Beng Mealea, Jungle Temple

Beng Mealea | Cambodia-2377Beng Mealea is a Angkorian temple lost in the jungle that has engulfed it. Jungle roots have dislodged the ancient architecture turning much of the temple into a jumble of stones while long vines hang enticingly across ruined corridors.

Constructed in the 12th century it is of a similar, if less decorated, design as Angkor Wat and is built on a large scale. It is a joy to explore, clambering over huge masonry to drop down into ruined halls opened to the sky. It really brings out the adventurer in you.

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Comparing Beng Mealea to most of the other temples of Angkor it appears far less restored, this is how you imagine the temples looked like when they were rediscovered in the 1800s, ancient ruins consumed by voracious jungle.

At first appearance the temple seems quite plain but a little exploration reveals ornamentation and scenes from Hindu mythology.

There are a number of guides who will happily attach themselves to you to guide you through the temple and show you the more interesting details, I’m not entirely sure ours was necessary, I prefer to just absorb the atmosphere but he seemed to enjoy sharing the treasures with us.

For all the pretty stonework, the real star here is nature. The vines and roots that encase the temple walls form abstract patterns and the trees which have sprouted from the rubble seem alive, creeping over the ruins.

Beng Mealea | Cambodia-2393Beng Mealea is about 70 km out from Siem Reap and it’s not included in the Angkor Pass, it has its own entry fee of $5. To reach it you can hire a tuk-tuk driver or club together with some other travellers and hire a car or minibus. We visited the temple with a group of friends, hiring a minibus for $65 and sharing the cost.

This temple is firmly on the tour group circuit but doesn’t have the crowds that the main temples do, arrive early to avoid them if you can though.

You could combine it with a trip to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean {the river of a thousand linga} bearing in mind you need an Angkor Pass to visit those.

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After a morning of climbing around the ruined temple in the heat of a Cambodian morning, some refreshing coconut water is perfect to rehydrate.

For more ideas and inspiration for visiting the Temples of Angkor:

How to do the Temples of Angkor

Keep exploring:

Tombraiding The Rest Of Angkor in Photos The last of this Angkor temples series.

How To Travel By Train From Siem Reap to Bangkok. The slow, cheap and wonderful train to Thailand.

Angkor Wat The most famous temple of all! Probably!

How To Do The Temples Of Angkor a perfect 3 day itinerary to see the temples with tips!

Sublime Smiles and Long Corridors: Angkor Thom and Preah Khan. Those enigmatic faces of Bayon!

Banteay Srei and The River Of A Thousand Linga The most beautiful temple of all and the river where it all began.

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By Rachel Davis