Category Archives: TRAVEL AWAY

Member’s stories about traveling to participate in races.

Have Fun while Rebuilding Our Parks with Tahoe Ragnar Relay

“So much was lost in these devastating fires, and yet the sense of community and camaraderie in Sonoma County has never been stronger. We’ve come together to form an alliance, and challenge ourselves to raise money to help rebuild our local parks – the parks that bring our community together and provide respite from this stressful and painful experience. We will be running in Tahoe this summer to raise funds for the parks and hope that other runners coming to Ragnar Trail Tahoe this year will be inspired to help us with our mission to raise at least $40,000 for the parks restoration effort. Join us to help our community remain #SonomaStrong.”  -Justin Borton

It all started with Taylor Mountain Tuesdays. 3 years ago, Justin Borton and his small cohort of die-hard Sonoma County trail runners began meeting at 6:30 sharp every Tuesday morning to tackle the 1300-foot behemoth at the heart of Taylor Mountain Regional Park. Their goal is to make it up to the summit and back down before most Sonoma County residents have had breakfast, rain or shine.

The brutal climb hasn’t grown much over the years, but Borton’s network of Sonoma County trail runners certainly has. Ranging from weekend warriors to elite athletes, this group has formed the base of the #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge.

Berg04ShilohCreated in the wake of the most devastating wildfires in California history, the goal of the #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge is to raise at least $40,000 to directly benefit the Sonoma County Parks. Borton hopes to build 10 relay teams, comprised of 75+ runners, to represent Sonoma County at Ragnar Tahoe this year, with proceeds being donated directly to Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation Wildfire Restoration Fund.

Taking place on July 20-21 at Royal Gorge, this event offers a different format than other relays. Instead of waiting your turn to run along the highway in a cramped van, this relay is centered around a base camp area with 3 routes originating and ending in the camp. Each of 8 team members runs the 3 loops consecutively over approximately 24 hours. The comfort and camaraderie of all the teams being in the same location will create a convivial yet competitive atmosphere. Details of the relay are at

Empire Runners is teaming up with #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge to increase awareness of the strength of our running community and raise money for the parks. Ragnar has agreed to turn over a large portion of entry fees to the cause, plus Borton and his crew are raising  donations and schwag from sponsors. We plan to have a large camp area specifically for our Sonoma county group, plus lots of fun during and after the running. Some of the local health clubs and running companies are also fielding teams, so this is shaping up to be the event not to miss.


Here’s the link to sign up       Register here instead of at the Ragnar site, and please make a note that you are registering to be on a #SonomaStrong Empire Runners Team. We need all speeds and abilities, we will assign teams as the date draws near. If you want to participate as a non-runner, as a crew helper or support staff, sign up as well and we’ll have a group meeting later.

(All photos courtesy of Sonoma County Regional Parks staff)

Carlsbad 5000 – Short Race / Big FUN – by Dale Peterson and Larry Meredith

Brad (Zanetti) and Bobby (Rogers) were just a few feet ahead of me as I took my first steps.  Instantly I knew that something was very wrong.  My legs which had just served me so well down the Carlsbad 5000 course did not seem to be working right.  I felt almost like I had just finished a marathon instead of a 5K.  I knew I should stop but like so many other times in my life, I just couldn’t do it.  The only thing that kept me going was the thought of our hotel, a nice breakfast, the pool, hot-tub and a  micro-brewed IPA.


This was my fourth trip down to Carlsbad to run in the “World’s Fastest 5K” – so-called not due to the course but for the fact that after the several heats of age-division races, the elites put on an exhibition of speed.  They used to run on the same course as everyone else, but lately they do a couple of laps along the coast highway so everyone can get a good and really close look at them.

