Rubles in Beng Mealea, CambodiaThe jungle temple of Beng Mealea was a perfect grand finale for our exploration of Cambodia’s Khmer temples.  It fed our desire for adventure and sense of discovery. If exploring Ta Phrom made us fantasize we were some kind of Indiana Jones, at Beng Mealea we played the part!

Beng Mealea is one of the remote and unrestored Khmer temples. It was not opened to the public until it was cleared of landmines in late 2003.  With the completion of the new road, it is now more accessible and can be reached by car from Siem Reap in about one hour and a half.

Beng Mealea was built in early 12th century by the same king who founded Angkor Wat.  The two temples, in fact, were constructed in identical design. Beng Melea was built earlier and smaller in scale.  Other than these few facts, the history of Beng Melea is unknown as there were no inscriptions found on site.


Naga in Beng Mealea, Cambodia

Upon entering the causeway that lead to the main site, we were greeted by well-preserved sculptures of Naga (serpents) heads like the ones in Angkor Wat. And apparently, this is where the good state of preservation ended……


Rubles in Beng Mealea, CambodiaThis sight of the amazing mound of rubbles made us stop and gasp. (We wondered if the French explorers had the same reaction when they first stumbled into the site in the 19th century?)


The Library, Beng Mealea, CambodiaThe remnant of the library in the outer enclosure.


Rubles and Trees in Beng Mealea, CambodiaLike in Ta Prohm, the jungle rules in Beng Mealea.

Upon reaching the main temple area, we saw a wooden walkway that looked like the only way in and we naturally navigated to it.

 Entry to the Main Temple, Beng Mealea, CambodiaBut one of the friendly temple guards who we were chatting with earlier called us back and told us that we should start at this door. It was in a low key area and didn’t look like a proper entry so we were not sure if he was serious. Sensing our hesitation, he took the lead and told us to follow him.


Ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia

The state of beautiful dilapidation we saw inside amazed us.  We felt like Indiana Jones in a mission of discovery.


Climbing on the Rubles in Beng Mealea, CambodiaWe climbed up and down the rubbles to get from one room to the next.


_MG_1308-2We meandered through long, dark hallways. (Our cellphone flashlights were useful.)


Ruins of Beng Mealea, CambodiaWe stepped over and under the giant hanging roots and stems.


Ruins of Beng Mealea, CambodiaAnd we discovered treasures! No, not in the form of jewelries and gold, but of exquisite sculptures from 1,000 years ago. They were strewn on the ground or squeezed in between rubbles.


Vegetation in Beng Mealea, CambodiaAfter some more rock scrambling, we reached some of the inner structures that were veiled with vegetation and mystery.


Vegetation in Beng Mealea, Cambodia


Ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia


12_Beng Mealea, Cambodia

 Scrambling out of one of the galleries.


Ruins of Beng Mealea, CambodiaThis is Ching Supiye, the wonderful temple guard who showed us around the labyrinth of the temple. If not for him, we would probably  just stayed on the walkways and we wouldn’t have explored Beng Mealea to the fullest. We realized that this is one temple where a guide is essential.


Ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia

We saw local kids climbing up the roofs with ease like they were monkeys. We thought they were so brave. Then Ching told us, “That’s where we are going next!”


Ruins of Beng Mealea, CambodiaAfter climbing up through the rocks, we reached a ledge on the rooftop. It was two-stories high and was a bit unnerving.

We crossed to a wide platform and enjoyed the spectacular view from the top.Ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia


Ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia


Ruins of Beng Mealea, CambodiaThere were steps and ladders in some areas. The wooden walkways that snake around some part of the main temple were built to dolly the cameras for the filming of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2004 film Two Brothers. 


Beng Melea, Cambodia

After the filming, the walkways remained on site making it easier for visitors to navigate some of the area. However, visitors without guides may mistake it as the offiial route to follow and miss out on the incredible exploration of the inner temple.


