The Conservation and Revitalization of the Amphawa Community
Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University
Amphawa, formerly known as the “Venice of the East,” is a community stretching along the Amphawa canal in the Mae Klong River basin in central Thailand. Though the community has a rich cultural fabric, their traditional wooden housing along the canal has been negatively affected by the economic downturn caused by the introduction of cars in the 1980s. After the 2004 restoration of some of the wooden buildings and the canal side landscape under the Thai Cultural Environment Project (TCEP), the community started benefitting from cultural tourism, which has become a source of income for the community. Consequently, Amphawa is an outstanding model of community-based tourism in Samut Songkhram Province and nationwide. More than 30 old markets along the canal and riverside have been revitalized by residents, transforming these spaces into cultural tourism destinations. The TCEP received honourable mention at the 2008 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award for the cultural heritage conservation programme.
The conservation of the tangible heritage of traditional buildings has an essential impact on saving the spirit of place and transmitting Amphawa’s intangible and living heritage, while showcasing an outstanding heritage conservation model that could be applied in other contexts to boost cultural tourism.