Beng Mealea was the favourite temple site of my other tour guide and the first temple we visited together. He told me that he picked this trip to do the guiding himself (rather than giving the tour to other guides) because it was his favourite site and he liked to come back here.
And Beng Mealea is a spectacular site!
Visiting it requires a day trip from Angkor Wat as it is about 70 km northeast of the main temples. We combined the trip here with another site - Koh Ker, to keep cost down. However, this was a huge mistake because both sites deserve to be visited separately.
Beng Mealea dates back to the 11th or 12th century and is completely taken over by nature. It is the most natural and peaceful site I had been to in all my days in Angkor and around. To some visitors this might just be a pile of rubble though, but for me and my guide it was so mysterious that we even kept our voices down and for long stretches of walking through the ruins we did not talk at all. Even the click of the camera sounds like a loud noise here.
There are literally piles of stones everywhere and we walked on a wooden walkway and elevated platforms throughout the temple because it is quite difficult to keep one's balance when stepping over the huge rocks.
My fear of snakes kept me on the lookout at all times as this was the one temple with long stretches without any tourists or any other sound. Even local children appeared without a sound through the cracks of the walls or suddenly appearing in one of the many windows and doors. They kept watching us as we walked through the temple and the whole scene was almost surreal.
I agreed with my guide that this temple with all the roots holding a firm grip of the walls and towers has something meditative. I would not have been surprised at all if we had suddenly spotted a Yogi or a monk sitting quietly in meditation pose. And maybe they were there but out of sight for us.
Beng Mealea is a photographers dream and though there were not many tourists around, people with their professional cameras kept crawling out of hidden spots.
Needless to say that my guide was correct in saying this was his favourite temple. It is a very special place which deserves to be explored in detail and with a lot of time available.