New book looks at Ayutthaya from its economy

Bangkok Post, 16 April 2017: Silpaokorn University’s Prof Warangkana Nibhatsukit’s new book, “Ayutthaya History: Questions and Answers”. The book is in Thai.

Most people think of the Ayutthaya period in terms of its cultural heritage, but Warangkana Nibhatsukit’s latest book highlights the economic aspect of the ancient capital.

Source: The truth about Ayutthaya | Bangkok Post: news

Conserving the Old Capital

Bangkok Post, 13 April 2017

Tucked away between two rivers and only 76km north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya remains a popular destination for Thai and foreign tourists to learn about the history, art and culture of Thailand. Nonetheless, frequent visitors may want a new theme to explore Ayutthaya. The best yet lesser-known icon is the late Phraya Boran Ratchathanin, a pioneer of the conservation of Ayutthaya.

Source: Conserving the Old Capital | Bangkok Post: travel

Weekend festival for Ayutthaya anniversaries

To celebrate the 666th anniversary of Ayutthaya Kingdom, an old capital of Thailand, and the 25th anniversary of Ayutthaya as a Unesco World Heritage Site, numerous activities under the theme of “Development In Accordance With The Footsteps Of Phraya Boran Ratchathanin” will be held by the Fine Arts Department and several public and private agencies at the Chantharakasem National Museum in Ayutthaya until Sunday.

Source: Remembering Ayutthaya | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

Living Ayutthaya in Petchaburi province

Travel piece on Petchaburi province located southwest of Bangkok and its many cultural sites dating to the Ayutthaya period.

Two-and-a-half centuries have passed since the fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The old palace and numerous temples are in ruins and it is hard for people to imagine what the architecture and religious art was like in the past. Fortunately, Thailand still has a “living Ayutthaya” in Phetchaburi province.

Source: Ancient history | Bangkok Post: travel

Celeb sighting: Leonardo DiCaprio in Ayutthaya

Even movie stars like to visit archaeological sites too…

Leonardo DiCaprio is ready for adventure at a moment’s notice. The 42-year-old star was snapped during a visit to Thailand’s Ayutthaya Historical Park while he vacationed in the Southeast Asian nation.

Source: Leonardo DiCaprio visits ancient Thai ruins on vacation | Daily Mail Online

The ruins of Phitsanulok

The ruins of palace of a famous Ayutthaya king has revitalised the Thai city of Phitsanulok.

Wang Chan. Source: Bangkok Post 20151029
Wang Chan. Source: Bangkok Post 20151029

Diggin’ Phitsanulok’s prestigious past
Bangkok Post, 29 October 2015

The foundations are of Wang Chan, a palace where King Naresuan the Great of the Ayutthaya period once lived. It is believed the inner mansion was made of sandalwood, a fragrant wood called mai chan in Thai, hence the name of the palace. It is assumed that the palace was built during the early Ayutthaya period, during the reign of King Sam Phraya (Phra Barom Rajathirat II, 1424-1448). His successor, King Baromtrai Lokanat (1448-1488) expanded it to serve as a royal palace.

Wang Chan later served as the residence for many kings during the Ayutthaya period. It was also the birth place of King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605).

King Naresuan is one of Thailand’s most revered monarchs. He was known for his campaign to free Ayutthaya from the Burmese under the Toungoo Dynasty.

As Phitsanulok was a strategic city to cope with invaders from the north, all Ayutthaya’s viceroys were assigned to rule this city, including King Naresuan. However, King Naresuan did not appoint any viceroy. Phitsanulok was demoted and Wang Chan was neglected, particularly after the fall of Ayutthaya.

Full story here.

Tourists behaving badly, Thailand edition

A pair of Thai women were recently arrested for dressing up in ‘racy’ clothing, dancing in front of a temple in Ayutthaya, and then posting the video on YouTube. It’s certainly not as severe as stripping bare and taking nude photos, but as Thais the judgement against them is that ‘they should have known better’, as opposed to foreigners (‘farang’) who are sometimes forgiven for acting like idiots because they are seen as ignorant.

Inappropriate behaviour in Thai temples. Source: Bangkok Post 20150808
Inappropriate behaviour in Thai temples. Source: Bangkok Post 20150808

Racy temple dancers surrender
Bangkok Post, 08 August 2015

Two women who starred in a video of a racy dance staged inside Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya reported to police on Saturday to face charges of violating ancient monuments legislation.

Thannicha Nampanya, 27, of Maha Sarakham, and Nitikarn Chotthanapongsathit, 30 of Khon Kaen, turned themselves in to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district police on Saturday, said Pol Maj Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, deputy chief of Provincial Police Region 1

They have been charged with violating Section 13 of the Ancient Monuments, Antiquities and National Museums Act for actions deemed to cause damage to morals or insult to religion and culture, and for actions that jeopardise peace and order in public areas. The offences carry a jail term of up to one month and/or a fine of 10,000 baht, said police.

The video clip of two women in short red dresses gyrating to music inside Wat Chaiwatthanaram, part of a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site, drew the wrath of the public and the authorities. The five-minute clip was uploaded to YouTube by a user named VKIZZ on Aug 5 and has since been labelled “private”.

