Running around Yeak Loam Lake in Northern Cambodia

Running around Yeak Loam Lake in Northern Cambodia

Dirt path around a spiritual, holy lake

In the capital of the Ratanakiri Province of Cambodia, Banlung, any traveling runner should take the time to run to a volcanic lake known as Yeak Loam. The lake itself is thought to have developed over 700,000 years ago, and is a spiritual and holy place for local Cambodians.

To start out my run, I headed east from the main city down the highway. The lake itself is right over two miles from the city center, and to get there, I had to run down a dusty highway. Though not as chaotic as a major city, the highway portion of my run, with dodging bikes and cars heading the wrong way down the road, was not so much fun.

Once I headed off the main street, I hit the entrance to the lake. If you run during the day, you will be asked to pay the fee for foreigners to enter, but early morning or dusk runners can enter for free. From the gate, the entire run is on dirt. The lake itself is an impeccable bluish green and is surrounded by dense overgrowth. Locals dominant the main dock, with children and adults alike raucously jumping off the wooden structure wearing bright orange life jackets.

As I approached the lake, I headed counter clockwise on the dirt path around the lake. The path is around 2000m long, and is littered with small inclines and declines. In the first half of the circular track, I passed multiple docks, which with more distance from the main one, became less and less crowded. Attached to each dock were signs stating, “No Bathing,” or, “No Use Shampoo.” I giggled every few meters reading the English translations, but did fail to see anyone trying to bath in the lake.

After passing half way around the lake, the path, which was quite wide at the start, quickly turned into single track. Though the overgrowth was evident at the beginning, upkeep of this half of the trail must not exist. Massive trees engorged the path, and with the sun setting quickly, it became very hard to see the trail ahead of me. Small hills became more abundant, and at parts, the trail was quite difficult to run on. At one point near the end, the trail becomes split into two, and I was forced to walk over tree routes obstructing both sides.

Though the trail isn’t entirely perfect, and the road to the lake isn’t the most fun, Yeak Loam Lake is a great place to run. The loop around the lake is great for doing laps, and if you are looking to get in a work out, there are definitely worse places on earth. Make sure to bring a light if you come at night, because the trail does become dark. The sunset over the lake, though, is well worth the inconvenience.