During the dry season, when the waters drop sufficiently, it is possible to view some of the ruins that remain standing -- primarily a couple of buildings belonging to Wat Samprasob, including the naga staircase, bell tower, ubosot and wiharn.
Elsewhere in the immediate area there are a collection of other remains, but in very poor condition. When the water level is very low, you can see the remains of the original Three Pagodas just before the wat (those at the border are not the original trio). On the other side of the lake you can see the remains of the old wooden bridge and some minor roadworks. Also keep an eye out for trapped fishing nets among the many dead trees.
Morning by the lakeside, surrounded by dead trees and shrouded in mist, can be quite spooky. When the lake is high all that can be seen of old Sangkhlaburi is the very top of the bell tower and you'll whiz straight over the dead trees without knowing they are there. A boat trip is well worth it regardless of the water level as the scenes of the mountains, the wooden bridge, Buddhakaya Chedi and the Mon village are always spectacular.
The ruins can be visited by boat, and you have a number of options for getting out there. P Guesthouse rents out sturdy wooden canoes, and with a few hours of paddling, you can explore many of the lake's hidden corners. You can also arrange a trip by longtail boat, either with boat owners at the base of the old bridge, or by the lake's edge near Wat Wang Wiwekaram (take the trail down to the water from beside the wat's bell tower). Rates vary according to your bargaining ability, but for a fair sized boat figure on 300 baht for an hour. By far the best time to go is when the sun is rising, with the second best being late afternoon before the sun sets. The lake is typically very calm and a good cruise is a peaceful way to spend a morning.
If you fancy spending an evening floating on the lake, rafthouses are available at Nature Club Resort, or you can contact Kanda at (034) 595 396. He has basic rafthouses for between 500 and 1,800 baht that sleep anywhere from two to 18 people near the wooden bridge. He's also a good person to contact for a boat cruise on the lake.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 26th June, 2013.