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20 December 2010

D’ Angkor Runners

By Karen

Ok, I have to admit that I am not the kind of person who likes to workout. I rather spend the hours on the treadmill in my bed; sleeping. Or indulge in an afternoon of endless reading.
From a person who finds it a chore to put on her running shoes, completing a 10km marathon is kind of surreal for me. Never in my life would I think of running a marathon let alone had actually fallen in love with the idea of competing with thousands of runners in sweaty attire, gasping for air every 500 meters!

It all begun with a twitter challenge by @empressrox (our Regional Head of Commercial). What initially thought was a joke on twitter actually got 10 of us from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan to the land of ancient Khmer. To some of my colleagues, it later became a jaw drop experience when they gazed upon the majestic Angkor complex of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Terrece of Elephants, Baphuon, Preak Khan, Ta Som, Preah Rup & Ta Prohm.

Siem Reap held a special place in my heart. Simply because it was the first city that I backpacked to when I started my backpacking trip in 2007.

Even though it was my 3rd visit to Angkor, standing face to face with majestic ruins of Angkor Wat never fails to send a tingling sensation down my spine. Nor can I forget the 12 year boy known as Chai, whom I’ve met in Preah Rup in 2007, who wept at the sight of the killing fields and Tuol Sleng museum in my guidebook.

We took off from LCCT at 8am on a Friday. Arrived in Siem Reap International airport, delighted to be greeted warmly by our colleague; Ice and Virom our knowledgeable and friendly tour guide.

The days before the Angkor marathon run was spent exploring Siem Reap city, indulging in Khmer cuisine, massage and night market shopping! When it comes to Khmer food, not one wasn’t smitten. My colleague Victor couldn’t live without his Amok (catfish steamed in a savory coconut-based curry) we were afraid that he might actually go amok if we don’t feed him his favorite Khmer dish.

For those who have not been to Siem Reap, you might have thought that it’s nothing more than magnificent architectural masterpieces deeply rooted in the jungle. Well, surprise surprise! Siem Reap has more than met the eye!

From the ruins of Angkor Wat, we proceed to Siem Reap’s Pub Street is a big contrast to the Angkor ruins. Somber and quiet during day time, but all buzzed up with life during the night. Located just within walking distance to the old market, Pub Street houses some of the best restaurant, café and pubs in the city. Serving affordable and tasty pizzas, hamburgers, pasta and Khmer cuisine. Most of the restaurant has free Wifi and are beautifully decorated with colorful Cambodian painting and sculpture; Jazz music, tasty cocktails is also something not to be missed. Sitting at one of the open roof top at Pub Street pretty much reminds me of Clark quay in Singapore and Lan Kuai Fong in Hong Kong. Buzzing with activities till wee hours in the morning from people of all walks of life!

For those who are into shopping, you’ll be delighted to know that Siem Reap’s Center Market and Old Market (Psar Chas) offers an eclectic collection of clothes, Cambodian paintings, artifacts, and an attractive collection of souvenirs. Of which, all of them are bargain-able and you’ll be silly not to.

As the day to Angkor Marathon approaches, we were so anxious we could feel knots in our stomach. Especially for Sieg and Schrene who hardly walk a mile on daily basis!

As early as 6am in the morning, we were greeted by marathon enthusiast from all over the world. 3500 of them all eager to battle it out, running for a good cause in the name of charity. The fact that the Angkor Marathon took place around Angkor Complex made the run really fun! Especially my boss Kat, who had her Camera and Blackberry with her at all times! Snapping shots with every available opportunity, working hard for all our fans on Facebook and Twitter!

Anyway, the Angkor Marathon was indeed an experience of a lifetime and a great way to end 2010! Who would have thought, for someone like me who cringe at the thought of exercising actually completed a 10km run with a time of 1 hr 20 minutes! Not too bad for a virgin marathoner haha!

So watch out Borneo Marathon I’ll see you in May!

More photos, click here