Beng Mealea – The Temple with Tomb Raider Experience

Beng Mealea – The Temple with Tomb Raider Experience

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Beng Mealea attracts numerous tourists every year who want to experience the temple firsthand. The appealing atmosphere is provided by the place itself: a jungle. It is not for nothing that the temple (along with Ta Prohm) was chosen as a backdrop for some scenes in the famous movie “Tomb Raider” (played by Angelina Jolie, among others) in 2001. Compared to Ta Prohm, Benga Mealea – about 50 kilometers away from Siem Reap – offers the better “Tomb Raider experience”. with Fittingly, some guidebooks also tout the temple as the “perfect Indiana Jones experience”, which ultimately underscores the temple’s spectacularity.

Ruinen des Tempels Beng Mealea

The ruins of Beng Mealea are impressive

The temple itself is considered a legacy of Hindu culture, although Buddhist symbolism is also present. Beng Mealea was built at the time of the Khmer people and was one of the glamorous centers of the empire at that time. Since the Khmer people, always depending on the ruling king was Hindu or Buddhist, a combination of both religions can be found in the temple.

The year of construction is also unclear to this day, so there are estimates that Beng Mealea was built during the reign of King Suryavarman II. Some experts say that the temple was built at the same time as Angkot Wat, others deny this and believe that it was built at a later time.

Nevertheless, there are parallels to other buildings of this kind at that time. For example, Beng Mealea is (was) surrounded by a moat and (probably) several ramparts. The fact that the temple could survive until today is due to the construction by sandstone, since this could defy the time differently than e.g. wood. However, reaching the temple until a few years ago was very difficult or impossible. The blame for this lay in the jungle that took over the whole area and the numerous landmines that were placed there (by the Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot’s reign of terror). Thanks to a massive clearing of the area, the entrance to the site is now easily accessible. A new road also facilitates this access. In 2003, the site was demined for the last time, further enhancing security. This was done by the HALO Trust, supported by foreign donations, with the use of e.g. mine-seeking rats from APOPO.

The library is of the temple is very well preserved. Nearby is a wooden walkway that rises around the center and leads to it. This walkway was built in 2004 – for the movie “Two Brothers”- and offers visitors a very good view of the entire complex.

Beng Mealea Weg für Besucher

Wooden walkway to explore the complex

The temple has four entrances – one in each cardinal direction – as the attentive visitor knows from other temples of the Khmer Empire. The temple itself faces east, and fittingly, on the east side of the complex is a baray – a water reservoir that extends in a strictly rectangular shape and is a centerpiece of the cities and residential settlements of the time. As previously mentioned, the structure is often associated and compared with Angkor Wat.

Both complexes were on temple cities inhabited by thousands of residents. The main entrances are different, as Beng Mealea’s entrance faces east and Angkor Wat’s main entrance faces west. Also, the center is different at both complexes, while at the temple facing east there was a single tower in the center – which did not stand the test of time and collapsed – the center at Angkor Wat is formed by five towers. These five towers in the quincunx position are framed by four other towers. Beng Mealea is also surrounded by a dense jungle and accordingly overgrown with vegetation. Angkor Wat, on the other hand, has been largely cleared of plants.

The adventure is not only in the temple complex, also the area around the temple is spectacular

short travel video of Beng Mealea

Beng Mealea is in fact located in the center of a road that connected other nage temples (Angkor Thom and Preah Khan). As a witness that this road once existed, serves on the one hand a small bridge, which points to a long forgotten road towards Angkor Thom. On the way to Preah Khan there are ten more abandoned forest bridges, all of which invite you to an adventurous journey of discovery.