I was very excited to be here this time around, my training having gone very well leading up to the race.  I ran 23:01 – over twenty-seconds faster than my previous best in 2013.
This year our racing contingent consisted of Brad Zanetti, Larry Meredith, Bryan Porter and myself.  We were supported by Bev Zanetti, Bob Rogers and my sister Sandra.
Bryan Porter has been running the race annually for years now and Brad has done it now I believe seven years running.   This was Larry’s fourth Carlsbad 5000 in as many years.  There is a reason why we all keep coming back – it is FUN.
Here is Larry’s take on the race, Carlsbad and the overall experience:
“This was my fourth Carlsbad 5000 (in four years) and my slowest, by far.Editors Note: [Larry had a terrible cough]  I ran well in only one appearance, 2 years ago, but have not regretted making any of these trips.  Except for my performance in the race, this year was particularly enjoyable for many reasons.  The flight schedule to and from Santa Rosa (what a luxury to fly straight to San Diego from here!) was perfect for a long weekend vacation.  We arrived in San Diego just after noon on a Friday and did not have to return until late Monday evening.  That gave us a day-and-a-half of leisure both before and after the event.  With a seasoned brewery guide Brad and reliable designated driver Bev carrying out their essential duties, the whole weekend seemed like an organized tour.  Dale and I were along for the ride.
The hotel that we keep coming back to is just a half-mile from the beautiful Carlsbad beach, which stretches for more than two miles until it reaches the scenic little coastal town that hosts the races.  The temperature always seems perfect for a 5K, particularly for the masters men’s race that begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday.  While one year there was a stiff breeze to battle against on part of the course, this year was calm.  With the jacked up crowd in the race and along the course, it’s a great place to find out how fast you can run a 5K.  We made the mistake of arriving late to the post-race beer garden after a quick shower and breakfast back at our hotel.  The garden was packed and chaotic, with a line snaking through it to the dispensing stations.  It took 45 minutes but we collected our 2 pints of locally-brewed IPA and sauntered over to hear a very good live band play all of my favorite rock tunes from the ‘80s.  As always, that combination ends with Bryan and me groovin’ to the beat.  I’m tellin’ ya, we need some more ladies on this trip!  We then had to chug our brews so we could get back out on the course to watch some of the fastest 5K runners in the world, men and women, in their separate elite races.  For the second straight year, Bernard Legat set a masters world record for a road 5K.
Checking off local breweries is always on the agenda for Friday, Sunday and Monday.  Yes, we temper our thirst on Saturday in preparation for the race.  Since we had all of Monday on this trip we visited Balboa Park in San Diego, touring the natural history museum there.  A few minutes later we were downtown, eating great burgers at Hodad’s, a place that takes you back in time. And then we walked through the historic Gaslamp Quarter.  We nearly bought tickets to the opening day game of the baseball season but just couldn’t bring ourselves to cough up $80 each to watch the Dodgers destroy the hometown Padres.  So we went to another nearby brewery.  And a deserted Ghirardelli ice cream shop for desert.  As luck would have it, we were able to watch the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game at the airport.  The last-second game winning shot was made just in time for us to catch our flight.  What a weekend!
To those of you who think it’s not worth a weekend trip to run a 5K I say give this one a chance.  You can always take on the “All-Day 5K” which involves running each of the four 5K races held that morning.”
Carlsbad – The proto-typical “beach town” – Carlsbad is both quirky and upscale depending on your mood or pocket-book.  It is located 35 miles north of San Diego International Airport – straight up Interstate 5.
Carlsbad 5000 – the race is held the first Sunday in April in the town of Carlsbad.  Four Heats of the 5K or run the “All Day 20K” and do them all!  Youth 1 Mile races (and now adult too) are run on the previous Saturday.
Beer Garden – crowded but fun with live music for all adult entrants.
Elite Races – there is both an elite men’s and women’s race immediately following the last heat of the morning.
Flights – The best way to go is on Alaska Airlines out of Sonoma Co. to San Diego.
Airfare runs typically between approx. $110 and $250 one way depending on when you book your flight.
Car Rental – Rent a car from any of the many providers in San Diego and make the short drive up the coast to Carlsbad.
Hotel – We always stay in the West Inn about 3 miles south of downtown Carlsbad but within easy walking distance of the beach.  I give the hotel Five out of Five stars.  It is clean, well-appointed has a great breakfast, two restaurants a very nice pool and spa.  Rooms are approx. $165 – $185 per night and well worth it.
Eating – There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to eat in Carlsbad and the greater San Diego area.  One of our favorites and a post-race ritual is The Compass in the Carlsbad Village shopping center near downtown Carlsbad.  Great dishes ranging from high-end burgers to Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos and Macaroni and Cheese.  Fantastic beer selection as well.
Breweries – Again, there are hundreds to choose from.  From the huge Stone Brewery in Escondido to tiny Belching Beaver in Vista.  Coronado Brewing Company on Coronado Island and Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego (home of Sculpin IPA) are some favorites.

