I would like to think of myself as an adventurous traveler, but the truth is that I’ve written off many destinations as “too scary” or “too depressing” to consider going there. Cambodia was one such place—until I read a recent post by one of the trail-running bloggers I follow, Moire O’Sullivan, which opened my mind and challenged my stereotypes of that country.
This guest post comes from Moire’s blog, “Running Over Mountains and Around the World.” She is a 35-year-old champion Irish mountain runner living in Cambodia and working for an international aid organization. She previously lived in Kenya for seven years to work with disabled children there. In 2008, she made a solo attempt on the Wicklow Round, a trail that spans over 100K and 26 of Ireland’s most rugged and remote peaks. She collapsed and didn’t finish—but she returned the next year to become the first person ever (male or female) to complete the Round in under 24 hours. Then she wrote a memoir about the experience and her journey of self-discovery, called Mud, Sweat and Tears (click the link for more info and to buy it).
I asked Moire permission to reprint her latest blog post here, since it changed my perception of Cambodia’s capital city and sparked an interest to travel to that part of the world. I’m also impressed at how this mountain runner can maintain her commitment to fitness no matter where she finds herself. She admits in another post that she is running much less now, but biking quite a lot through the region; her post on where to bike around Cambodia is worthwhile, too.
For additional advice on traveling to Phnom Phen, I recommend these posts:
- Nomadic Matt’s guide to Phnom Phen
- “Cambodia, A Land of Ancient Triumph and Recent Tragedy” on Living the Dream blog
Also, I noticed that today’s Sunday New York Times Travel section listed Koh Rong, Cambodia, as number 23 on its list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012.”
The following text and photos are by Moire O’Sullivan:
Not many people realise how beautiful Cambodia’s capital city is. In fact, my weekday running route is pretty incredible when it comes to impressive buildings. Within one kilometre of my front door, there’s the imposing Independence Monument. Built in 1958, it commemorates Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953.
Right beside it, there’s a long park that runs part of Sihanouk Boulevard. Every morning and evening, hundreds of people turn out to walk and run around this green spot.
Some play badminton on the park’s paths. Others do karate. A few wear uniforms and do tai chi with swords. Some form a group to kick around a shuttle cock type of Hacky Sack. By 6:30 a.m., most of these people are already finished and have made their ways back home to start their jobs by 7:30 a.m.
Turning north, I’d run through the Vietnam Friendship Park. The Monument at its centre was built in the late 1970s by the communist regime that took power after the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown.
Less than a hundred metres on from there is the Royal Palace. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1860′s, only moving out during the Khmer Rouge.
Finally I’ll reach the waterfront, or Sisowath Quay. Early in the morning, this is THE place to do line dancing aerobics with many other women. I prefer to jog on, watching the sunrise over the Mekong and Tonle Bassac rivers that meet in Phnom Penh.
Though running options are pretty limited in Phnom Penh, this one route is admittedly a very scenic way to start one’s working day.