Hidden Histories: February

Written by The Hive Team

This month’s ‘Hidden Histories’ blog is about the hidden jungle temple of Beng Mealea, which is located about 68km northeast of Siem Reap. Once upon a time, this temple was utterly consumed by the local jungle but this has recently been cut back so that some lucky visitors can see what treasures this temple holds. Beng Mealea is enclosed by a massive moat measuring 1.2km by 900m and has a certain mysterious atmosphere that is said to surround it.

It’s name means ‘lotus pond’ and it is largely unrestored- the only restoration work that has been done is to ensure that it is safe for visitors. It is similar to the great temple Angkor Wat and it is built out of sandstone with ornate carvings drawn into the walls at various points. Little is known about its history but it is likely that it was once the centre of a town. It is around 66km from Siem Reap town which puts most people off of visiting it, but everyone agrees that it is worth the trek, once you get there. Arguably one of it’s most impressive features is its size and this means that there are so many different areas for you to explore within it.

It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List last year but the number of yearly visitations remains fairly low. We chose it as February's addition to the series because we want more people to know about it! Obviously it is unlikely that our members will be able to travel there at the moment, but it is a site with such a rich and deep heritage which we’d love people to find out more about. One traveller was so struck by its beauty, that he wrote a poem about it:

Ode to Beng Mealea by Willard Van De Bogart (stanzas 1-3)

Beng Mealea, Beng Mealea, home of Shiva

Submerged in a sea of green

Beng Mealea, Beng Mealea, keeper of the heart

Shiva's devotees swirling in between

Birds call out in the trees

Flowers lost in rivers of vines

Smothered by voracious roots

Shadows follow the creeping sun

Beneath the jungle cover

In the dark galleries abound

Songs of Beng Mealea

Only the Neak Ta are around

A new feature of our ‘Hidden Histories’ blogs is that each one comes with it’s very own fact sheet- check out the Beng Mealea one here! The information and pictures for this blog have been found at Stones in the Sky - Beng Mealea

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