If Ta Prohm was never restored, I imagine it would look a lot like what Beng Mealea looks like today. With unorganized piles of moss-covered rubble scattered throughout the temple, and trees settling in and taking root between the cracks of the stone, Beng Mealea takes the mysterious and ethereal atmosphere to the next level.
A Snippet of its History
Just like its appearance, the history of Beng Mealea is also a bit of a mystery. Because there are similarities in the architecture between Beng Mealea and other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park that were built in the 12th century, it is believed that this temple was also built at around the same period. However, archaeologists have not uncovered any inscriptions on the site that would give away any hints on why the temple was built where it was, or more details on what it may have witnessed in its time.
The Magic of Beng Mealea
Beng Mealea is a little out of the way, being approximately 40 km east of where the main temples of the Angkor Archeological Park are situated. Thanks to that, and probably because you do have to pay a $5 USD fee to enter, you will find fewer tourists here than you will in Angkor Wat. Large tour buses do still make their way out here, but if you are able to wait for that magical point in time when they've snapped all their selfies and have been herded back onto their tour bus, in that rare tranquil moment, you will feel the true enchantment of the ruins of Beng Mealea.
For other Angkor temples, such as Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm, I was able to point out some points of interest that you could look for when you visit. But with Beng Mealea, your experience will be made by just wandering through the ruins and taking in the magnitude of what Mother Nature is able to do if she had free reign. With every step, as I took in a different angle and new details of the ruins, what ran through my head repeatedly was "Mother Nature always wins!"
Links to Laputa, the Castle in the Sky
Being the Studio Ghibli fan that I am, what drew me to Beng Mealea was the rumour that it was the inspiration behind Laputa, the floating castle from the movie Castle in the Sky. This hasn't been proven, but I will say that I did get a strong Laputa vibe from it as I watched the wind blow through, rustling the leaves on the trees that have outgrown the collapsed roofs of Beng Mealea, making them flutter down towards the ground.
Getting Around Beng Mealea
A wooden walkway has been built that guides you through and around the ruins. I have read from others online that you can pay some of the guides on site to take you off the walkway to actually clamber through the ruins. But while I was there, I did hear a guide say that they were no longer allowed to do that so I'm not sure if that is still an option. Regardless of what you choose to do, always explore safely and respect the places you are visiting so that others can enjoy them for years to come.
Want to get here?
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Getting here: Beng Mealea is ~40 km east of the main temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. By tuk tuk, it took us close to 2 hours to get there from central Siem Reap.
Admission: Admission into Beng Mealea is not included as part of your Angkor Pass. You will have to pay $5 USD to enter.
Pin it for later!
This post is linked up on Our World Tuesday, and...