Beng Melea, also known as the Jungle Temple, is often overlooked and not visited by those who come to Cambodia. Instead, many tourists opt for the Angkor temples, which are significantly closer to Siem Reap than Beng Melea.
At around 70 km away from town and a 2 hour tuk-tuk journey costing $25 I can see why those who have just a couple of days would choose to visit somewhere a little closer. However, Beng Melea costs only $5 to enter and has nowhere near as many tourists as the temples of Angkor. During a recent visit to Beng Melea, after around 5 or 10 minutes of wandering amongst a handful of other tourists, we soon had the temple to ourselves.
Having visited Siem Reap in 2011 and seen the main temples, we decided not to re-visit them. Fascinating as they are, unfortunately a huge whack of the revenue created from the ticket sales of these temples – which is not cheap at $20 for 1 day, goes into the back pocket of a rich Vietnamese business man. Without getting too political or deep, it’s not something I felt I wanted to contribute towards. I’m unsure about the in’s and out’s with regards to Beng Melea, but if our money has to go elsewhere but the very country we are in I would prefer it to be just a small amount.
If you find yourself wanting to get away from the main tourist trail, get yourself out to Beng Melea. The tuk-tuk ride is pretty nice, it passes through little villages, providing you with a slight insight into rural Cambodia. The temple itself is called the Jungle Temple for a reason. Huge trees and roots have intertwined into the temple, bringing nature and mankind together as one. The temple is crumbling to pieces in some parts, and intricate carvings are not the first thing you will find here. But that is the very charm and appeal of it for me. It is in its’ natural state of decline, yet beautifully enveloped by the constantly growing nature that surrounds it.