"For many people, the main purpose of a visit to Siem Reap are the great temples of Angkor. They have been hidden for centuries in the Cambodian jungle and the ruins of Angkor were only discovered in 1861. Is the sound of a "lost civilization" devoted to you? It certainly breathes an element of mystery in Angkor. There every day tourists come to these temples!"
What many people don't realize is that the history of the Khmer kingdom was incredibly long and simply maintaining and repairing the dozens of temples costs a lot of money. Cambodia does not have that much money. As a result, many temples have not yet been restored. One of these temples is Beng Mealea. This is the lost temple that was the model for Indiana Jones movie Raider's of the Lost Ark!
When walking through the front entrance you get the impression that the whole thing is in ruins. The temple is not really designed for the kind of bustle that you find in Angkor Wat. When you arrive at 7-8 am, prepare to have the temple almost to yourself. Thousands of people try to catch the sunrise in Angkor Wat, but here you can even quietly enjoy one or two hours of a temple that looks a bit like Ta Phrom.
The hidden jungle temple was once completely overgrown by the jungle, but part of the surrounding, dense foliage has been cut down and cleaned up in recent years. Masses of stones lie in the courtyard and are messy about the rest of the complex. You see vegetation everywhere. Beautiful mosses cover large pieces of rock and small saplings emerge from small cracks. Mature trees make their way through the ancient ruins.
Beng Mealea is located in the middle of an ancient Angkorian road that connects Angkor Thom with Preah Vihear province, the road number is (route) 66. The distance from Siem Reap is 77 km and from Ankor Wat it is 40 km. The overgrown temple was originally built as a Hindu temple, but there are some carvings that depict Buddhist motifs. The temple was built in the 12th century under the reign of King Suryavarman II. Although historians assume it is related to the famous Angkor temples, little is known about the origin of the creepy, crumbling place.
It is built of sandstone, which is easy to machine. Beng Mealea is just 7 km as the crow flies from the sandstone quarries of Phnom Kulen. Presumably sandstone blocks from this quarry were brought along artificial water channels. The sandstone blocks for Angkor were also extracted from this quarry.
An elevated walkway has recently been built for visitors to walk around the temple. But this route misses much of what makes Beng Mealea special, because the most impressive places are hidden in the jungle.
Beng Mealea is smaller than Angkor Wat, but it was the most important monument of the king. It was the center of a disappeared city and was surrounded by a moat of 1025 m by 875 m and a width of 45 meters.
Because of the similarity in structure with Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea is believed to have been an example of Angkor Wat. Beng Mealea has a view to the east and is surrounded by a wide canal. It is built of sandstone, although the carving is simple and limited to certain areas. The cornices are decorated with a single decoration - much more subdued than the imposing faces of the Bayon or the complicated craftsmanship that is exhibited in Banteay Srei. Moreover, many of these graceful elements can be found on the floor of the temple. The temple consists of a moat, a handful of libraries and galleries.
The increasing interest in the temple has created jobs for a handful of residents in the form of temple guides. They hang around at the entrance of the temples and although they don't speak much English, they can show you exactly where to step. They know how to get to the darkest corners of the temple and they know where to stand to have the best view of the interior.
The film Two Brothers by Jean-Jacques Annaud from 2004, starring two tiger cubs, set in the French Indochina from the 1920s, was filmed here. Two Brothers is the story of two tiger cubs, one shy and gentle, the other fierce and heroic. They are born among the ruins of an ancient temple (Beng Mealea) in the middle of the jungle. A terrible twist of fate makes them separated from each other.