Beng Mealea: The lotus pond temple

If you’re planning to visit Cambodia, why not get off the beaten track and take a visit to Beng Mealea temple. Besides the increasingly famous Ta Phrom, the atmosphere at Beng Mealea (which means Lotus Pond) is steadily attracting more visitors. This would be such an experience for the adventurous travelers to explore this  “undiscovered” and mysterious temple as a hidden germ of majestic jungle during a long period of time lying low.

Beng Mealea
Majestic Beng Mealea.

Beng Mealea’s history

No usual Sanskrit inscription on the temple has been discovered but King Suryavarman (Angkor Wat’s builder) is believed to have erected Beng Mealea in the 12th century. It also is believed that he decided to build Angkor Wat and Beng Mealea at the same time, which is the reason why their designs have common architecture.

Beng Mealea
Beng Mealea was heavily damaged.

In 1954, some French scientists found the information about a temple similar to Angkor Wat in this wood, they tried to find it but there was no way in. Not until 1965 was the temple discovered by the Western explorers. It is said that this temple was the place where King Suryavarman II and his fortune were buried. The temple was abandoned during the war and was forgotten in the jungle for a long time, so little did people know where exactly King Suryavarman II was buried. Years after 1965, during a long period time of the war, Beng Mealea was heavily damaged. In 2003, the Cambodian government build a pathway to Beng Mealea in order to restore the temple for the purposes of research and tourism. But all the collapsed buildings and walls remained.


Beng Mealea’s architecture

Smaller in size than Angkor Wat, the king’s main monument, Beng Mealea nonetheless ranks among the Khmer empire’s largest temples: the gallery which forms the outer enclosure of the temple is 181m by 152m. It was the center of a town, surrounded by a moat 1025 m by 875m large and 45m wide.

legless
An image of “legless” inside the temple. How interesting!

It was built as hinduist temple, but there are some carvings depicting buddhist motifs. Its primary material is sandstone and it is largely unrestored, with trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lying in great heaps. A wooden partly elevated walkway leads to the inner sanctuary at the center of the temple. The temple is a special place and it is worth taking the time to explore it thoroughly. The large wooden walkway to and around the centre was originally constructed for the filming of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Two Brothers” (2004), set in 1920s French Indochina and starring two tiger cubs.


Beng Mealea’s location and how to get there

A spectacular sight to behold, Beng Mealea, located about 68km northeast of Siem Reap. Beng Mealea is as well remarkable for its undisturbed appearance relative to other temples in Siem Reap. Given the distance, Beng Mealea is far and beyond the least restored temple complex in the vicinity.

map Beng Mealea

The nearly 70-kilometer trip from Siem Reap can be made by car or tuk tuk. An air conditioned car with driver takes a little over an hour and the price would be around 70$. A slower alternative is a tuk tuk ride which takes about 2 hours at a cost of 30$. With the latter choice you will experience the backroads through the countryside, suitable for those in love with peaceful areas.

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Travel tips to Beng Mealea

* Entrance fee

Beng Mealea is one of the few temples for which the Angkor pass is not valid. There is an extra admission fee of US$ 5 to visit the temple. There are also additional small charges for transport, so make sure you work out in advance with the driver or guide who is paying for these.

* Dress code

Visiting such a solemn temple, it is compulsory that you wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants which can cover your knees. It’s always better to respect the religious and ritual.

 * Travel tips

1. It is said: “Verdant and overgrown, we felt like explorers discovering a lost world as we clambered and crawled over piles of moss-covered rubble and sprawling roots.” 

So take care of your own health. Bring some insects spray in case you need it.

2. There are several stop-and-dip food stalls (dishes from 2$ to 4$) opposite the temple entrance.

3. Bring along some water, needless to say. You will waste time and energy discovering this pure natural destination.

4. As this place is quite hard to reach, and it’s a temple embracing millions of cultural values as well, it is a must that you take a tour. A guide would be such helpful for your very first trip here.

5. A one-day trip is recommended as if you want to stay, there’s homestay in the village; however, it’s signless, nobody speaks English and the restaurants all close around 18:00. This can be quite a difficulty for first-time travelers.

6. It’s highly recommended that you combine a trip to Beng Mealea with some others temples. For example, more remote temple Koh Ker for a one-day trip from Siem Reap is a good addition. Alternatively, Beng Mealea combines well with Banteay Srei and/or Phnom Kulen due to the location of these sites, which lay outside the central Angkor Park. These are only some suggestions that you consider as it depends well on your health and time.

map
Beng Mealea and some nearly temples.

Besides the familiar attractions you have heard of Cambodia, I bet this mesmerizingly unspoiled temple would definitely be on your bucket list. Don’t forget to drop us a sign so our tailor can help you organize the best trip to Beng Mealea. Let’s make you trip worthwhile!

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