Hello Vietnam, by Doug Murdoch

Vietnam is going through a running revolution…based on the number of running clubs popping up and races being offered, thousands of Vietnamese are running recreationally, for their health and for fun.

I had the pleasure of running with the Sunday Running Club for the first time a few weeks ago, and everyone was quite enthusiastic about running, despite the fact it was evening and still in the nineties.  But I survived and we all hung out afterwards and had some coconut juice.

In the last five years multiple running clubs have sprung up across Vietnam, and numerous races as well. Races span everything from 5K’s to hard-core trail runs, like the Vietnam Victory Challenge 50K in DaLat, and the Mountain Marathon in Sapa.

Here is a full list of races.

When I first started running in the city of Ho Chi Minh in 2011, I was unable to find any running clubs, or any runners at all. And there were no regular races that I could find. And when I checked the Internet, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to run in Vietnam, and specifically Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon.

I decided to create this running map of Ho Chi Minh in 2011 to help visiting runners. Ho Chi Minh can be a bit shocking for first time visitors, especially for runners, given the motorbikes, traffic, and questionable sidewalks. I’m proud to say that the map now has over 5000 views!


Doug’s running map.

Now I am the first to admit that running in Vietnam is like “urban cross country.”

You constantly have to be on the lookout for variations in the sidewalk, motorbikes, and other obstacles. You have to pay attention. You can’t just zone out because there are too many people and things that you might run into. As a runner, no one will stop for you or give you the right of way – this includes motorbikes, cars, and even other pedestrians.

But actually I think what foreigners experience is a variation of “culture shock.”

If you have never been to Asia before, just the sight of so many people, motorbikes, and cars can be overwhelming, which can lead you to believe that running is impossible.

But just like anything else, you can adapt as a runner. If you go out every day, as usual, you will soon find that the things you thought were significant before no longer bother you and you can easily run.

And of course it helps to run with a group.

In Ho Chi Minh: Sunday Running Club, Viet Runners, and Run Club.

In Hanoi: Chay 365

In DaNang: DaNang Runners

I have found that the Vietnamese running clubs are very friendly…just check their Facebook pages and show up for a scheduled run! Don’t worry about the fact you don’t speak Vietnamese…normally there is always someone who speaks some English.

If you do come to Ho Chi Minh and want to run, you can also always contact me at I commute back and forth between Vietnam and Santa Rosa for work.


Run Bangkok, by Doug Murdoch

Jan16_Murdoch06Even though I was in Bangkok, Thailand, for three days for business, I had the opportunity to run in the Standard Chartered 10K, which according to the results had 10,116 people entered. The day before the race, my friend Wiwat took us to the Royal Palace which was truly incredible. Even though we spent two hours there, after we looked at the map, we realized that we had only explored about 20% of the total palace grounds.

Jan16_Murdoch02If you only have time to go to one place in Thailand while visiting Bangkok, this would be the place. Also the National Museum is near by, which is comprised of many buildings filled with antiquities and the history of Thailand. Another great place to go. Training wise I picked a hotel that was very close to Lumphini Park so that I would be able to run in the mornings without having to dodge cars and motorcycles. I was surprised by the hundreds of runners that go there each morning.

Jan16_Murdoch08   Jan16_Murdoch04   Jan16_Murdoch03

Race morning was hot. At 6am the temperature was 88 F on the heat index scale (80.6 F, 95% humidity = 88 F on the heat index scale). After my mile warm up and strides, I was soaked. The most surprising part of the race was that after we were all lined up, with five minutes to the start, a motorcade with sirens showed up…..and a young woman stepped out of the vehicle in running clothes. It turns out she was one of the princesses of Thailand, and she lined up right in front of me, along with her handlers. After the gun went off, I ran around her and her handlers…no time for small talk. After the race, my socks were completely wet….and my feet looked like they had been in a hot-tub for an hour….all shriveled up, soft,  and gross. The next day after the race, I did not feel good – I don’t know if it was a travel bug that I picked up, or the effect of running hard in such a hot environment, or the pollution that was present even in the morning. But I took a day off, felt better, and then flew to my next destination…..Singapore! Great running there along East Coast Park!



