Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap

Phare, The Cambodian Circus – Siem Reap

Phare, The Cambodian Circus – Siem Reap

Words: Monica Tindall
Photos: Han Sen Hau

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a treasure trove for travellers. The awe-inspiring temples of Angkor Wat are among the topmost itineraries, but a trip wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the electrifying energy of Phare, The Cambodian Circus. More than just a night of dazzling acrobatics, Phare offers a glimpse into Cambodia’s rich culture and a chance to support a remarkable social initiative.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus

Phare, The Cambodian Circus - main entrance
Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Phare, The Cambodian Circus - food stalls for a pre-show bite
Food Stalls Worth Checking Out Pre-show

From Trauma to Transformation: The Phare Ponleu Selpak Story

Phare, The Cambodian Circus’s story begins not under the Big Top but in the aftermath of Cambodia’s devastating Khmer Rouge regime. In 1994, nine young men who had fled to refugee camps during this dark period returned home. They had experienced the kindness of a French woman in the refugee camp who had helped them cope with the trauma through the arts. Bringing these skills home, they were able to dream of a way to empower Cambodian youth, giving them a chance to also leave the trauma and poverty surrounding them—their answer: Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), a vocational training centre in Battambang.

PPS offered not just education and job skills but a space for healing and self-expression. One fortuitous encounter with a French circus artist sparked a new direction. Circus arts, with their blend of physical discipline, artistic freedom, and storytelling potential, became the perfect medium for these young people. Thus, Phare Circus was born.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus Back-stage Tour
A Back-stage Tour is Highly Informative
Phare, The Cambodian Circus - costume design
A Peek at the Costumes
Phare, The Cambodian Circus - tailor making costumes
Costumes Made by Hand

From Humble Beginnings to International Acclaim

The early days were challenging. With limited resources and training, the performers honed their craft in makeshift spaces. Yet, their raw talent and captivating stories resonated with audiences. Their unique blend of traditional dance, acrobatics, and contemporary themes spread.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus performances transcended the boundaries of entertainment. They tackled Cambodia’s complex history, weaving narratives of resilience, hope, and the power of community. International recognition soon followed, with performances across the globe and rave reviews in prestigious publications.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus - A Local School Performs Pre-show
A Local School Performs Pre-show
Phare, The Cambodian Circus - Young Performers
Young Performers

A Night of Spectacle with a Social Impact

Today, Phare, The Cambodian Circus, stands tall in Siem Reap, housed in a traditional, iconic circus Big Top. Arrive early to soak up the pre-show buzz. Savour delicious Cambodian street food, browse local crafts and witness the infectious energy of the performers as they mingle with the crowd.

As the lights dim and the show begins, prepare to be mesmerized. Acrobatic feats defy gravity, contortionists bend in ways seemingly impossible, and aerial artists paint breathtaking pictures in the air. Live music and evocative lighting add depth to the stories unfolding before your eyes.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus’s strength lies in its ability to seamlessly blend acrobatics with cultural narratives. One moment, you might be witnessing a reenactment of an ancient Cambodian folktale, and the next, a powerful commentary on social issues. The show is a powerful reminder of Cambodia’s enduring spirit and the transformative power of art.

Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap - acrobats
Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap - skilled performer
Skilled Performer
Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap - amazing balancing act
Impressive Core Strength
Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap - juggler on ladder
Just Look at that Balance
Must Things To Do & See In Siem Reap - balancing act
Variety of Skills Showcased

Beyond the Performance: Supporting a Sustainable Future

The impact of Phare extends far beyond the stage. Proceeds from ticket sales directly fund PPS, ensuring a brighter future for disadvantaged Cambodian youth. The organization provides comprehensive education, not just in circus arts but also in areas like English, music, and computer skills. This holistic approach equips students with the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty and become self-sufficient members of society.

Some Phare, The Cambodian Circus graduates go on to successful careers in circus arts, performing around the world. Others choose different paths, using their acquired skills to contribute to Cambodia’s development. The success stories are a testament to the impact of Phare’s mission.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus - store with handmade crafts
Take A Browse in the Store Pre or Post Show


Prices start at USD 18 for free seating and go up to USD 43 for assigned seating and a private backstage tour. Alternatively, guests can book out the entire big top for their group from USD 4200.

Why Phare, The Cambodian Circus Belongs on Your Siem Reap Itinerary

Phare, The Cambodian Circus is a must-see for any Siem Reap visitor. It’s not just a fun show but a cultural experience that tells Cambodian stories and supports young artists. Attending the circus is a way to both enjoy a night of entertainment and contribute to Cambodia’s cultural revival. Don’t miss this opportunity to be amazed and support a worthy cause!

Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Intersection Ring Road, South of the Sok San Rd
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
+855 92 225 320

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One Comment

  1. One needs to be in shape to be a circus.

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