THE jungle temple of Beng Mealea, about 50 kilometres from Siem Reap, is one of the wonders of Cambodia. The vast ruin covering over a square kilometre has not been restored, and the forested location gives it a unique atmosphere, with the walls cloaked with vegetation and tree roots.
Until 2008, Beng Mealea was without climbing rules - visitors could go virtually anywhere. But there are now access restrictions to some parts of the complex, following a few accidents involving tourists.
The overgrown moat is now being cleared and deepened to improve the water supply to the villagers, and this is a tangible benefit of tourism.
Wooden walkways have been extended to cover the central area. In the rainy season, Beng Mealea becomes a lot more hazardous. Wet, mossy stones can be slippery, so caution and good footwear is essential for those who want to venture off the main walkway route.
Beng Mealea is just over an hour away by car from Siem Reap via Dam Dek on Route 6. An alternate route via Banteay Srei and Phnom Kulen has fallen into poor condition in recent weeks, and this trip can take up to two hours.