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February 23, 2018 By Andy Ross

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Some nights in Bangkok

We have just returned from a flying visit to Bangkok, my first time in Thailand. And what a fantastic time we had exploring some of the city. 

Our first stop was to Jim Thompson's house, (left) now a museum. We had to join a tour to go around the house which allowed us to see and imagine what it must have been like to live in the centre of this frentic city in such peaceful surroundings.

Jim Thompson is credited with bringing the Thai silk industry to the attention of the world.  His family background in textile production stood him in good stead when he settled in Thailand in the 1940's and started to sell silk, sending some of the handwoven fabrics to the USA where the likes of Vogue magazine became intrigued by the luxurious textile. Now a multimillion dollar industry, Jim Thompson's name is now associated with luxury goods even though the man himself disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1967 in the Cameron Higlands, and the handweavers who created these fabulous fabrics have all but gone from the area across the canal from where Jim built his house.

Museums like this always seem a little bit staged. Gone is the life and the liveliness of the people and without that life, spaces can feel somewhat empty. Despite the crowds of visitors the house does feel sterile but it is still worth visiting and strolling in the gardens. 

While we were at the house we ventured up the stairs to a temporary exhibition of textiles from Indonesia. The exhibition is a showing of traditional batik from the Danar Hadi Museum Collection and newly commissioned works by contemporary artists, looking at the role of these cloths in terms of Indoensian history and cultural identity. It is a small showing but fascinating, showing how the technique of wax batik is used to convey subtle political and social messages (although I must admit to being somewhat mystified by the cockerel riding a bomb!) 

Our next few days were spent visiting museums and temples. One of our favourite museums was the National Museum which has an exhibition of Japanese cultural artefacts, including some beautiful clothing made for religious and royal use. Oh, and yes; that is embroidery on the piece on the right. Have a look at the close up and you can see the stitches... 

We did manage to find a small room of costumes and fabrics from the collection of a Princess including printed calico and fine silk brocades from the 18th and 19th Century. And of course lots of gilded furnishings and decoration. 

Our last few days were spent qcross the river in a neighbourhood which was busy, bustling and fascinating. It was here that we bought music and artefacts for the collection in the studio (like the silk hanging pictured right) and where we spent hours walking or watching the busy riverside with its boats criss-crossing the water, only narrowly avoiding each other.

Bangkok is a fascinating place, and our brief excursion to Thailand has whetted the appetite to explore more of the country. I do have many more pictures from our trip and am very happy to share them. Please get in touch if you want to see golden barges, market pictures, etc, etc!