Khao Laem Reservoir, Sangkhlaburi

Khao Laem reservoir

[Islan temple photos to follow soon!]

Near the town of Sangkhlaburi three temples were flooded by the dam. Visible from the shore is Wat Wang Wiwekaram Gao, also known as Wat Samprasob. The top of the bell tower and the ubosot (ordination hall) is visible to this day.

Further from the town, Wat Somdet Gao survives on an island surrounded by forest. It has become something of a tourist attraction and is pictured above. If you like boat trips, it is a fun afternoon out but do remember to take sunscreen, drinking water, and mosquito repellant. The mosquitos that lie within the dark temple are fearsome!

The third temple, Wat Si Suwannaram Gao, belonged to a Thai-Karen tribe village. It can be seen when the water level falls during dry season.

"Gao" means old in Thai. All of the temples have new antecedents built on the hills nearby.

Khao Laem reservoir is 60km long and up to 25km wide, located approximately 380km north-west of Bangkok in Sangkhlaburi District, Kanchanaburi Province. It was formed in 1984 by the creation of the Vajiralongkorn Dam (เขื่อนวชิราลงกรณ) which houses a 300MW hydroelectric power station. The crest length of the dam is 1019m and it is 92m high. It was the first concrete face rockfill dam (CFRD) in Thailand. Khao Laem reservoir's maximum storage capacity is 8,860 million cubic metres and the reservoir covers an area of 388 square kilometres. At the time of construction in 1980, the dam was considered by the World Bank to be one of the most difficult ever attempted (see for details.)

The Khao Laem reservoir forms part of the Khao Laem National Park. It is situated on the north end of the Tenasserim Hills which stretch almost to Singapore. There are contiguous national parks north and south of Khao Laem which form the Western Forest Complex (which includes the Huai Kha Khaeng-Thing Yai World Heritage Site). The parks host important biodiversity and include:

"The globally threatened Plain-pouched Hornbill Aceros subruficollis. There is also an historical record of the globally vulnerable Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Rhinomyias brunneata from 1987. Two globally near-threatened species have also been recorded at the site, Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis and Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, although neither have been regularly recorded in significant numbers. Khao Laem National Park also supports a number of species restricted species to the Indochinese Tropical Moist Forests (Biome 09). The site qualifies under criterion A3 because it supports 12 species restricted to the Indochinese Tropical Moist Forests (Biome 09)."

Non-bird biodiversity: Asian Elephant Elephas maximus (EN) Tiger Panthera tigris (EN) Southern Serow Capricornis sumatraensis (VU) Dhole Cuon alpinus (VU) East Asian Porcupine Hystrix brachyura (VU) Northern Pig-tailed Macaque Macaca leonina (VU) Plants Dipterocarpus gracilis (CR) Parashorea stellata (CR) Dipterocarpus alatus (EN) Aglaia perviridis (VU) Dipterocarpus retusus (VU) Hopea odorata (VU)


Reference and Sources:

BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Khao Laem. Downloaded from on 25/10/2021.