This glorious Cambodian temple is sadly overlooked by many, possibly due to the distance (over 70km) from Siem Reap. I have visited Beng Mealea several times over the past few years, and have travelled there by every available method of transport; car, van, truck, tuk tuk, motorbike and even by bicycle. Given the amount of dust on the road, I would recommend travelling to Beng Mealea by car or van, if it is in your budget. The ticket is separate to the Angkor Archaeological Park pass, and costs five dollars, which you will purchase near the temple.
Beng Mealea was built in the middle of the 12th century. It is sadly unrestored and mostly in ruins, though you can walk around the edge and through some of the temple using a wooden walkway. You will find many collapsed galleries and towers, along with piles upon piles of large sandstone blocks covered with moss. Over the years, some areas have been opened up to the public, however on my last visit they were closed off again, making me question the future of this wonderful temple.
Originally built as a Hindu temple (the same as Angkor Wat), it is believed that this temple was converted for Buddhist use due to some carvings depicting Buddhist motifs. You will be amazed by the mass of trees and thick brush growing in and around the temple. If you head to the back, you will also find a peaceful place to swim (be careful though, as it is slippery) with a very small waterfall during rainy season.
Not much is known about this temple, which is a real shame as it would have been magnificent in its original form. What we do know is that the sandstone blocks were most likely transported from Phnom Kulen, a nearby mountain, to the site using artificial water canals.
I would highly recommend a visit to Beng Mealea if you had the time whilst in Siem Reap. You can pack a picnic lunch and dine in the serenity of the bushland surround the temple, or you can pick up some local food in a restaurant across from the temple entrance.
By visiting Beng Mealea, you are paying tribute to the undoubtedly tens of thousands of Khmers who dedicated their lives to building this structure that unfortunately may not stand the test of time. Let’s honour their worthy cause.
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