Destination Central Vietnam, by Doug Murdoch

11226081_1060325203991763_8806700421101960724_o copy copyGoing to a foreign country for a destination race can be fun, but you need to make sure there are plenty of things to do besides just running at your location if you want to have a good time.

DaNang is located right in the center of Vietnam, with the ancient citadel of Hue and Bach Na National park to the north,  and the Japanese / French city of Hoi An to the south, along with My Son, which is a sacred place from the Cham culture dating 400-1400 AD.

Laguna Lang, which is a resort area north of Da Nang, offered a marathon / half this year, so I decided to run the half marathon and then explore the surrounding area. I spent about a week and a half in the area, but I could have easily spent two weeks since there was so much to do.

CentralVietnamDHM2015_003 copyIt was a small race with about two hundred people total – 80 in the marathon and 120 in the half marathon.  It was well organized and enjoyable, with almost all of it on even paved roads with no traffic and plenty of aid stations. It was out in the countryside but all the streets were still blocked off to traffic.

CentralVietnamDHM2015_004 copyAfter the race, I travelled about an hour north to Hue, the ancient city and capital of Vietnam.  The ancient citadel still has a wall and a moat that goes all the way around it. I ran the internal perimeter for fun and it’s about 5 miles. I also took a boating trip, went to ancient tombs, and ate some river snake (which did not taste like chicken).ế

Here’s an example of a typical training run I did there:

CentralVietnamDHM2015_005 copyAfter exploring Hue, I hired a driver to take me to the top of Bach Ma National Park, which is about five thousand feet, and spent the day hiking.  It’s interesting to be near the beach and then immediately go up to five thousand feet, in a completely different environment.ạch_Mã_National_Park

That same day my driver dropped me off in Hoi An, a beautiful little city south of Da Nang with both Japanese and French influences. One of the most famous attractions there is a traditional and authentic Japanese covered bridge.  The cost for an all day driver/ tourist guide in a private car was eighty dollars, and one way was about one hundred miles. I could have done it for less than ten dollars on a bus but then I would not have been able to go hiking.ội_An

CentralVietnamDHM2015_006 copyEven though I did the typical tourist stuff,  I ran every day from 6 -10 miles which is always an eye opening experience. The main photo for this article, seen to the right,  is from one of the small islands that I ran to and around in Hoi An. This is my actual run in Hoi An where I took the photo:

CentralVietnamDHM2015_010 copy 2I also went to My Son, which about two hours by bus to the south. My Son is a collection of Hindu temples that were built between 400 – 1400 AD.ỹ_Sơn

This is a good reference for what you can do in the area:

If you want to stay at a beach resort before and after your race, the race that I ran in is quite good but in a remote beach area:

CentralVietnamDHM2015_013 copyAnother popular one, which I might do next time, is called the Da Nang Marathon (and half, 10K, etc).  It is in Da Nang, which is still on the beach, but the hotel prices are much cheaper and there is more to do.  It is a much larger and international event.

Although it’s not in Central Vietnam, perhaps the most adventurous race in Vietnam is the Sapa Mountain running series, in north Vietnam. It’s on my bucket list.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Vietnam so if you have any questions about traveling and running in Vietnam, feel free to leave a comment!



Andrea runs the Red Rocks! by Andrea Guzman

You never know who you will run into on a business trip….


Sometimes my work life takes me on the road to different travel shows and I never forget my running shoes. I often run into someone I have seen on the trade show floor out on the roads. Sometimes I get the opportunity to conduct business on a run just like a golfer would do on the golf course.

This week my travels took me to Las Vegas. A friend, Doug from Boston rented a car and invited me to join him and three ladies for a run. Five strangers started the day at 5:45am with a half hour drive to Red Rock Canyon. We all were from different parts of the U.S. and share our passion for tourism. As the sun was rising, we marveled at the beauty of these rocky trails. We would regroup and do sets of planks and push-ups to get a good workout in. We were only there for an hour but this is such a spiritual place that it energized us for the long day ahead.





Running in Prescott, Arizona, by Doug Murdoch

I recently spent a week in Prescott, Arizona and all I can say is that the running trails there are outstanding,  with most trails at  4500 – 6500 hundred feet elevation.


