I'll admit it: When I told my husband I wanted to make a detour to Siem Reap during our Thai honeymoon, it was purely to see Angkor Wat. During our three days in the province, however, we saw A LOT of temples, and this one took the cake.
I enjoyed Beng Melea (also spelled Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea) the most because this temple has not been restored, so we were literally trekking through the jungle to explore the temple. When we first arrived, I was tsk-tsking at all the completely disrespectful tourists wandering off the path to climb on the rocks. The nerve, right?! That is, until our own guide hopped off the wooden platform and beckoned us to follow him down into the ruins. Don't mind if I do....
As with the other temples, Beng Melea was home to some beautifully intricate carvings (see above). Unlike the other temples we visited, however, intact carvings (like the one pictured below) were few and far between.
After exploring the interior of the temple, we had to climb through this pile of rocks (above) to escape the temple. Of course, this was the one day I wore flats and a dress instead of hiking attire, but I made it out just fine. If you ever travel to Cambodia, however, be sure to pack sensible shoes! I took the below photos of my feet to show how narrow most of the walkways and stairs were:
Each temple we visited had its own library (or two, or more!), as seen above at Beng Melea.
Beng Melea was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, both within Cambodia and in Thailand. It's about an hour and a half drive by car outside the city of Siem Reap, but it is so worth it. Plus, you get to drive through the gorgeous Cambodian countryside and see the villages. (More on that later.)
P.S. — Love temples? Check out these posts from Bayon Temple and Banteay Srei.
Linking up with Bonnie Rose for Travel Tuesday.