Beng Mealea © Lawrence Murray
For those visitors especially charmed by Tah Prom's jungle-clad stones within the Angkor Wat complex, it is well worth making the five-hour round trip to visit Beng Mealea. Its name meaning lotus pond, this little-visited sandstone temple, has now almost completely fused with the surrounding jungle. Built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, and long since abandoned, this sprawling complex is on a similar scale, and built in a very similar style, to Angkor Wat. The temple is so well preserved that it looks nearly identical to what the first western visitors there must have experienced when stumbling upon these forgotten wonders.
Little is known about the temple's history, what is known is that it was once the centre of a town taken over by the dense Cambodian jungle. If you prefer to travel off the beaten track then Beng Mealea, overgrown and largely unrestored, will captivate you with its mystery and the relative freedom of the experience of exploring it. Visitors are allowed to climb and investigate freely, and the peaceful atmosphere encourages many to spend time reading, writing, or relaxing in a chosen spot among the ruins. Many of the carvings have been desecrated by earlier souvenir hunters, but in other ways the integrity and atmosphere of the structure has benefitted from the small number of visitors.
Address: 45 miles (70km) from Siem Reap
Telephone: +855 63 760 079
Opening times: Daily 7am-5.30pm