The run that I photographed is at the base of Granite Mountain, which had everything from flat wide trails to small rolling hills, through forested and large bouldered areas, as well as some scenic views. Here is the Garmin link to look at the run on a map:


Most runners focus their attention on Flagstaff to the north of Prescott, and Flagstaff does have some incredible running. But the thing about Prescott is the wide variety of running trails all within twenty minutes of downtown.  The town has really done a great job of creating, maintaining, and marking the trails.


In my opinion it’s a great running destination vacation spot. Plus your  close to Sedona, and it’s not so far to Flagstaff (about an hour and half north).


Here are some other runs that I did while in Prescott:

Pevine Trail: Flat, wide dirt trail that used to be a railroad line.  About 6 miles roundtrip to the Y junction, but it could be extended with the trail below for 14 miles total.  Garmin link:

Iron Springs Trail: This one starts in Prescott Valley and goes west to meet up with the Pevine Trail above.  Another flat rockless trail.  8 miles roundtrip, but you could make it more  or less as desired. Garmin link:

Pioneer Park: Lots of trails to choose from  – rolling small hills to medium rocky trails. Garmin link:

Goldwater Lakes:  Beautiful trail-run passing two lakes – if you go the full distance, it’s about 9 miles round trip. Highly recommended. Garmin link:

Granite Mountain Area:  A fantastic location – many possibilities. About twenty minutes from downtown.  This is where the photos were taken for this blog post.  Garmin link:


Rim to Rim, by Kenny & Kathy Brown

Last month 3 friends, Kathy and myself took a trip to the Grand Canyon to run the “Rim to Rim”. The Rim to Rim trail is 20miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim, give or take a mile, with 7,000 feet of gain/loss. Our intentions were to do one direction and then turn around the next day and go back.

Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, it was very impressive and then to think “we are running where, and we are getting there how?”


Our 4 am start the next morning came early. After Kathy dropped us off in the parking lot we put all of our gear on and found the trailhead. We probably ran about 100 yards on a paved path through pine trees. Taking up the rear, I wasn’t sure why we came to a sudden stop and then my light shined on the side, a small sign “South Kaibab” the arrow pointed straight but it should have been pointing down.

All of a sudden there was just wide open darkness in front of us. Mike decided to be the brave one and make the first move over the edge. After that none of us hesitated any longer.

Even though we had an almost full moon to give a faint glow to the rocks, most of the what we could see was with our headlamps. Except for the constant downhill, switchbacks and swirling winds and darkness if there was no rock to be illuminated we could have been on a night run on any trail.


Running in 4th on the dusty switchbacks I had to drop back because the swirling winds were picking up the dust that was being kicked up and making the illuminated trail seem hazy. Being about 30 yards back or so I could see the three headlights piercing the dark trail below. Slowly the sun started to give a faint glow illuminating the Canyon. We had been descending for about 20 minutes and finely we could see how far we had descended from the rim. We couldn’t see the bottom but based on our time and distance we were about a third of the way down.

The three of us came to an edge which had about 20 switchbacks below. Our first runner Scott Patty was out of site. Yelling his name startled me as I was not expecting to hear an echo let alone it bouncing off several walls.

After dropping for about 50 minutes we got our first glimpse of the Colorado River. It still looked a long way down. Another 30 minutes down and we were going a cross the “single track” suspension bridge.


The view on the bottom was completely different than our trip down. Lush plants and trees all around. As we made our way through the camp site. We could smell all of the breakfasts being cooked and saw everyone just waking up.

Leaving the Colorado river basin we were following a tributary up which had canyon walls that were hundreds of feet high with only about 40 feet in between.


Somewhere along the way we were told by hikers that one of our other runners, Scott Patty had fallen. We asked if he was still running and they said yes so we knew he was fine.


The final climb up to the North Rim is only about 5 miles but gains 7,000 ft and even though it was only 9 am the temperature was 90 degrees.

Cresting the North Rim I saw Scott who was all recovered by now and Mike Long who crested the top a while a head of me. After getting an infusion of cold coke I was back to normal as we waited for Scott Bice to finish up.

We were all grateful for the water fountains that were spaced about 3miles apart on the way up.


