Ayutthaya, located in the rich agricultural flat lands in central Thailand, was the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1761. Its location between the Chao Praya and Pa Sak rivers made it an attractive and fertile area for settlement and prosperity. Three sites on the Chao Praya River were included on the 1996 World Monuments Watch due to the major flood of 1995 and the threat of future inundations and consequent conservation issues: Sala Tha Vasugree, a royal pavilion close to the ancient Ayutthaya Grand Palace; Wat Mai Chaivichit ; and Wat Plubplachai. All of these sites are within the Ayutthaya Historical Park. While the region suffers annual floods during the rainy season from July to October, the floods of 1995 were especially acute as a result of deforestation and rising tides, bringing the Chao Praya River to an unprecedented two meters above its banks. The city of Ayutthaya was underwater for nearly two months. Many of its historic sites were destroyed, infested by bugs, and subject to mold and rot. While the previously listed sites survived, they represent some of the most seriously affected structures that were in need of immediate preservation efforts.
1996 World Monuments Watch
American Express provided support to Ayutthaya Historical Park in 1992 for the creation of eight tourist information signs in the park and around the city. After the 1995 flood and subsequent inclusion on the 1996 Watch, American Express continued its support through WMF to undertake condition surveys and assist with the stabilization of some of the most affected historical sites in Ayutthaya. Most notably, the wooden roofs, posts, and beams and tiles of Sala Tha Vasugree were replaced with historically sensitive materials; Wat Mai Chaivichit had several parts restored including the verandah and parapet. Both the temple and pavilion had mold removed and were whitewashed in plaster.
As early as the mid-twelfth century, the Southeast Asian city of Ayutthaya was a crucial commercial site between India, China, and the Middle East. As the former capital of Siam, the city was home to 33 kings from five dynasties over a period of 417 years. The city remained relatively protected by its surrounding rivers and prosperous because of commerce and rice production, until it was sacked by the Burmese in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, Ayutthaya was the site of a battle between the English and Dutch, and was once again attacked by the Burmese in the eighteenth century. While the capital was soon relocated to Bangkok, many sites of historical, artistic, and architectural import remained between the banks of the Chao Praya and Pa Sak rivers, and still provide a glimpse into Thailand’s rich past.