When we visited 4 years ago, we told each other we had to return. The great complex of the Angkor Archaeological Park extended far beyond what we were able to see on our first trip. We wanted to see more.
This time we traveled to Cambodia from Laos with our friends, Cliff and Ruth, and the highest priority on Cliff’s list was Beng Mealea.
Beng Mealea is far removed from Angkor (40 km east) and not formally part of the Angkor Archaeological Park (requiring a $5 fee).
Very little is known about its history, but it’s presumed to have been built during the 11th Century by Suryavarman II and has many similarities to Angkor Wat in style and layout.
The location of Beng Mealea was only 7 km from the limestone quarries at Phnom Kulen (Koulen Mountain) where stonework was quarried for both Angkor Wat and Beng Mealea.
We had just visited Wat Phou in Laos, built before Angkor Wat, and when we studied the map, we wondered if the ancient road leading from Wat Phou to Angkor Wat passed by Beng Mealea? We read somewhere that pilgrimages were made from Angkor Wat back to Wat Phou, to the sacred mountain and waters found there. Also on an ancient road (maybe the same or different?) is Preah Khan Kompong Svay, another 60 km east of Beng Mealea. How tempting it would be to take the long journey there to see Preah Khan Kompong Svay which was the largest temple complex – 11 times the size of Angkor Wat!
That awaits another day, another trip….
We wondered about the future of Beng Mealea. Will it be restored some day in the future with what can still be salvaged with the piles and piles of stone? Or will the jungle creep in and swallow what is still remaining?
We had arrived early and saw only a few other visitors as we made our way through the site. As we left, an endless stream of visitors poured out from a long line of tour buses. The quiet jungle ruins of Beng Mealea have been discovered.