Beng Mealea lies 40 km and about an hour car drive (or 1 1/2-2 hours tuk-tuk) from the town of Siem Reap. We opted for the air-conditioned car that was a bit pricy at $60, but a tuk-tuk would not have been too enjoyable. We left the hotel at 5AM in the hopes of exploring before the heat and people arrived! This Hindu temple was built in the middle of the 12th century and must have been absolutely stunning when it was in one piece, tucked away in the jungle and very peaceful. Today, the temple is in many pieces and like the people of Cambodia, has been through a lot. As you walk down the entry road, there is a sign off to the left declaring that the area has been cleared of more than 400 land mines and some 800 other unexploded ordnances, the process is still ongoing today.
We walked through the grounds with our guide, (which costs you whatever is in your heart). A guide is a really good idea if you want to get off of the path running through the complex and into the ruins. The guides don’t speak much English, but know the grounds very well, leading you into small holes and pointing to areas where we could safely climb. We would not recommend leaving the path without a guide unless you want to chance losing a limb or your life to a landmine. We were even shown a hole where a landmine had gone off just next to where we were walking. Our guide was very nice and a pretty good photographer too. He knew a lot of the angles and even helped us get a few snapshots of ourselves. We spent well over an hour climbing through old doorways, over ruins and onto vines and roots. If you want to see this gem in the jungle, you’d better hurry before the trees completely destroy it.