Rawat Prasong, the assistant governor of Ayutthaya, on Friday called for legal action against the women, saying that both their actions and attire were improper. Pratheep Phengtako, director of the Fine Arts Office Region 3 in Ayutthaya, had also vowed to take action against the women and their accomplice who recorded the performance.

Full story here.

Ayutthaya not on the World Heritage Site endangered list yet

Recent deliberations at the annual World Heritage Committee meeting earlier this month have decided not to put Ayutthaya on the world heritage endangered list.

Thailand/Ayutthaya/Main road Over flow

Historic City of Ayutthaya not on endangered world heritage site list
National News Bureau of Thailand, 03 July 2015

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has resolved not to include the Historic City of Ayutthaya in the list of endangered world heritage sites, following the great floods of 2011 in Thailand.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Daopong Rattanasuwan and his team recently attended the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany.

The minister said that the decision by the panel not to include the Historic City of Ayutthaya on the world heritage site list was because Thailand’s efforts to restore the city did not follow the World Heritage Committee’s protocol.

Fulls story here.

Ayutthaya temple in Pattaya to be restored

Funds have been raised and plans are in place to restore an ancient temple dating to the Ayutthaya period in eastern Thailand. The news article has a short video on the temple as well.

Restoring ancient temple
Pattaya People, 28 April 2015

Plans are afoot to go ahead and restore an ancient Buddhist temple located in Banglamung district after many attempts by local residents for authorities to bring the building back to its former glory. Already, a sum of 900,000 baht has been raised for the project from local and social network contributions. On the morning of Sunday, 26th April officers from the Thailand Fine Art Department paid a visit to the temple, which is believed to have been constructed during the Ayutthaya period in Siamese/Thai history that existed from 1351 to 1767. For some unknown reason the temple was abandoned and is now almost a ruin. If approved, then reconstruction could commence within 60 days.

Full story here.

The German Wat Ratchaburana Safeguarding Project

Over the weekend I went to Ayutthaya to see the restoration works by the German team working at Wat Ratchaburana. This 15th century wat, built in Khmer style, features a lotus shaped prang (tower) that sets it apart from most of the temples in the complex, and most readers familiar with Khmer temple architecture would recognise it immediately.

Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, March 2015
Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, March 2015

The German team, led by Prof. Hans Leisen, is just wrapping up their season this week, and I had a close look and appreciation for their work. The project began after the 2012 floods, and the focus started by looking at some of the stucco reliefs found at the lower levels of the temple. Remarkably, these reliefs were relatively undamaged as it turned out.

Prof. Hans Leisen, head of the German team working on the restoration of Wat Ratchaburana
Prof. Hans Leisen, head of the German team working on the restoration of Wat Ratchaburana

 

Stucco reliefs at the base of the temple.
Stucco reliefs at the base of the temple. These were the reliefs that were exposed to flood waters in 2012, but they seem to have survived relatively well.

The stucco on the upper levels of the building was another matter, and so the project has turned their attention there. At time of writing there was a scaffold built around the northern face of the main prang which gives researchers access to the features on the outside of the building.

View from the scaffold.
View from the scaffold.

Restoration on such a building is always a patchwork process. Various restoration works have been carried out over the years, by different agencies. This means there are several layers of restoration that can be seen in different parts of the building.

The face was restored the season before. Previous restoration have used concrete, while new processes now require that surfaces be cleaned extensively before any treatment. This leads to the building looking like a bit of a patchwork.
The southwest face was restored the season before. Previous restoration have used concrete, while new processes now require that surfaces be cleaned extensively before any treatment. This leads to the building looking like a bit of a patchwork.
Identical garuda, different corner. This one is located ion the northeast corner, and still has traces of the (presumably) original stucco on it, making its stabilisation even more important.
Identical garuda, different corner. This one is located ion the northeast corner, and still has traces of the (presumably) original stucco on it, making its stabilisation even more important.

Earlier restoration efforts have relied on cement to restore some of the features, with mixed results. Concrete is much harder than the brick and lime that the temple has been originally built, so this has caused more problems as the materials expand and contract at different rates, causing more fissures in the structure. Like Angkor, plants are also a problem as they can take root between the cracks and as they grow force the cracks to widen. This Garuda in the northeast corner is one such example.

These rubber bands anchoring the base of the northeast garuda are to prevent is from toppling - the cracks are formed by plants taking root between them and it takes a fair bit of work to get rid of all the plant matter.
These rubber bands anchoring the base of the northeast garuda are to prevent is from toppling – the cracks are formed by plants taking root between them and it takes a fair bit of work to get rid of all the plant matter.

Getting up the scaffold was a really cool experience (I haven’t done so since my MA research) and it was a real treat to see some of the architectural features up close. I also too the opportunity to give my quadcopter another spin and get a quick aerial video of the site.

Standing Buddha in the northern alcove. If you look carefully, you can see some of the red and gold pigments that have survived the passing of time.
Standing Buddha in the northern alcove. If you look carefully, you can see some of the red and gold pigments that have survived the passing of time.

Ayutthaya is about an hour away from Bangkok and a great day trip if you’re ever there, although, there are more than enough temples to make it more than a day.