Beng Mealea we saved for our last day of sightseeing, since it is so different from all other temples. It is completely unrestored, surrounded by dense vegetation and overgrown with trees. It is about 80 kilometers from Siem Reap, so we decided to invest in a stiff 60 USD taxi ride. Indeed, the last time we used a Tuk Tuk for a longer trip, Heidi was suffering endlessly: the dust in her eyes and behind her contact lenses would not disappear for days!
Ben Mealea is simply amazing. Part of it is totally in ruins, other parts are in surprisingly good shape, like some Apsara dancers, lintels and walls. Like many other temples, it was once the center of a town long gone.
We could not believe that we were clambering amidst ruins over 1.000 years old like would-be explorers. Though, recently it became necessary to build a little wooden walkway through a small section of the site, since more and more tourists have found their way out here. Its purpose is first of all to stop the monument from being further destroyed by tramping tourists, but we guessed that there was also a safety issue. Before the construction of the walkway, visitors were climbing onto the roof of already fragile galleries and walking on top of sagging walls in order to see the temples “secrets”. Even now, a visit still involves a lot of climbing and balancing, but done sensibly, it is good fun. All in all, we were so happy to have come here!
At the entrance of the temple, “informal” guides wait to take “unguided tourists” around. We think such a guide is essential. We would have never found some of the highlights on our own. So the small tip is a good investment, especially considering the expenses involved coming here.