Amansara - Beng Mealea & Koh Ker
Siem Reap, Cambodia
For a full day’s adventure, one of the most rewarding excursions is to Beng Mealea and Koh Ker. Enclosed by a huge boat, Beng Mealea is one of the most mysterious temples at Angkor.
Originally enclosed by a moat nearly the size of Angkor Wat’s, Beng Mealea is a 12th century temple now disappearing as the jungle encroaches. This tucked away temple lies 40 kilometres east of Angkor and was once the starting point of a canal used to float huge local stone blocks down from the surrounding mountains to build the Angkorian temples. Elevated wooden walkways allow you to walk (carefully) above the ruins of Beng Mealea’s collapsed galleries and towers, whilst shaded by the jungle canopy.
Even fewer tourists visit Koh Ker, another 50 kilometres northeast of Angkor along the same road. Briefly the site of the Khmer empire’s capital in the 10th century, today Koh Ker’s tranquility leaves you to explore without distraction. Originally dedicated to Hindu gods, Koh Ker is dominated by Prasat Thom, a 30-metre masonry temple mound that rises above the surrounding forest. Carved garuda, the mythical mount of Vishnu, still stand guard atop the temple pinnacles. Meander at your leisure among the many tower sanctuaries here. Several house spectacular stone linga, the phallic shaped symbol honouring Shiva, which have led scholars to question King Jayavarman IV’s ego as they are truly enormous.
We suggest an early start, leaving around 6.00am with a direct 2.5 hour journey to Koh Ker, the furthest point. On your return, this allows plenty of time to explore Beng Mealea which can be comfortably viewed in the afternoon due to the jungle canopy. Your return drive to Amansara will take one hour. A breakfast basket and picnic lunch are included. Your journey may also include the Citadel of Women (Banteay Srei), one of Angkor’s best-preserved temples and renowned for its intricate carvings in pinkish sandstone, as a first stop on route to Koh Ker.