Ta Prohm is one of Cambodia's best known temples. Made famous by its appearance in 2001's Tomb Raider, it is characterised by the large trees that grow throughout, engulfing the once grand temple. If you thought Ta Prohm was overgrown, then you need to take a trip a bit further out to visit Beng Mealea Temple.
Beng Mealea is about 60km from the main Angkor temple complex, and if you're on your way to or from Phnom Penh you'll have to take a short detour to get here. It's an unmarked road, but most taxis and drivers will know where you mean.
This old Hindu temple was built in the early 12th Century, and amongst the dilapidated carvings you may be able to see scenes from Hindu mythology.
In parts, this temple looks like little more than a pile of rubble, but it's an experience that you struggle to find at many Siem Reap temples these days. As it's off the beaten track, Beng Mealea is yet to face the same crowds that you'll find at Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, or Bayon.
The other main difference is that it's mostly unrestored. Trees are left to grow freely, and collapsed sections remain collapsed. While scaffolding has become a common sight at some of the better-known sites, at Beng Mealea you feel like you could be part of an archaeological dig.
Their tour will take you over piles of rubble, have you crouching under tight archways, and lead you down rickety stairs. It doesn't feel completely safe at times, and overseas a tour like this would surely be breaking a number of OH&S laws. The children are nimble as they make their way through. While it may look complicated it's actually not that hard to do, even in inappropriate footwear.
Once you've finished, it's time for payment. Generally $5 is considered a good price to pay for the Beng Mealea tour, but if you have multiple guides they may ask for this fee each. Pay what you think is fair, but make sure you do pay. Trampling through Beng Mealea is not something you'd likely be able to do without their help.
It doesn't take too long to explore Beng Mealea, and it's a good temple to add to your itinerary on your way to or from Phnom Penh.