Beng Mealea, Siem Reap's jungle temple

Beng Mealea, Siem Reap’s jungle temple

It was on a whim yesterday after (good) advice from my friend, Max, that we decided to visit Beng Mealea, one of the further out temples in the Siem Reap area.

Beng Mealea is about an hour and a half away, but cost $5 instead of $38 (the Ankor Wat temples are priced high!) and all reviews promised a more interesting temple than the more frequently visited, mostly because of it’s state of disrepair and the roots, moss and trees that have taken over the site.

We saw a chalkboard advertising a trip to the temple at our hotel, and jumped at the chance to visit with a minibus, rather than the bumpy and extremely not-dust-proof option of a tuk tuk.

It turned out the tour was entirely in Japanese, but the price was right (we were given a discount due to the fact that we would not understand any of what was said) and we hopped on the bus.

There were a few other non-Japanese aboard, who kept us entertained during the duration of the trip, and one of the Japanese tourists had quite good English, and translated most of what was said during the tour to Beng Mealea.

The relative lack of tourists can probably be attributed not only to Beng Mealea’s distance from Siem Reap, but also to the fact that until 2003, the place was littered with landmines leftover from the Khmer Rouge regime.

Work to remove the mines began at that time and tourists were allowed to visit soon after. Popularity is growing, but slowly so far.

Note the comforting statement: “work ongoing”.

The site is one of the largest temples in the area, and quite a trek just to walk around once, but nature interwoven throughout collapsed carved stone and beautiful statues makes the scene unforgettable.

From what I understand from our roughly translated explanation, Beng Mealea was built in the 12th century by the same king who was responsible for Ankor Wat, and was used as a military base during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

We are yet to experience Ankor Wat, which I’m sure will be fabulous, but we’ve been told they’re totally different experiences.

At any rate, below are a number (quite a number) of photos we took from our visit to Beng Mealea.

After our time at the temple, hot, sweaty and thirsty, we minibused it back to Siem Reap where we paid a second visit to Tuk Tuk Tacos (because it is delicious) and retired to our room while Felix worked and I researched more about tropical diseases.

As you do.

Around dinner time, we decided why not go out for some nice cocktails and food tonight? and I looked up Siem Reap’s best cocktails.

My search led me to Asana Old Wooden House where we sat for a wonderful, friendly, informative and extremely tasty cocktail class run by Sambo, a lovely local woman with excellent English.

Siem Reap Monsoon and The Lane cocktails.

A very nice looking cat.

The first cocktail we made: Ginger Mojito (white rum, brown rum, lime, soda water, mint, ginger, brown sugar).

Second cocktail: Tamarind Juice (white rum, tamarind, juice, rice paddy, kafir lime leaf, sugar syrup).

Third cocktail: I made the Little Sweet (gin, wild ginger or finger root, tumeric, lime juice and sugarcane), and Felix made the Asana Sling (gin, cherry brandy, galangal tamarind rice wine, triple sec, bitters, grenadine, pineapple juice and lime juice).

Bowl of cocktail ingredients.

Us and our creations.

We sat on a swinging bed suspended from the columns of the old, wooden, traditional Khmer style house, eating nibblies passed around by smiling waitresses and sipping on cocktails we’d made ourselves.

It was a fun and delicious experience well worth the $15 per person for the class and $8 for a share plate of fingerfood that was plenty to get us both full.

I would highly recommend Asana to anyone visiting the city of Siem Reap as a refreshing change of scene from the grungy and dusty (though significantly cheaper) array of bars along Sok San Road (known to tourists as Pub St).

Today was spent catching up on a bit of well-earned rest and a bit more freaking out about various travel-related predicaments.

The real reason we are here in the first place is that Felix’s second year visa was about to expire, and we were advised by someone at the Department of Immigration that he’d be unlikely to be granted a bridging visa while we wait for my Swedish one to come through, and that we should just jump on a plane out of the country to apply for a three month eVisitor tourist visa to tide us over.

He said there was no reason it shouldn’t work, and that it was possible to do it multiple times in succession.

We’ve taken this route before, visiting NZ in 2014 for a few more months after his first Working Holiday Visa, so the advice made sense. The visa was granted overnight, and we enjoyed a couple of weeks touring around in celebration.

This time, however, he’s been requested for more information regarding his intentions in Australia, and we’re yet to hear back from the dept.

His bank balance and last three months of transactions were one segment of the additional information, with reasons for travel, detailed itinerary, and plans after leaving the country a few more.

Eventually working out how to attach the documents to his application, his response to the request was delivered the same evening he received it, but we’re yet to hear a murmur in reply.

Having no idea this was a concern, we have tickets booked back to Australia in a week, so fingers crossed it’s enough time to sort it out.

Another day, another stressful piece of bureaucracy standing between us and whatever comes next.