Beng Mealea (or Bung Mealea, Siem Reap)


Beng Mealea (or Bung Mealea, Siem Reap)

Beng Mealea temple stands alone about 40 kilometers east of the main group of Angkor temples. Beng Mealea is at the centre of an ancient Angkorian road connecting Angkor Thom and Preah Khan in Preah Vihear Province, now evocatively numbered route 66. An hour in the car from Siem Reap Is all it takes to discover a temple far from the crowds and in such a state that you can believe you are the first to find it, hidden and lost in the Cambodian jungle.

Beng Mealea was only added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 1992, and its relative obscurity coupled with the distance from town and the bad roads kept the crowds at bay. To access the best parts, you need to climb over piles or stones, scramble up walls and swing around trees. This is not Tombraider – this is the real deal.

Unlike many other Angkor temples, Beng Mealea has not been fortified or rehabilitated. This means getting in and around the temple is a hands-on activity. Piles of stone rubble litter the courtyard and lie haphazardly throughout the site. Vegetation runs amok. Gorgeous mosses cover large swaths of stone, and tiny saplings popping up from minuscule cracks have turned into full-grown trees wending their way around and through the ancient ruins.

The beauty of dilapidation is the charm of the time spent amongst the trees and the piles of standstone. It was not long ago that a new road made Beng Mealea more accessible but it’s still not on the short-term visitor’s radar. Tour buses do come out here in the morning but there is certainly not a regular stream of travellers.

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Address: Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
More information: People typically spend 20 min to 1 hr here
Opening hours: 7am-5:30pm
Entrance fee: US$5

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