Phare, The Cambodian Circus originated in Battambang but now has a permanent home in Siem Reap. It’s the Cambodian equivalent of the world famous Cirque du Soleil. The purpose built tent is located on the outskirts of Siem Reap and all participants have trained at the Phare Ponleu Selpak. Phare is one of the most popular places to visit in Siem Reap with kids. Definitely one of my favourite things to do in Siem Reap besides temples!
This organisation was founded by 8 men over 20 years ago who returned to Battambang from a refugee camp after the demise of the Khmer Rouge regime. They created the school to assist the poor and the local street kids and gave them an opportunity to learn new skills that would assist them creating an income stream later in life. Phare Ponleu Seplak currently has up to 1700 students across its public daily school and its alternative school focusing on music and the arts.
I had been told about the circus but had a pretty busy itinerary while we were there so I hadn’t put a huge amount of research into it. We tend to like the cultural experiences when we are travelling and when we arrived Craig and I started to discuss seeing an Aspara Cambodian Cultural dance show and dinner.
Being so busy we forgot about it until out last couple of days so thought we may have missed our opportunity. On our way out for zip lining with Flight of the Gibbon I quickly had a chat with the lovely ladies at the tour desk. They suggested that the kids might enjoy this experience a little more and noted that it was very popular with guests. There are a surprising amount of things to do in Siem Reap, and the tour desk staff are more than happy to assist.
This was our last night in Siem Reap so I was expecting that it would be difficult to get seats so I asked the girls to go ahead and see how they go. The show is a little on the expensive side (listed below in costs section) so we decided to go with B reserve seating. The tour desk operator come back and confirmed that the seats were available, I had the cash on me so handed it over and she gave me a voucher to hand in at the ticket box that evening. We then went and had an awesome day of zip lining.
After an afternoon by the pool we had showers, a quick bite to eat in the hotel restaurant, we stayed at Prince d’Angkor Hotel and Spa grabbed a tuk-tuk from outside and headed to the Phare Circus. Our tuk-tuk cost USD10 return but it will vary depending on where you are staying. We had the most amazing tuk-tuk driver while in Siem Reap and I highly recommend him. We arrived as advised and went to the ticket counter to collect our tickets without any issues.
We were shown to our seats and low and behold if weren’t escorted to front row seats. Now I’m not sure if the hotel organised that or if it was a coincidence but either way we were pretty happy with our spot. It can’t be attributed to wanting a favourable post on my site as I hadn’t told anyone in Siem Reap that I was a blogger so I can only put it down to exceptional service on behalf of someone. If you read my post above on our hotel stay you will know that this seemed to be a consistent theme for us. We had been very fortunate with our stay in Siem Reap, from hotel upgrades and prime seating for no apparent reason.
It was a full house this night and was also stinking hot and humid and that was exacerbated once we were in a cramped tent. You could see that the performers were really feeling it too. I’m not going to go too much into the story line as it will spoil it for others but the story follows the history of Cambodia in a theatrical way and at times can get a little dark and scary for the little ones.
About halfway through Keira suddenly got overwhelmed by the heat and was nearly sick. Craig grabbed her and took her straight out as he was sitting on the end near the aisle. The staff there knew straight away what was happening and before Craig had the opportunity to say anything, one of the ladies had tied up her hair, had a cold compress around her neck and someone else had grabbed a bottle of cold water for her. The nausea passed very quickly thanks to their very quick response to the situation, I can’t be more thankful for that. The staff told Craig he could go back in and we they would look after her but while that was a lovely offer Craig chose to stay.
Keira’s turn was unfortunate as while she was gone there was the most amazing display of acrobatics. Keira is a gymnast and would have thoroughly enjoyed (and possibly tried for herself) this part of the show. They really are extremely talented artists. Keira and Craig returned for the end of the show and Keira was feeling much better. She bought her water back with her and continued to drink it slowly.
At the end of the show, the performers ask for donations for the local homeless and disadvantaged children and we provided all our Cambodian currency as we were leaving the next morning. The kids went up and put it in the basket and the performers greeted the kids and engaged with them. I noticed throughout the performance that with our kids in the front row, the performers were making a lot of eye contact with them and made funny faces at them as part of the show.
After we left, the tent cleared out really quickly. I was a little concerned how I would find our tuk-tuk driver but true to form he found us. All the tuk-tuk’s headed back to town in a procession and we went back to our hotel to start packing for our departure the next day.
As I said earlier, by Cambodian standards this experience is on the expensive side. Well more expensive than what I was expecting but to be fair i think most things in Siem Reap were more expensive than I was expecting, maybe because it’s becoming a very popular tourist destination and they can charge more I don’t know but I still think this experience is worth visiting regardless of the cost as the profit is going to a good cause.
As the pricing will fluctuate, for your current prices for visiting Phare, The Cambodian Circus.
My suggestion is that you either book yourself online through the above link or book through your tour desk on arrival as you don’t require a travel agent or other online booking agents i.e. Viator to do this for you. It will end up costing you more if you do it that way.
We loved the show, I am very glad that we decided to go and provide the kids with such a great experience. We were able to talk the kids through a cleansed version of the history of Cambodia and they were able to follow the story line. A couple of parts the little ones got a bit scared but the story finishes on a happy note so that was soon forgotten.
It’s also great that the profits go back to assisting the disadvantaged and that made me feel that I had made a small contribution. I think it’s a great experience for everyone, I would have loved it even if we didn’t have the kids and its appropriate for all ages. If however you think this is not appropriate for your kids, Tree House Nursery comes highly recommended from one of my readers, click the link for more details. We found plenty of things to do in Siem Reap with kids and hope that you do too.
There was no flash photography allowed during the performance so my photos are a bit dodgy so I apologies for that.
Have you been to Phare, The Cambodian Circus? Please leave you comments below and let me know what you think.
Sal & Co.