Beng Melea Temple
Date: The early 11th century.
King: Suryavarman II.
Art Style: Angkor Wat.
Built in the early 11th century by the Hindu King Suryavarman II, this sprawling temple is largely overrun by the returning jungle. Constructed in the distinct style of Angkor Wat, Beng Melea preceded and may have served as a prototype of sorts. Very few carvings or bas-reliefs are evident and may never have existed. When the temple was active, the walls may have been painted or covered with frescoes. In its time, Beng Melea was at the crossroads of several major highways that ran to Angkor Wat, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear (in northern Cambodia) and northern Vietnam. Beng Melea is located 75km east of town and requires a two and a half hour journey to reach.
Beng Melea even beats Ta Prohm for ambience and it receives far fewer tourists on account of its remote location. Its layout and style closely mirror that of Angkor Wat, but here it is the rich, green jungle and the lichen-covered stones that dominate. Beng Melea is tangle of trees, towers and vines and has several moody subterranian passageways to explore. Ivy has snake its way over the bodies of Apsara dancer and richly-carved lintels lie strewn in the undergrowth. Fallen block work near the collapsed central tower forces the visitors to scramble over much of the site. For any would be Indiana Joneses Beng Melea is a must.