Diving the Submerged Ancient Temple of Wat Tilok Aram in Thailand

June 20, 2012
Phayao Lake Temple

Phayao Lake Temple

I’ll never get tired of seeing incredible sea life underwater.  But I have to admit it is fun to come across something unexpected while diving that adds spice to the experience.  No, I’m not talking about a fellow diver’s wardrobe malfunction, but rather something you come across on the sea floor that defies reason and makes the dive “one of a kind.”  I’m always on the lookout for something novel and unique. 

My latest research has turned up the diving experience at Phayao Lake in northern Thailand.  It’s an artificial lake that covers an area of 2.3 km² with a mean depth of 1.7 m. The quaint town of Phayao is located on the southeast corner of the lake.  It is a picturesque place, with rice paddies to the south and west and a marsh area where the Ing River feeds the lake.

 So you don your wetsuit and tank and do a back roll off the dive boat into the relatively clear water.  Sightseeing consists of some interesting aquatic plants and 22 types of fish including the oddly named “Climbing Perch” that is known to walk short distances on land.

 But, you are not there for the greens, nor even for the weird walking fish.  You are there to see the ancient temple Wat Tilok Aram, which is thought to have been built during the Tilokanart dynasty of the former Lanna Kingdom. The temple was flooded 70 years ago in order to create the artificial lake that now sits atop it in an effort to provide irrigation for the surrounding area.

 This is not a common dive site, but it is certainly a memorable one.  Interestingly enough, the Thai government has recently been discussing the idea of removing the temple from the lake floor and restoring it to its former glory.  I just hope they don’t get to it before I have time to check it out.

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