Phare, The Cambodian Circus

What’s to do in Siem Reap? See ancient temples, of course, and then book your bus to Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. What else?

I’ll tell you what else, because it would be a real shame to miss out on one of the best things Cambodia has to offer just because nobody told you about it. (I found out about it on this website)

DSC_1697[1]My only included activities in Cambodia on my Bamba pass are:

A visit to Angkor Wat et all

A quad bike tour of the killing fields

Now, I’ve explained in my last post why I think it’s worth seeing the temples at Siem Reap, and it would seem crass in the worst way to come to Cambodia and learn nothing about the most horrific chapter of its past. But it’s SO important to remember that this country has a future, too!

Phare is investing heavily in that future. Far more than just a tourist attraction, Phare is built around a social mission:

“Phare Performing Social Enterprise has three complimentary social missions: Provide gainful employment to Cambodian youth from difficult social and economic backgrounds, financially sustain our parent organization Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO school thereby contributing to the rebirth of Cambodian modern art.”

‘D’aw,’ I hear you cooing ‘You went to see a school play in Cambodia!’ It’s a cute idea, but the young people who work at Phare, from the front of house staff to the performers, are total professionals. I felt welcome as soon as I picked up my ticket. From there you walk through a boutique of arts and crafts made by students at an art school which the foundation supports — and when you buy a piece of artwork, the student gets the money. There’s also a cafe and finally the big red top where the magic happens.


It isn’t an animals-and-fiery-hoops type circus. It’s basically acrobatics, circus tricks, acting, music and dance smooshed together. If that makes it sound high-falutin, it totally isn’t. If you take your kids to Siem Reap, this is one of those things you would enjoy as much as them (as long as they haven’t spent 8 hours being dragged around temples in 30 degree heat that same day :P)

The performance I went to see was called Preu (Chills). Before the performance videos about Phare Ponleu Selpak’s work play, so that you can learn more about the foundation and during the performance (which is in Khmer), subtitles play on these screens in English, French and Japanese. This definitely helps as the performance does have a plot, although a lot of storytelling is also done physically, through choreography and facial expressions, with plenty of opportunity provided for the young performers to show off their acrobatic skills, which really are extrodinary. I didn’t think it was physically possible for people to do some of the things that Phare’s performers did, though I may not have photographed the most spellbinding bits because, well, I was too busy enjoying them! You’ll just have to book a trip to Siem Reap for yourselves.


Let's hear it for the band
Let’s hear it for the band

Phare performs nightly at 8pm. Open seat tickets are $18 for ages 12+ and you have to go a little on the early side to have your pick of seat 🙂

And while we’re on this sustainable tourism lark….

I also found a boutique called Wild Poppy near Siem Reap’s old market which sold gorgeous clothes, jewellery and crafts made by local women, paid fairly. I bought a bracelet made out of an old fork for $3.50 which is a similar if not better price than you will pay for the generic tourist market stuff. I can’t remember the exact address but it’s below this hair salon.


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