Carvings in Beng Mealea, CambodiaSome of the intricate lintels and fallen pediments we found at Beng Mealea. Some were similar to the ones we saw at Angkor Wat.


Children in Beng Mealea, CambodiaSome of the adorable and friendly local children we met at the temple. We thought it was so cool for them to have the temple as their playground.


Beng Mealea, CambodiaWe will always be grateful to Ching. Beng Mealea was our favorite temple experience in Cambodia, but our most favorite memories of Beng Mealea are the kindness, warmth and the uplifting smiles of Ching and the children we met at the temple.

Visit our other Angkor Highlights:
1.  Angkor Wat.            2.  Bayon Temple
3,  Ta Prohm                 4.  Banteay Srei
5.  Kbal Spean              6.  Koh Ker


Travel Notes:
  • Beng Mealea is located about 80 kms north of Siem Reap.
  • We rented a car and combined the visit to Beng Mealea with a trip to the more remote temple complex of Koh Ker, which is about an hour and 15 minutes drive further north.
  • The admission to Beng Mealea is US$5..
This link is part of Travel Photo Thursday and the The Tablescaper. Check it out for more interesting travel links.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

54 responses to “Beng Mealea: The Ultimate Indiana Jones Experience

  1. what an amazing place. Thank you so much for taking us there. It certainly looked like something from Indiana Jones!
    Have a wonderful week. I look forward to your next travel log.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jill, it is really a fun, amazing place. You have a good week, too!

  2. Can just imagine how you felt like Indiana Jones on this adventure. Stunning and thought provoking pics of an amazing place.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jo, the place was so raw and so ancient, it was hard not to feel like an explorer:) Gald you enjoyed the pics.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jan, I’m sure you’ll will enjoy this temple. I say hire a guide on arrival bec. you’re most likely to get one who is local to the area. They should be the be the best ones because they know the nook and crannies of the temple. Or hopefully you get to see Ching!

  3. The place is enormous and mysterious. I could almost hear the movie theme-song playing as I scrolled through the post. Nice job!!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..That Easter in Greece ~My Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Jackie! Ha! Ha! Streaming the soundtrack in this post would have been nice!

  4. I hadn’t realized there were so many Khmer temples. How cool is it for the kids to have this as their playground indeed. Love all the intricate details on those sculptures. What a great way to end your tour. I really like that this one seems geared more towards the locals than the tourists. Jealous of your Indiana Jones experience :) Incredible place, Marisol! Now, I really need to move Cambodia up my travel list.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Exploring Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek CopenhagenMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Mary,
      Yes, there are so many of them. This is actually my second visit to Cambodia. The first time was in 2005 and I saw way too many temples and I got templed out. They started to blend together and didn’t remember much of them. This time we only visited what I thought were the highlights plus the remote ones that I didn’t get to visit then.
      Yes, you should move Cambodia up in your list. It’s a beautiful country with wonderful people.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thank you, Muza-chan!

  5. Marcia

    Definitely an experience reminiscent of Indiana Jones!
    If the ruins at Beng Mealea look this impressive, I can only imagine how the temple looked when it still stood.
    Angkor Wat is on my list of temples, I’ll now have to add Beng Mealea.
    Marcia recently posted..Ahhh….Ras Natango: When Life Gives You RocksMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hey Marcia, I can see you rock scrambling in this temple. You should definitely put it on your list. It’s a difference experience from all the other temples.

  6. Leigh

    I have thoroughly enjoyed my virtual wander with you through temples I’ve never heard of. Of course for me the first thing that comes to mind is snakes. Are there not some hidden in the rocks.
    Hats off to you for so thoroughly enjoying your Indiana Jones style of adventure – and a good lesson on why it pays to hire a guide.
    Leigh recently posted..8 Great Canadian Train TripsMy Profile

  7. Traveling Solemates

    Hi Leigh,
    Oh, we’re so glad that you enjoyed wandering with us! We didn’t see any snakes but it doesn’t meant there isn’t any:) Actually we didn’t think of it then. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience and so thankful for the temple guard who volunteered to guide us.

