My friend’s father, an avid runner and world traveler, once told me, “You can never fully experience a place without running through it”. He described his favorite runs around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, through Regents Park in London, and winding through Midtown of New York City. I was amazed to hear of his travels, but even more so of the in-depth look he was able to get at a city simply by biking or running through it.
There’s something magical about running here in Siem Reap. Each morning, a group of a few students wakes before the sunrise. We head out quietly on long, winding runs, exploring anything from the dirt roads near the center to the still-occupied bars on Sok San Road. We run along the river at the Royal Gardens and down small roads in search of new restaurants or cafes, slowly connecting the dots between familiar areas. We are greeted with overwhelming friendliness each morning from local street vendors and Khmer children running out to practice their favorite English word – hello!!!!!! And each morning we get to experience the most amazing sunrises I’ve ever seen, accompanied by the stillness and quietness that early mornings always bring.
Back home, you couldn’t drag me out of bed for sunrise. But here, each day, I look forward to the early wakeup that allows me to experience the peaceful, serene side of Siem Reap – one that’s often overlooked amidst the bustling traffic and 90-degree weather that I associate with the city. I am constantly reminded of how grateful I am to be in such a beautiful and dynamic place, one that is constantly revealing to me its different sides while I continue to learn and grow within its borders. For the first time I am learning to run slowly, to appreciate the small details of the world around me, to be mindful of each breath and each step that I take. And for that I thank this city, with its ever-changing landscape – one that I hope to continue exploring but will never fully know.