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Beng Mealea Cambodia
Written by Rhea Alex on April 28, 2020 Share on

Exploring the ‘Titanic of Temples’ – Beng Mealea

The ‘Beng Mealea,’ is renowned to be the most mysterious temple at Angkor and is a remarkable sight to observe . Tourists visiting the site are inevitably in for the ultimate ‘Indiana Jones Experience.’ This ruined temple has been reclaimed by nature, years after its construction. Beng Mealea was once a jungle temple owing to the dense foliage that surrounded the temple, making it extremely hard for tourists to visit. 

Beng Mealea Temple

Exploring the ‘Titanic of Temples,’ meant a 60 kilometer long dirt road from the Angkor main central sanctuary to the likes of the Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the Ta Phrom. However, roads have been constructed over time; thus enabling tourists to now reach Beng Mealea in about half an hour from Siem Reap – the closest town to the Angkor temple. 

The temple has attained a special place in the hearts of scholars and archaeologists, due to the Beng Mealea being reclaimed from nature; unlike most to all of the temples recovered by the French in the 1800’s. Tourists are taken aback by the sheer size of the temple, from drawings of ‘Louis Delaporte,’ dated back to the 1860’s to its similarity in construction of the Angkor Wat itself; Beng Mealea remains the largest religious structure in the world today. 

The enormous wooden pathways that welcome tourists and the picturesque walkways through the ruins, the Beng Melea has a number of vantage points going all the way to the heart of the temple. Though similar to the ‘Ta Phrom’ and the ‘Angkor complex,’ the natural jungle beauty of the Beng Mealea is truly the real deal for tourists. 

Local guides help tourists scramble through the enormity of this complex structure, and throw light upon the interesting part of the sculptures and masonry of the temple. Tourists get a small glimpse into what the first French explorers witnessed at Angkor. 

History of Beng Mealea

Very little remains known about the history of the Beng Mealea, and the exploration of the temple remains more of a mystery adventure for tourists, rather than a historical site with detailed explanations like some of the other Angkorian sites. The Beng Mealea is thought to have been built around the same time as the ‘Angkor Wat,’ due to the similarity of both structures; though the temple has been considered as a prototype of the great temple. 

Beng Mealea Cambodia
Image credits: Getyourguide

The temple in itself is found facing East and is encircled by a large wide moat. Built of sandstone with intricate yet simple carvings that are limited to a few areas, platforms enamored with a single frieze that is much understated in comparison to the serene faces of the Bayon Temple, further depict the unique craftsmanship at the ‘Banteay Srei.’ In addition to the above, ornate features are also seen across the temple floors and this inturn adds to the pleasant charm tourists witness whilst visiting the temple. 

The Beng Mealea lies in the Royal highway that leads to the Preah Khan region, located in the Preah Vihear province. The temple site has only recently been available for tourists to explore and has continued to be one of the most frequently visited monuments in the Angkor today. 

Beng Mealea Map

Tourists who are looking to explore the temple, maybe a bit confused due to the dilapidated state of the temple. The Beng Mealea has enclosed three galleries within the central sanctuary and structures known as libraries are found present on the both sides of the causeway.

There is a picturistic depiction of the floor map of the temple to the left side, that tourists can use as a point of reference. This map is based on a drawing by ‘Leon de Beylie,’ who was considered one of the earliest visitors to the Angkorian temples. 

Location and getting there

For many years, the temple remained extremely difficult for tourists to visit, due to its difficulty in access but is now a comparatively easier journey to make. Located about 70 kilometers away from the Siem Reap, tourists can take private taxis from Siem Reap. The average travel time is about 1 hour and 30 minutes with a 2 hour wait at the temple. The entire journey should cost between 45 to 55 USD, inclusive of the return journey back to Siem Reap

A view of the Cambodian countryside, is a view you wouldn’t want to miss out on. You could ask your driver to take you through the smaller roads instead of the National routes and enjoy the beautiful landscape that awaits you. 

Tourists could also take a tuk tuk for the temple tour but this option will cost you an additional 30 minutes of your time and isn’t exactly the most comfortable in terms of experience. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice of the kind of experience you’re personally looking to head back with. 

Entry Fees

The Beng Mealea by itself does not have a separate entry fee, visitors will have to avail entry tickets to the Angkor Park. The cost is about 37 dollars for a one day pass, 62 dollars for the three-day pass and 72 dollars for the seven-day pass.

Timings

Tourists are permitted to visit both the Angkor Park and the Bayon Temple between 07:00 am and 05:30 pm, everyday of the week. 

Beng Mealea Tour Guides

Tourists will find a wide number of official and unofficial tour guides, based out of the main temple. Though the guided tours may prove helpful for some visitors; one should also keep in mind that a guide may not enhance your tour experience, as only little is known about the Beng Mealea in comparison to the other Angkorian Temples.

Restaurants

There are a few local restaurants, serving Khmer food just outside the entrance of the temple. Though the food is a bit on the pricier side, tourists need to be well informed that the availability of food options is only restricted to this area. 

Some tourists may prefer to travel back to Siem Reap for lunch, but stopping by for some ‘bai chas’ or some ‘ local iced coffee,’ before your return journey back; is what adds to the overall experience. 

Best time to visit

The Beng Mealea tours are most often timed at sunrise and the next two hours that follow after, is a magical sight to witness. For those tourists looking for a peaceful experience; travel to Beng Mealea between the months of November to February, isn’t exactly the wisest option as they remain the busiest months of the year-  with hundreds of tourists flooding the temple. 

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