Beng Mealea is an extraordinary temple that looks much the same now as it did centuries ago. Draped in vines and foliage, it is one of the more mystifying temples at Angkor, even though it was built to that temple’s same floor plan. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman II (1113-50), Beng Mealea is surrounded by a large moat. While it was a security measure in ancient times, the moat is dried up now, offering an interesting, historic visual.
Visitors enter from the south, and travel through rubble-filled walkways and dark halls to emerge at the site of the now-fallen central tower. The temples collapse should not deter a thorough exploration. Utilizing a modern wooden walkway – constructed by a film crew in 2004 — you can see impressive carvings as well as the temple library in the northeastern quadrant.
Beng Mealea serves as the midpoint on an ancient Angkorian road that connects Angkor Thom and Preah Khan in Preah Vihear Province. Along the way and in the forests are several abandoned bridges, only one of which (west of Chau Srei Vibol temple) is still visible. Visitors can walk this road, but must be prepared for a long and vigorous physical challenge.
One of the largest temples in the Angkor region, Beng Mealea covers an area of 108 hectares. Although it is monumental, the decoration is largely simple, with splashes of spectacular ornamentation.