Living in Cambodia
Siem Reap stands at the doorway to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Archaeological Park, containing the majestic Angkor Wat, one of the man-made Wonders of the World.
The Park extends over approximately 400 square kilometres and consists of scores of temples, hydraulic structures (basins, dykes, reservoirs, canals) as well as communication routes. For several centuries Angkor was the centre of the Khmer Empire. With world class monuments, several different ancient urban plans and large water reservoirs, the site is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization. Temples such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, the premier exemplars of Khmer architecture, are closely linked to their geographical context as well as being imbued with symbolic significance. The architecture and layout of the successive capitals bear witness to a high level of social order and ranking within the Khmer Empire. Angkor is therefore a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance.
Angkor Wat is a significant tourist destination in Southeast Asia and the town of Siem Reap has developed consistently over the last decade to accommodate a growing influx of visitors from around the world. It has become a thriving town with a wide array of hotels, restaurants, markets, boutique shopping and nightlife. A diverse and interesting community of expatriates and a growing and thriving local population make Siem Reap a fascinating place to live for those with an adventurous spirit who do not need every comfort of the developed world.
There is a plentiful supply of western-style accommodation in and around the town center. Upon arrival the school accommodates teachers in a hotel and assists with finding suitable rental houses or apartments, which provide a very comfortable standard of living. There are well-stocked supermarkets in town and several farmers' markets offer fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and poultry. Fast food outlets and cyber cafes have sprung up alongside more traditional Khmer restaurants, while a broad range of international cuisines cater to a variety of tastes.
Many teachers take the opportunity to join gyms or enjoy swimming and spa facilities at one of the many hotels and resorts. Several faculty and students also participate in the Angkor Wat Half Marathon and the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride. Siem Reap is located close to the banks of the Tonle Sap, one of the world's great inland lakes and it provides a relaxing setting for a Sunday afternoon's boating.
Local transportation is mostly by tuk-tuk, motorbike or bicycle, with car and truck traffic on the increase. Although the school provides a teachers' bus, some JPA teachers choose to travel to and from school via motorbike and soon become familiar with busy traffic and road rules Siem Reap-style.
Siem Reap features a tropical wet and dry climate. The city is generally hot throughout the course of the year, with average high temperatures rarely falling below 30 C in any month. It has a relatively lengthy wet season which starts in April and ends in November. The dry season covers the remaining four months. The city averages approximately 1500 mm of rainfall per year.
The town is 6 km or about 10 minutes drive from the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport. Siem Reap is accessible by direct flights from many Asian cities, with the majority of tourists flying in from Bangkok or Phnom Penh, or coming by land from Phnom Penh and the Thai border. It's also accessible by boat and bus from Phnom Penh.
In order to visit Cambodia, a passport with at least six month validity is required. Cambodian visas are available to most nationalities on arrival at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh international airports, at overseas Cambodian embassies, at most international border crossing checkpoints in Cambodia, and through the online E-Visa procedure. JPA assists teachers with visa renewal.
The most memorable aspect of a stay in Cambodia is the resilient and welcoming people. Cambodians are hospitable, friendly and love the opportunity to interact with visiting expats. Your attempts to speak Khmer will be richly rewarded and your time spent in Cambodia will remain among your most cherished memories.