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Catching the Phare Circus in Siem Reap Mar 29, 2016

Catching the Phare Circus in Siem Reap

Show Title: Sokha
Location: Phare Circus Ring Road, south of the intersection with Sok San Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
GPS waypoint: 13°21'18.6"N 103°50'22.1"E

Circus from Battambang
When I visited Battambang in Sep 2014, the highlight for me was catching the night circus by Phare. Now in Siem Reap, I see that the same group is showcasing circus events as well. I didn't want to miss it!

Phare, The Cambodian Circus
The Phare circus is an entertaining narrative of Cambodia's culture, folklore and history using drama, music, modern circus, art, dance and theater to convey its message. Its shows are performed by students and graduates from its training center in Battambang, the Phare Ponleu Selpak. These students come from horrifying social and economic backgrounds and have taken refuge at Phare. Without knowing this backdrop, it would be hard to notice seeing how talented and impassioned these people are.

Background on Phare
In 1994 after the expulsion of the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia, 9 survivors of the genocide took refuge in Battambang where they were helped by a teacher who used art as therapy to the troubled youngsters. This was the genesis that pioneered an art school offering free education, followed by a music school, then a theater school and finally, a circus school. Revenue generated by the circus takes the graduates and students out of poverty and help develop their self-respect and confidence.

Sokha, Phare Circus

Sokha Storyline
The circus play begins during an innocent time in Cambodian history when Cambodia was free, progressive and peaceful. It was a time of fun and upliftment. That was before the US bombing of Cambodia (and nearby Laos) in its effort to escalate the Vietnam war and before the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. The upheaval was depicted through the lives of Sokha, a female Khmer, and her community. The story continues into the horrors and brutality of the Khmer Rouge occupation, followed by the insurmountable difficulties of recovery. Finally, they begin to rebuild and find themselves inching towards normalcy and progress. The entire show is a mosaic of live painting by Robit Pen, original live music, drama, circus acrobatics and balancing feats, dance and movement. The circus ends on an optimistic note.

Risa HashimotoRisa
I was joined to the circus by Risa, a Japanese whom I met in Battambang over a year ago. We traveled together by boat to Siem Reap and biked around the city and to Angkor Wat. I am surprised that she chose to stay in Siem Reap. It was all good seeing her again and coming to the circus together.

Craig DodgeCraig Dodge
My attendance was through the kindness of Craig Dodge, the indefatigable Sales and Marketing Director of the center. I and Risa had an engaging conversation with him prior to the show. He talked about his vision and the way he leveraged on his travels and tours background to increase viewership. I sensed his passion and dedication about his crusade and more importantly, how effective he is. What was once an obscure circus act three years ago is now a global phenomenon enjoying full bookings.

Robit PenRobit Pen
The surprise of the evening was seeing Robit doing the live painting on the show. I met him in Battambang after doing my Vipassana course. He is also a Vipassana meditator. We hung out in Battambang together with Sokun and Cheanik, all Vipassana meditators as well.

Ending Thoughts
The fact that your money goes to uplift the plight of these students who want a better life for themselves is already a homerun. But watching this circus is a double header. Even if it was a purely commercial circus with no cause whatsoever, you get your money's worth. The circus act was spot-on with its surgical precision and high entertainment value. It was moving, compelling and powerful! A must-see when visiting Siem Reap.

--- TheLoneRider

Phare, the Cambodian Circus

with Risa at the box office at the store where art work can be purchased the outdoor space is expansive for alfresco dining and chilling out the big top
Risa and I were joined by Craig Dodge it was a packed night the show starts off with a flash back innocent times in Cambodia...Robit playing teacher role
chaos begins US bombs rained down on Cambodia an incredible balancing act the onslaught of the Khmer Rouge
the reign of terror a cry for help into the dark days of Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge, people were still haunted by the nightmare
on the road to recovery the healing continues the man-woman band were heroes of the show providing live scoring aiming for normalcy
triumph on the horizon coming back full circle a standing ovation for cast and crew post-show interaction with the cast
surprising Robit en route home, a passenger on Risa's bike    
Phare, the Cambodian Circus

Phare, the Cambodian Circus

Show Title: Sokha
Location: Phare Circus Ring Road, south of the intersection with Sok San Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: +855 92 225 320
Showtime: nightly at 8pm (no admission when show starts)

Siem Reap Cost Index (US$1 = Riel 4049 = Php 46.47 as of Mar 26, 2016)

  1. $2.00 haircut (they'll price you at $3 but local price is only $2)
  2. $0.50 one mug draft beer
  3. $0.50 1.5 liter drinking water
  4. $4.00 one hour massage
  5. $2.00 muesli breakfast
  6. $0.50-1.50 coffee
  7. $2.00 pad thai
  8. $1.00 bicycle rental, 24 hours
  9. $0.25 sugar cane juice in a plastic cup
  10. $0.50 fresh coconut
  11. $5.00/day single fan rooms
  12. $4.00/day dorm lodging at Garden Village Guesthouse
  13. $18.00 starting price for Phare circus
  14. $1.00/kilo laundry
  15. $1.00 regular tuk-tuk ride around town
  16. $15.00 tuk-tuk ride for a short tour of Angkor Wat
  17. $20.00 Angkor Wat admission fee
  18. $8.00 1-hour drop-in yoga session
  19. $5.00 Alibaba pants (asking price is usually $8 but they'll go down to $5)

How to Get to Siem Reap Proper from the airport

  1. take a tuk-tuk at the airport to the town center, $5/trip (you can split the cost with other passengers from your plane), 10 min

Siem Reap FYI / Tips

  • no need to convert your dollars into riel. All establishments in Cambodia accept US dollars.

Cambodia Blogs by TheLoneRider

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Mar 29, 2016

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