Life flows like silk
Nestling in the heart of Bangkok is a historic quarter that has remained virtually unchanged: Baan Krua, the home of the silk weavers. A few traditional businesses still survive, allowing visitors to take a step back in time.
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The clatter of the looms can be heard from afar, unless momentarily drowned out by the sound of one of the city’s bus boats chugging noisily down the Khlong-Saen-Saep canal and interrupting the laid-back activity of the weavers.
The idyllic scene is deceptive. Depending on the time of day, the color of the water in the canal changes from dark gray to black; the tiny teak huts huddled
along the banks are old and dilapidated; ragged clothes hang on lines between bird cages and climbing plants on rickety-looking metal contraptions. Hidden in the heart of Bangkok, not far from the bustle on Rama I Street,
the busy mega malls around Siam Square and the imposing National Stadium, this tiny residential and working district has scarcely changed over the past 50 years. It’s a fascinating little area exuding a very distinct charm.
City of weaving mills and silk shops
Niphon Manuthas’ family business is the only one left in this formerly flourishing Muslim community. The weaving factory is available to visit and sells silk fabrics.
Baan Krua Thai Silk, 837 Baan Krua Nua Soi 9, Tel. +66-2/215 74 58
A large store with historic Thai architecture that sells an incredible selection of silk fabrics for furniture, wall coverings, curtains, scarves and shawls, bags and clothes. The store has a pretty little café and, if you’re interested, you can pick up books about Jim Thompson and his mysterious life.
Jim Thompson, 9 Surawong Rd., Tel. +66-2/632 81 00, www.jimthompson.com
The silk shops of Bangkok
This is where the concept of "Silk à la carte" was invented. You can choose from over 1000 colors and fabric weights, from glossy featherweight to thick multiple-ply silks. The shop sells shawls, blouses and housecoats, as well as a fabulous choice of beautiful table mats and silk-covered containers. All silks are hand-woven and the quality is superb.
Almeta, 20/3 Sukhumvit Soi 23, Tel. +66-2/204 14 13, www.almeta.com
If you’re interested in the history of Jim Thompson then don’t miss the chance to visit his house, situated in a lush garden on the banks of the canal that runs through the silk weavers’ quarter. Admission and the guided tour cost 100 bath (around €2). Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Jim Thompson House, 6/1 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I, Tel. +66-2/216 73 68, www.jimthompsonhouse.com
Pictures: Cedric Arnold (6), getty images