  8. Emily

    Wow, I would love this, so would my husband! Looks like a real adventure. Great photos.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Emily! It’s really a fun adventure. I’m sure you and your husband will enjoy it.

  9. This is the sort of place I absolutely love to “discover” in my travels, particularly since I really love Cambodian art and temples. With your tour of Cambodia, if you haven’t discovered it, you should read Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay. I’m giving away a copy when my review is published in June (that’s when the paperback comes out, but you can get the hardback now.)
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Vintage Photos Make for Time TravelMy Profile

    • Hi Vera, thank you so much for telling me about a book. I just looked it up and is something I definitely would love to read. I’ll watched out for your review. There’s some books I’m reading so I can wait until June.
      I’m sure you will love Cambodia. I hope you get to travel there soon.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Sophie, glad you enjoyed it,

  10. This is very impressive! So beautiful and it really does look like an Indiana Jones experience! What a wonderful place to visit.
    RobinfromCA recently posted..Pacific Grove SplendorMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Robin, it truly is an impressive place to visit. Glad you enjoyed it.

  11. Jess

    That looks amazing! It’s hard to believe those ancient statues and carvings are just lying there on the ground like that.
    Jess recently posted..DC Cup-piesMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Jess, It amazed us too that those precious relics were just scattered everywhere but then that what also made the ruin so raw and authentic.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Lisa, thanks. It will be an incredible place for your family to explore. I hope to get to Cambodia soon. I don’t think we saw a Starbucks. Just warn Emma ahead of time:)

  12. Ann

    Now that’s an adventure, everything glorious. Some of the heights might bother me but not resist if I got to visit. Thanks for coming by,love visits.
    Ann recently posted..Oh, The Places I’ve Been #5My Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Ann, the height is worth daring to see the view of the glorious sights of the ruins from above. Thanks for dropping by.

  13. Sarah

    This is an amazing place. What fun to get to see your photos. Thank you!

  14. This place looks downright magical! I can’t imagine actually being there.

    Wonderful to have you at Oh,the PLACES I’ve been!

    – The Tablescaper

  15. The more that you post about Cambodia, the longer that I think I will need to extend my visit there. Beng Mealea looks like just the type of place my family would love exploring (especially once we figured out that we didn’t have to stay on the wooden walkways). However, I don’t know if we’re up to the long drive out there.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Penang’s Vanishing Heritage TradesMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Michelle, I’m sure your family will enjoy exploring this temple. You know the drive for us didn’t feel that long because we enjoyed the sights along the countryside.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Jill, yes, those gigantic ancient trees make the temple very atmospheric.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Thanks Madhu! Wasn’t Beng Mealea a lot of fun. I know, it’s an easy favorite:)

    • Traveling Solemates

      HI Ayngelina, it truly was a great travel moment to collect.

  16. Incredible photos! It looks like you have been on quite an adventure! I will have to make sure i visit Beng Mealea on my next trip to Siem Reap :)

    • Thanks Laura! Definitely visit Beng Melea next time. It is truly worth it

  17. Mina

    Hi Marisol
    Beng Maelea is my favorite temple too :)
    It’s an interactive experience, the best angkor temple for me.
    Me and my new friend scrambled our way through the rubbles and small passages, hopped from one boulder to another. We were able to climb up the roof too using the hanging branches and roots (that we called ouselves “two monkey girls”) and walked above the walls and columns as we move to another chamber – we could hear our guide(I think he is a guard there too) telling us “oh, be careful ladies!”. If he only knew we’re really enjoying it. It’s like we have discovered a portal that opens to another world, an adventure that delves into ancient angkorian era. Good thing there’s only a few tourists when we were arrived. Would love to go back there and stay longer. 2 hrs of temple run is really short. Amazing is not enough to describe it. We really had fun :)

    • Hi Mina, so nice to hear that you enjoyed this temple/ruin as well. It truly was the most fun ruin for us and it sounds like you had the same experience. Thanks for dropping by.

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