For a few years, a friend and I had a running joke. “Have you been to Cambodia?” we’d ask each other now and then, in spite of knowing the answer. Well, I finally made it there with little M last weekend, with a little race – the Angkor Wat Half-marathon – thrown in. It was such a splendid break in beautiful weather that we were not looking forward to going home.
After six weeks of being a full-time single mom with a full-time job and doing only stroller runs with little M or slow hikes with her on my back, I wasn’t expecting to do well at the race. And so it was: a relatively slow time for ninth woman overall. Quite a lot slower than my sub-1.38 effort in August at the Lululemon Seawheeze half in Vancouver. Still, extremely blessed to have the opportunity to race, thanks to good mates from Singapore who met us in Siem Reap and helped babysit little M while I was running.
Stayed: Sojourn Boutique Villas in Treak Village, about 10 minutes to downtown by car. Only eight villas and two rooms in the entire property, surrounding a lovely little pool. Awesome breakfast selection of both western and Asian cuisines. Great spa. Only downside is it’s not walking distance to downtown.
Saw: Temples (Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm (aka Tomb Raider temple), Bayon, Banteay Srei (aka Lady Temple)); Kampong Phluk Floating Village and mangrove paddle tour along Tonle Sap; Phnom Kulen National Park (big waterfall, 1,000 lingas, reclining Buddha).
Ate: Too much good food.
* Random restaurant opposite entrance to Angkor Wat. Excellent fish amok.
* Khmer Kitchen Restaurant, Street 11 (near Pub Street). Cheap and chirpy, vast menu.
* La Kh’mere Poulart, 89 Salakamreuk Wat Damnack (Next to Rum Georges). Started in 2014 by a Frenchman married to a Cambodian lady, set in a traditional Cambodian house in a quiet neighbourhood (they live there too). Both are chefs and so menu offers both French and Cambodian food. Awesome.
* Rohatt Cafe, King’s Road Angkor, Water Wheel Near PsaChas. Breakfast, lunch and dinner place set next to the lake. Tranquil. Local crowd, a total contrast from Pub Street. Wonderful. Our post-race refuel was coffee, pastries, sandwiches, eggs and pancakes – but the menu is actually mainly Cambodian food.
* The Hive Siem Reap, 631 Psar Kandal Street, behind Riviera Hotel. We wanted to try almost everything here – all-day breakfast, sandwiches and salads, and awesome coffee and juices. Situated in Kandal Village, a little enclave of artsy and hip shops.
* Gelato Lab, Alley West (near Khmer Kitchen). Died and went to gelato heaven. Eighty per cent dark chocolate ice cream… o. m. g. More more more please.
* The Touich Restaurant, No: 0152, Trang Village, Sangkat Slor Kram, behind Wat Enkosei (Wat leu). Recommended by the chef from La Kh’mere Poulart as his favourite Cambodian food spot. We were not disappointed. Set in a traditional Cambodian house, the menu offers Cambodian family favourites like amok and curry, as well as grilled items like beef and snapper. Reservation required.
Our wheels: We had a driver for the entire trip, at a base rate of US$30 a day within the radius of Angkor Wat. Mr Lim Hav not only does airport pick-up and drop-off, but will also show you the best bits of the city. Witty, patient man with lots of interesting tales to tell. Speaks good English. Little M loved him! Highly recommended (beats any dusty tuk tuk ride). Call (855) 012 285 739.
Need to know: credit cards aren’t accepted at most places so remember to take lots of US dollars with you (though there are plenty of ATMs downtown and you’ll be able to get your cash there easily too).