You’re planning to go to Angkor Wat and Cambodia to get some adventure. Right?
There is no place like Beng Mealea to make that dream come true! This old temple site has the perfect setup for a one day Angkor adventure. One day that you will not forget anytime soon.
The temple is located some 40km from Siem Reap, or a two hour drive on a good road.
It is not generally well known to the tourist because until some time ago, since the road to Beng Mealea was in bad condition.
All this means that there are almost no visitors at Beng Mealea!
Although it was discovered in 1990, even today, this place is still lying low, waiting for visitors to discover it.
The Entrance to Beng Mealea
The place is literally located in the middle of the jungle. Trees not only grow around the temple, but also on the temple walls themselves.
In contrast to Angkor Wat where you’ll notice how hot it is to walk outside the temple, in Beng Mealea, it is cool and shady.
The large and tall trees surrounding makes it feel secluded and tranquil.
To reach the main temple, we needed to walk about 10 minutes from the drop off point.
After a short nice walk, we saw the main building and the outer walls of Beng Mealea.
At this point, Beng Mealea looked just like an old temple, not adventurous enough.
Well, it turned out what we first saw was only the beginning of it. As we walk round the corner, the climbing began. And that’s when the fun began!
At first we climbed the outer wall, and once at the top, we could see the inner courtyard of the main temple.
There were other visitors the ground level taking pictures of the center temple, which struck me with the realization of how each person can experience the same temple differently.
Looking at everything from high up, for example, made things looks slightly different, not to mention, fun!
After some quick picture taking, we took a walk on the wall. Luckily the wall was ‘wide’, so it was quite safe.
But fallen and displaced stones made it hard to choose which way to go, which was intriguing.
Here you need to be careful and alert, because a single mis-step could have dire consequences. Fortunately, the prospect of getting hurt really gave me the adrenaline rush and made it more exciting.
As we move deeper into the temple walls, we had to climb up…
…and through fallen pillars and structure.
By that point, I had made up my mind: this Angkor tour rocks! At what other place would you have your tour guide purposefully lead you through a path that looks ‘dangerous’?
I had considered myself a pretty open and adventurous kind of person, but stepping on a pile of stones in a middle of an ancient temple, with no one around but ourselves, far from home and the city, got my heart beat faster. At times, I had to push away the fear in order to move to the next section of the temple.
We saw some Apsara figures on the wall and they have some pretty detailed carvings on the walls and doors, similar to those in Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
There is a wall where roots just completely engulfed them. It was amazing, a bizarre site to behold.
The tree stood firm on top of the wall, and the roots cling to the wall tightly, like a spider web.
I knocked on those roots to find out their texture, and hurt my knuckles.
They are dense.
Walking on Temple Rooftop!
Then came the scariest climb of them all. Sokha our guide didn’t have problems choosing his path, nor did my brother. But I had stayed back to take pictures, and had to figure out the way myself since they have moved on.
I tried going through a safer pathway, but still ended up in a different place than them. At this point, we were climbing up to the roof of the temple.While they were already sitting and relaxing, I was still struggling to get to where they are.
I chose my path slowly, while in my mind I was thinking, “What if I fall, what if I slip, what if.. what if..”. Because when you look down through the holed roof, you cant really see anything inside because its dark. You’d wonder what’ll happen to you if you trip and fall inside there.
Would there be snakes?
Finally I reached the resting point, safely, and we spend some time there.
It was exhilarating to be at the roof top, about 2 stories high, with no fence to keep you from falling.
I thought about how I came to be there, it was so far removed from everything that I knew.
I was truly and utterly in a middle of the jungle, in a temple that is more than 1000 years old, climbing up and down the old stones, doing something that obviously almost no other tourists have done (no one was trailing us).
Going Back Down To Ground Level
After just enjoying being at the rooftop of this ancient Angkorian temple, we continued our way back down to the other end, and that was another episode of worry. There was no ‘normal’ way to get down, we had to step on window ledge, door frame and other fallen structures.
Again, if you have fear of heights, you will be severely tested here. Once we touched the solid earth again, I felt so relieved. Finally, the chance of hurting my own self has decreased tremendously.
We came upon this platform, which we were told was made for the Tomb Raider shooting.
You can see the newer one, which was made by the Apsara authority, and the old Tomb Raider one.
We met some kids who play around the temple. And what an extraordinary thing that is. To be kids and have the ancient Beng Mealea temple as your playground? What could be more fun? These kids walk around on walls and roofs, and move in such speed with no regards to the height and the state of the uneven ground.
We then went through this dark hallway, which was a rather spooky thing to do.
The hallway surprisingly didn’t smell weird or bad. I suppose because it’s well ventilated, due to the lovely window design. You will see windows like these in many Angkorian temples. These windows don’t open or close, but just are openings in the wall.
Other Things We Saw
Then we saw a run down library, with the doors being reinforced, so it doesn’t collapse.
And a large sarcophagus.
A rather large sarcophagus. Supposedly for a priest.
On our way back, we spent some time at one of the entrance causeways, where there’s a naga statue that is still well preserved.
Intact naga statue.
We also saw an area where the land mines have been cleared, as shown by the sign.
Cleared landmines sign.
On our walk back to the car, we saw an old man who was playing a Cambodian string instrument. It was such a sweet melody, a little bit Chinese sounding, but not quite. I regret not recording it because it really was a strange, but beautiful melody.
So In Short…
When we got back to our hotel at around 4 pm, we were still excited about what we’d seen. It was such an adventurous day! If you like this sort of thing, and I mean adventurous climbing and life risking activities, Beng Mealea is definitely the place to go.
If you do not though, do not worry, because you can still visit Beng Mealea and be safe, as shown by the platforms. Okay, I may be exaggerating about the risking your life comment, but truly you have to be alert and careful while traipsing around this beautiful Angkor temple.
Undoubtedly, this is my favorite Angkorian temple. All of my expectations of having an adventure and experiencing a magical Cambodian temple in the jungle were fulfilled by this single trip.
What a great destination! It is an awesome adventure travel site, which is why it’s number #2 on our top 5 sites for a holiday in Cambodia..
Where we booked our trip
We arranged this day trip tour through our hotel, The Villa Siem Reap. They were really awesome in doing this tour. Even when there were only the two of us, me and my brother, they still went along with the program. At $25, this Cambodia tour was such a great value. Especially since we also saw several interesting sites on our journey to Beng Mealea, such as Banteay Srei 2, the incense factory, and the stone quarry.
This Angkor temple was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We were so glad that we went there. Each day in Cambodia gave us more and more interesting sites to see. That really was the best holiday ever.
Trivia: Did you know that Beng Mealea was modeled exactly after Angkor Wat? And that they’re both built in the same period, by the same ruler? Get a quick overview of Angkor Wat history here.
If this temple is your kind of thing, also read this travelogue to the Angkor Wat temples and other adventure travel tales and tips from an experienced traveler.