The most famous of all Cambodia’s temples is a short cycle from the home of Irishman Donal Mulvey.
“I live in Siem Reap, the seat of the Khmer kingdom, which is only 8 km from the temple of Angkor Wat. ”
Immortalized in the country’s flag and in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the 12th-century temple mountain has created a tourist hub for the city that Mulvey calls home.
“I’ve seen it change so much since I moved here in 2015. Tourism has brought great prosperity to many people in the area. Over the past seven years, the minimum monthly wage has risen from around €70 to €120, the roads are improving and the number of SUVs on the streets has increased exponentially. »
Originally from Virginia in County Cavan, Mulvey had no aspirations of settling in Cambodia but, after taking a media production course at Ballyfermot College, he decided to head to Australia on a one-year visa. “I had a great job running a vineyard in Perth, leading a team and wanted to stay, but once my visa expired I had to consider other options.
“I wasn’t ready to go back to Ireland so in 2010 I moved to Vietnam. I was delighted to get a teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City within days, before getting a job at TTXVN – the official state news agency based in Hanoi as a news editor. English chef. The Vietnam News Agency operates more than 60 offices in Vietnam and 30 around the world and has more than 400 radio and television stations and 1,000 journalists under its umbrella.
“I worked there for two years taking care of . . . information products, including television, magazines, mobile platforms and group-owned websites.
Mulvey says he got to know Hanoi – the landlocked capital – very well during his time there. “It’s a very lively place, with temples and a lively old quarter.
“But it’s the noisiest city I’ve ever lived in, with drivers choosing to beep rather than follow the rules of the road.”
After a short stay in the Netherlands, Mulvey moved to Cambodia to teach English, but found freelance work as a proofreader.
“All business in Asia is done in English, so all documents have to be proofread. I work for companies of all sizes, especially those involved in the tourism industry. This is an excellent freelance position, which pays quite well by Cambodian standards.
Mulvey says it proves for local businesses, from restaurants to finance houses, as well as businesses in neighboring countries. “Before the pandemic, Cambodia went through a significant transition, reaching lower middle class status and increasing growth every year. But it has been really affected by Covid-19, especially in tourism and industry.
Things are slowly picking up. “It was incredibly quiet during the pandemic, as around 2.6 million people visit Angkor Wat from abroad every year. They’ve just started coming back again, which is great for the region.
In terms of living space, Mulvey considers himself very lucky. “I live in a nice one bedroom apartment for only €150 a month. Needless to say, I wouldn’t get anything like it at home. I used to live in pure luxury for €350 which also had a pool.
“I don’t drive here, but I have a bike and I cycle everywhere. Before the pandemic, I also traveled a lot in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. The beaches here are stunning and I regularly visited M’Pai Bay and Saracen Bay which are stunning. I can’t wait to travel again. I have been here mainly since the start of the pandemic.
Mulvey says the Irish community in Vietnam and Cambodia has grown rapidly in recent years, with more than a thousand Irish living in the area. “Most of them, like me, work in education or business. In Vietnam, there is an Irish professional association and the embassy in Hanoi supports Irish people in the region with community activities.
“I believe there is a GAA club here, but I think most Irish people here are happy to create a new life for themselves not to search for themselves. That said, I have met some wonderful Irish people who live here.
Mulvey says visas are easy to apply for Westerners. “There’s still a misconception that they think white people are rich, so if you apply for a work visa, you’ll get it.”
Much has changed since the fall of the Pol Pot regime, where the Khmer Rouge killed up to three million people in pursuit of a classless agrarian society. “The conflict ended more than four decades ago, and most people were born after the conflict and have no experience of it.
“That said, it’s political, but not on the ground in everyday life. The country is ruled by the Cambodian People’s Party, with a monarch as head of state. If you keep your head down, you won’t have any problems.
Mulvey says he is happy living in Southeast Asia and has no plans to return to Ireland.
“I’m happy to live in a beautiful place, to go on bike rides every day and to enjoy the food and the hospitality of the people. It’s been an easy life for me, but it’s slowed down a bit and I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities as it opens up to the world again.