Beng Melea (which translates into lotus pond) is an Angkor-style temple complex located more than 60 kilometers east from Siem Reap. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 1992 and is one of the new temple sites of Cambodia, having been cleared of mines in 2003.
Only recently has Beng Melea been accessible from Siem Reap. Dirt roads from the Cambodian city to the site made travel difficult, but it has now been paved and travel time from Siem Reap only takes about half an hour.
Much of the temple’s history is unknown and can only be deciphered from its architectural style, which is similar to Angkor Wat. Because of this, scholars believe that Beng Melea was probably built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Although smaller than Angkor Wat, it is nonetheless a large temple complex, measuring well over one square kilometer within its moat.
Like a lot of Angkor-era structures, Beng Melea was originally built as a Hindu temple. However, there are some carvings depicting Buddhist designs and motifs. The structures at the site are built primarily from sandstone and are un-restored, with trees, figs and roots thriving amongst the structures.
The temple is orientated towards the east, with three additional causeways from the other cardinal directions. At first sight, Beng Melea appears to be nothing more than a large pile of stone concealed by the surrounding jungle. But upon closer inspection, the temple reveals itself and looks just as the way the French colonial explorers from the 19th century have found it.
Libraries are on the left and right side from the eastern causeway. There are also carvings of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda.
The dapped light caused by the jungle trees and un-restored structures at Beng Melea make it a fabulous temple site to visit and a perfect opportunity for picture taking. The temple causeways also house one of the most impressive and beautifully decorated Naga (serpent deity) rails as well as some impressive lintels.
Beng Melea is not quite on the tourist trail yet, but with word spreading fast, that can change soon, and with good reason. This is an impressive site where history, culture and nature all intertwine in one. Exotissimo highly recommends visiting this site as part of your Siem Reap temple tour with our Beng Melea & Phnom KulenExcursion – Siem Reap day trip. After exploring these magnificent ruins, continue on to Phnom Kulen. This mountain range is considered the birthplace of the Khmer Empire and is a sacred place for the Cambodian people. Along with Beng Melea, our Grand Tour of Cambodia also includes other magnificent sites such as Angkor Wat and Sambor Prei Kuk as well as visits to cities and towns across the country. You may also see our suggested Cambodia tours page for other memorable trips into this wonderful country.
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