When I talk to people about living in Siem Reap, I tend to get the following responses: “There is never anything to do,” “It is just so hot all the time!” and “The community spirit is incredible, but I need to escape the bubble every so often”. I could not disagree more, I’ve come across a heap of interesting and arty things to see and do. Okay, the heat I may have to agree with, but if you choose to live in a country that is on the equator, you should be prepared for plus-35 temperatures for half the year round…
So, in my first week in town, I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastically enthusiastic German guy who runs a long term community art project which aims to bring together those who love all forms of art, and his personal passion for pancakes, which he has logically named PANCART. He has historically managed to hunt down local artists who present their art, maybe in a public space or at his pancARTHOUSE (where he often has a resident artist staying via the brilliant airbnb), whilst he makes pancakes for all to enjoy. It really is a perfect combination. I mean… have you ever met a person who says they don’t like pancakes?The PANCART events that I’ve been involved with to date include a Music/Art fundraiser for a local NGO school (non-government organisation, which also generally means they are non-profit), a pre-organised feminist rap night followed by an open mic, the production of giant purple cardboard elephants for a food festival, film-viewing on a weekly(ish) basis and just general food-sharing and merry-making. I may even be getting on to the yoga scene, but I’ve never been one for flexibility, so we’ll just have to see about that one. It is a fantastic way to meet creative people, and even if you’re like me and can’t draw for toffee, it’s a great way to make friends. Although, since becoming a teacher, I’ve actually found that my drawing skills are improving! Now you can at least distinguish between a cat and a cow… You can read more about my good friend and the founder of PANCART here.
I had timed my re-arrival in Siem Reap beautifully with the start of the first ever annual Friendship and Music Festival. A lot of time and energy had gone into organising wonderful and (mostly) free events every evening for a whole week in the middle of February. I got to see some incredible drummer girls who had travelled all the way from Madagascar. There was an open air concert on the last Saturday afternoon/evening where I met some girls that I’m really great friends with now! There was a Battle of the Bands competition, and at a different gig I got to see world famous chapey-dong veng player Master Kong Nay in action. I skipped over a pop-rock concert for a band called Dengue Fever, but I know a lot of people who went and I’ve only heard good things about the gig. There was also a Giant Puppet Parade through the streets of Siem Reap town, celebrating 2016 being the year of the Monkey and that really was a great show, with a fantastic atmosphere that tourists, expats and locals all enjoyed together.
I hear a lot of great things on Facebook pages that are aimed directly at the Expat community, so there is always something of interest going on. Whether it’s a food festival, the opening of a new bar, themed nights, Farmer’s Markets, karaoke, pool parties, Pool competitions (I haven’t played so much Pool since I was at uni…), live music nights, there is always something cool being advertised on the Expats page. In fact, that’s a good point too… what is the criteria for being an expat? Personally, I was born in the UK, and I have a British passport; I have chosen to live abroad, albeit for a fairly short period of time, so does that automatically make me an expat? So why then, are my grandparents called emigrants when they moved from India to England in the ‘60’s? If I am the progeny of an emigrant, can I ever hold the title ‘expat’? Food for thought and I’d love to know what you think. Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order.