Siem Reap is known for its spectacular ruins, but if you’re traveling there as a runner, you’ll quickly learn that running through the relics isn’t allowed, and isn’t appropriate anyway. And the downtown is busy and full of tourists and motorbikes and vendors, so it’s a little hard to run there too. Phil and I found a really great route that starts near the center of the city and goes down along the river, where you’ll get a much better feel for local life.
ROUTE: Find Route 63, which is the major road that winds along the Siem Reap River. Find a little bridge (there are many!) and cross over to the other side of the river. Run south along this road.
I highly advise that you get an early start to your run. We were there in January, and it was still super hot by the time we were done. The river was very very polluted, so there’s no chance of taking a dip to cool off!
The road is mostly dirt (red clay), and very flat. The road wasn’t heavily trafficked, and there was definitely enough space to get out of the way for vehicles if needed. We felt very safe, even though there were lots of dogs along the way. They were all used to people coming and going, and didn’t seem too bothered by us.
There was a big rainstorm the night before, and the river was full of small fish that rose to the surface, making it easy for them to be caught. People of all ages were out with their nets, trying to catch as many fish as they could.
There are a few opportunities to get food and drinks along the way. We ran through a small village where cold water was readily available. I made the mistake of grabbing what was apparently homemade rice wine out of a fridge at a small store (it was in a water bottle.) The women who ran the shop had a good laugh when I came up to the counter with it, and despite the language barrier, communicated that I probably didn’t want to rehydrate with it!
Food vendors were set up in the small village as well, and we stopped to have wood fired waffles. They were DIVINE to say the least! The tricky part about Cambodia, at least for me, is my inability to read any of the signs. You really just have to keep your eyes open and remain curious. And be brave and bumble your way through trying to communicate with vendors.
You’ll also see a lot of regular every day Cambodian life happening as you run along this route. Kiddos going to school, fish drying in the sun, maybe a crocodile farm. We had to stop and get a tour, of course! This guy raises crocs until they’re adolescents, then he sells them to people out of the country who raise them for meat. He uses the money to fund a school that is in his home. So we had to walk through the classroom in order to get to the crocodile pens.
Overall, a really fantastic run! I highly recommend it as a way to escape the noise and humanity of downtown Siem Reap. Definitely bring money (small bills) and water. And know that by making it an out-and-back, you can cater the distance to your wants and needs for the day. Enjoy!