Ancient is Back in Fashion

"Nostalgia" is inevitably the Songkran theme for Thailand this year. Thanks to a popular soap opera on TV, "Bupphesanniwat" has sparked an interest in Thai traditional costumes among the population, just in time to usher in the Thai New Year Week. One good thing that came out of this fad is the increase of visitors to ancient historical sites in Ayutthaya such as Wat Chaiwatthanaram, which rarely sees local visitors otherwise. 

Constructed in 1630, Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Thai means “the temple of long reign and glorious era”. It was built during the #Ayutthaya period of Thai history, which lasted over 400 years from 1351 until 1767 when the city, which was the capital of Siam at the time, was attacked by the Burmese and left in ruins.

Since the fall of Ayutthaya, #WatChaiwatthanaram among other heritage sites were seriously looted. Over 100 Buddha statues that line the walls of the temple were beheaded and sold in black markets. 

Wat Chaiwatthanaram is situated right next to the Chao Phraya River. In 2011, Thailand experienced extreme flooding which caused the River to overflow. Several provinces, including Ayutthaya, was flooded. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was heavily hit because of its location. Over 400 Ayutthaya households living nearby had to be evacuated.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram was heavily damaged from the flooding. Many agencies came together to rebuild and restore Wat Chai and to prevent the perimeter from flooding again by building flood gates and reinforcing the foundation. One such collaboration is between Thailand’s Fine Arts Department and the World Monuments Fund, which received a grant from U.S. State Department’s Ambassadors Fund For Cultural Preservation for its restoration project at Wat Chai. The project has been going on for six years.

Thanks to the soap opera Bupphesanniwat, in which Wat Chaiwatthanaram is depicted in its former glory (with walls still in tact and the stupas still covered with gold), Thais all over are now flocking to this historic site to take selfies in traditional Thai costumes. The show aired its final episode on April 11, one day before the 5-day Songkran holiday weekend began.

Before this #บุพเพสันนิวาส phoneomenon, Wat Chaiwatthanaram rarely saw visitors, and those that showed up were mostly tourists. Now the place is full of Thais, all dressed in costumes that can be rented at kiosks nearby. The fad also brought new economic opportunities for the local communities albeit temporarily until the fad is over.

Mamiya Press Super 23 // Mamiya-Sekor 100mm/f3.5 // Kodak Portra 400