Beng Mealea is a lost Hindu temple, whose name also means as Lotus Pond. This temple was built during the Angkor Period, the reign of King Suryavarman II. Although the history of this temple remained unclear, base on its architectural style, decoration, and size, Beng Mealea is considered as one of the larger temples among the Khmer Empire. The outer enclosure of the temple is about 181 m by 152. It was the center of a town, surrounded by a moat 1025 m by 875 m large and 45 m wide. Beng Mealea is a hidden gem in the middle of the forest to travelers. Even with its unrestored state, this place has the ability to attract the visitors with its unique landscapes of the tree and thick brush thriving amidst its tower and courtyard, and ruin stones lying in great heaps. For the past few years, the visitors have difficulty reaching this little treasure. However a road has been built, so recently more visitors are coming to see the beauty of Beng Mealea.
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Beng Mealea | Hindu temple in Siem Reap
Environment & Nature
Beng Mealea temple has entranceways from the other three cardinal directions. At the southern entrance, you will a large Naga serpent’s head signaled the start of the long southern causeway. This long balustrade causeway which is formed by bodies of the seven Naga’s Heads will lead you into the inside of Beng Mealea. The basic layout of Beng Mealea is a central sanctuary enclosed by three galleries even though it collapsed at present. The three enclosures are tied like the cruciform cloister form, which we mostly can see at the Angkor Wat. Libraries can be seen to lie to the right and left of the avenue. You could also find an astonishing extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda in the temple. A little different from other temples, the trip to this temple is more than a pretty sight to see. This temple is the most interactive temple. Getting in and around the temple is a hands-on activity. Entering from the south, visitors wend their way over piles of finely chiseled sandstone blocks, through long, dark chambers and between hanging vines. The first thing will greet you after you pass the southern causeway is the ancient entrance. Even though this entrance has crumbled and left with an enormous mossy stone block, it still retains its original shape. This ancient entrance is one the most arresting view of the temple with its crumbling stone acting as a stunning walk up. Not so different once you pass the entrance, you will see many crumbling stone blocks acting as stairs for you to get to the temple’s many subterranean chambers. In 2004, large wooden walkways were constructed for the visitors to walk to central sanction and around the temple. It allows the temple to show off its beauty to the visitor even better from a different angle. An interesting fact these wooden walkways were originally built for the filming of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Two Brothers (2004), set in 1920s French Indochina and starring two tiger cubs. Since then, the wooden walkways have made the temple even more accessible for tourists. The temple itself has attracted many visitors after appearing in the film.
Our mysterious temple, Beng Mealea, has the Indiana Jones vibe. For those who love what they experience in Ta Prohm Temple, you should totally check Beng Mealea out. Beng Mealea is even less reconstructed than Ta Prohm temple. As soon as you step your feet into the entrance of Beng Mealea, you will feel like you are walking back into the past. The place is almost completely swallowed by nature. It gives you this unique feeling of nature winning over humans. This temple does not pack with crowds that you normally see in the other temples. Isolated in the deep forest and covered mostly by nature, the temperature around the temple is mostly lower than the other places. You can peacefully explore this place accompanied by the crumble stones, jungle tree vines, and the sound of the birds in the forest. To enjoy it to the fullest, travelers usually pack their lunch and have their picnic among the ruins.
Should visit there with our guide
With the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of this temple, you will have fun exploring the temple. However, the downside is that Beng Mealea’s structure has become a little tricky due to its ruin state. You might get lost finding your way around the temple, but no worries, local temple guides are there to save you. They normally hang around the entrance to the temples. Even if their English is not perfect, it is good enough to show you exactly where to step and where the best place to spot the best views of the temple’s interior. They might be able to give you some information regarding the Beng Mealea and make your visit even more interesting.
Location & How to get there
Beng Mealea located about 70km away from Siem Reap and about 40km east of the main group of the temple, Angkor. It is on the ancient royal highway to Preah Khan Kompong Svay. As mentioned, the temple was hard to access as the condition of the roads was not good. However, as a new road has been built, it is a relatively easy journey for you to get to Beng Mealea. You can hire a private taxi which might take around 1 hour 30 minutes from Siem Reap. If you want something less expensive, tuk-tuk and Motorbike are also available for a Beng Mealea tour however this can take an extra 30 minutes. A little tip for you, requesting the driver to take the small roads, you will experience a lovely quiet drive through Cambodia rural area. The refreshing air and relaxing view will make the long journey become shorter and take all your stresses away. The good news is that from January 1st, 2020, the admission pass for Angkor Archaeological Park has included Beng Mealea, so you don’t have to pay extra to visit the temple.
Beng Mealea, the little gem that the local villagers are trying so hard to protect, is a must-see temple you should add to your list. Once you’ve stepped your feet into the temple, you would not believe the spectacular sight in front of your eyes. No one would have imagined that a ruined temple with crumbling stones combines with nature could give out such an astonishing view. Nowhere else could give you such a feeling, Beng Mealea allows you to feel like you have become an adventurer who discovers a lost temple inside the deep forest. You will feel like you have immersed yourself deeply into nature. To make your trip to Beng Mealea even more worthwhile, you should arrive Beng Mealea at sunrise and the two hours after, when the light is magical, the birds are stirring, and the site virtually deserted. Also, you can combine your visit to Beng Mealea with a drive up to Kor Ker, or Kulen mountain, so you don’t have to spend an extra day coming to the same area.