We knew it was going to be challenging. And it was. No matter how hard you try to image the canyon, until you actually attempt 8 miles at an average of 21% grade, in heat after all ready being on the move for 4 hours you don’t know really what to expect.

Due to my preparation and how I felt I (along with Mike Long and Scott Bice)  I opted to drive back around the canyon while Scott Patty was dropped of at the trailhead at 4am for his return adventure.

We all agreed that we need to go back in 2016 better prepared to make the return trip on the second day.


From Kathy Brown:

Although my only visit to the Grand Canyon was back in 1990, this visit my passport was being a driver to the North Rim. Even though the guys could have done it without me, being able to bring their gear to the North Rim after their 22 mile trek, made it more comfortable. We started early, I dropped them at the Trail Head, South Kaibab at 4:10, in the dark. I proceeded with our rental van on an almost 5 hour, 212 mile ride to the North Rim. The towns are small and not very populated. I reached the North Kaibab Trailhead right before 10. Parked the van, collected my things to do a short hike down the trail to meet the guys. As I got to the trailhead Scott Patty was already running up. Looking good I thought he probably could handle a return run, same day, he said no way! I continued down the trail seeking Kenny his friends Scott and Mike. Almost a mile down I ran into Mike and Kenny. Both looking ready to be back at the North Kaibab Trailhead. I asked what happened to Scott Bice. Mike said we have not seen him since Phanton Ranch. I said what? and he only had one water bottle. Oh no.. Some time later Scott Patty ran back and met him. They made him make a photo finish running up North Kaibab Trail. All back and safe.


Wharf to Wharf…Santa Cruz style, by Sarah Hallas

My very good friend, Vojta Ripa talked me into registering for this race. Having finished the Montana Marathon just 6 weeks prior, I was a bit hesitant to compete again so soon. But as soon as I got to the start area, I had no regrets. Seeing so many familiar faces was worth the trip alone! The race course was absolutely amazing! There were 50 bands along the way, a ton of spectators and every mile had an arch of balloons to run through. The competition was fierce with everyone gunning for a top-100 spot to secure a top-100 finishers jacket (definitely a cool bonus)! I’m already looking forward to next year.  Here’s the link to the race!

BIB 296, SARAH HALLAS, F35, SANTA ROSA, CA, 36:51, 6:08/mi

BIB 198, VOJTA RIPA, M25, SANTA ROSA, CA, 32:39, 5:26/mi

BIB 19, REESEY BYERS, M23, SACRAMENTO, CA, 29:52, 4:58/mi


August15Hallas3_WTW COURSE




The Cusworth’s Running in Cambodia

(Editor’s note: Heidi and Bill Cusworth visited Cambodia  and ran the Ankor Wat half marathon on December 5th, 2004 –
1. When you landed in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and got settled into your hotel, what were your pre – race thoughts and emotions?
IFActually, we landed in Bangkok and toured Angkor Wat as part of an overland backpacking trip.  The Thai/Cambodia border was very sketchy and so I would recommend flying directly to Siem Reap.
We toured some of the temples by bicycle the day before the race which got us excited about the next day’s event.  I was somewhat surprised at how flat the area was and how large an area that the temples covered.  It was once a very large city.
2. On race day, what time did you have to be in the starting area? What was the atmosphere?
I think we were in the starting area by 6am.  The race was a fundraiser for victims of land mines left behind from the various military campaigns.  The atmosphere was very friendly and we felt very welcome.  There were not a lot of competitive runners and not a lot of European or American runners in the race.
3. How was the race – did you run it for fun or competitively? What was it like running by the ancient ruins?
We ran the race purely for the experience.  It was amazing running through the ancient ruins!  Many of the ruins had been taken over by the jungle and still had massive tree roots embedded into the stone walls.  The race route was paved and flat and so the course was easy.
4. Any issues with the humidity?
The humidity which was high would have been a problem if we had been racing hard.  The temperature was in the upper 80s.
5. What’s your view of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat? Would you recommend this trip to other runners?
Having toured all over SE Asia, Angkor Wat still stands out as the biggest highlight.  It’s really a must-see destination.  The town of Siem Reap is very safe feeling and inviting to foreigners.  There are all levels of accommodations and restaurants.