert Park where there is a small shrine…..
with its New Year message. In Yangon a few days previously I had photographed Father Christmas seriously overdressed for the climate. Here everything looked right, it was the music that was wrong. It is weird to hear a choir singing about ‘dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh’ when the temperature is on the high side of 30.
|Happy New Year, Bangkok style|
We reached the MBK Centre in time for lunch. MBK is, I read, Bangkok’s trendiest shopping mall, though on some floors it looks more like a covered market. For us the attraction was the food court, which had been recommended by Hilary (who is reliable in these matters) and Lynne’s hairdresser Fay (who has yet to establish a track record). We made our way to the 6th floor, bought an appropriate supply of coupons and wandered round the stalls deciding where to spend them.
The food court is bright and clean and offers a variety of Asian cuisines at reasonable prices. It had the feel of a huge cafeteria, but I would forgive that – and the lack of beer – if the food was good. Selecting a Thai stall (well we were in Thailand) Lynne ordered Pad Thai prawns and I went for mussels on a sizzling dish with a variety of accompaniments. Lynne said her meal was nothing special; mine was so bland it could have been anything. Sorry Hilary and Fay, perhaps we picked the wrong stall.
|Traffic beneath the skytrain, Bangkok|
|Elaborate street food, Bangkok|
10 Inle Lake (1), Stilt Houses, Fishermen and Non-Swimming Buddhas
11 Inle Lake (2) Watching People Work and a Myanmar Winery