Khao Laem Reservoir

Kanchanaburi Province

Backed by fuzzy green hills, the gigantic lake wrapped around Sangkhlaburi was formed in the 1980s by the Vajiralongkorn Dam. Two of the many villages submerged under the new lake were moved up to their present location and Saphan Mon was built to connect them. About all that remains of these original villages are ruined buildings from three temples. A boat ride allows you to see them up close, as well as feel the pace of life on the lake.

The temple visible from the bridge is Wat Wang Wiwekaram Gao (gao means old), also known as Wat Samprasob; this was the site of the Mon village. When the lake rises to its highest point, only the very top of the ubosot (ordination hall) and bell tower stay dry. Nearby, Wat Si Suwannaram Gao was the temple in the Thai-Karen village. It emerges when the lake is very low, while Wat Somdet Gao sits in the forest high on a hill and stays dry year-round. The new versions of all three temples can be visited in the present villages.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kanchanaburi Province attractions

1. Saphan Mon

0.24 MILES

Sangkhlaburi's iconic, 447m-long wooden bridge, the largest in Thailand, connects the main town, home mostly to Thai and Karen, with the Mon settlement…

2. Wat Si Suwannaram

0.32 MILES

Karen women and men come to this prominent temple, near the main lodging zone, most days (no set hours) to weave cotton fabric. The building they work in,…

3. Sangkhlaburi Cultural Center

0.69 MILES

This little cultural centre mostly works to promote appreciation of Karen, Mon and Thai culture to local children, but visitors are welcomed inside to…

4. Wat Wang Wiwekaram

0.86 MILES

Poking out of the forest on the south side of Saphan Mon, this temple is the spiritual centre of Thailand's Mon people. The temple was established by…

5. Chedi Phuttakhaya


This striking stupa on a little peninsula on the Mon (south) side of the lake stands 59m high and is constructed in the style of the Mahabodhi stupa in…

6. Wat Somdet


A gold flash of Wat Somdet's large reclining Buddha, on the main road into town, might well be the first thing you glimpse in Sangkhlaburi. While the…

7. Khao Laem National Park

16.27 MILES

With the Khao Laem Reservoir at its heart and limestone mountains all around, dramatic landscapes define this 1497-sq-km national park. But despite the…

8. Vajiralongkorn Dam

25.51 MILES

Some 7km northwest of Thong Pha Phum town, this whopping 92m-high hydroelectric dam creates the Khao Laem Reservoir that stretches all the way up to…