There’s a circus in Battambang, and you can’t miss it! Tucked away down a quiet residential street, this hidden gem is a must visit in Cambodia, and something you definitely won’t regret.
What’s it all about?
The Phare Ponleu Selpak is an NGO in Cambodia and does some excellent work in the arts, which is a cause close to my heart! They provide training for children and teens, allowing them to access a variety of visual arts and performing arts classes. There’s also education programmes for young ones, getting them ready for public school. It’s a great organisation and a real resource for local kids, allowing them to train and experience new skills and create a career in the arts.
As a part of their training, students can learn circus skills. The PPS gives them an opportunity to perform every evening, and to hone their amazing performances in front of an audience. There’s a larger Phare Circus in Siem Reap, where some of the students move to once their training is complete. Many from the school go on to be professional performers, and have performed all over the world!
Because the circus in Battambang is for the training performers, it’s a little more reasonably priced than in Siem Reap. It’s worth a visit if you’re trying to save cash and can’t make the larger show, or if you want to support the local students! We noticed that most of the other visitors we’d spotted in town were at the same show as us, it’s a big pull for anyone visiting!
How does it work?
The PPS has its own big top venue, and can be easily reached by tuk tuk from town for $1-2 each way. We walked it there, but the fear of stray dog bites was high. Probably easier to get a tuk tuk there and back! Tickets can be bought across town, we got ours at our guesthouse, and are $15 each.
Before the show, there are a few things you can do. There is a gallery of work presented by some of the visual arts students, which is well worth checking out. There’s seemingly an endless display of talent on offer at this school! An onsite bar and small shop are also open prior to the show. You can have a drink, or buy a print made by a student. The perfect souvenir to take home!
The performance schedule rotates through the week, and each day there’s a different story. On the night we visited, we saw the ‘Cabaret’. It consisted of a series of small stories, each weaving into the next. Before the Cabaret began we were treated to some traditional Cambodian dance. It was so interesting to watch, and very intricate! Some of the other shows tell local folklore, or Cambodian history, we’d love to return and watch a different performance!
The show itself
With a small troupe of enthusiastic performers, the show began and we were eager to see what would unfold. Each vignette showcased a variety of circus skills. We loved watching the boys and girls tumble around the stage, jumping and leaping off of one another. Some of the balancing acts were hard to watch, we didn’t want anyone to fall!
There were a few stumbles through the show, but nothing too major. Towards the finale, the guys struggled to complete a tricky manoeuvre involving lots of jumping in the air and catching each other. After three tries they nailed it, and the crowd went WILD! The atmosphere was electric and we were all enthusiastically clapping.
Visit the Phare Ponleu Selpak
If you’re in Battambang, the circus is a must visit. We were so glad that we booked tickets and went, we’ll never forget it. Add it to your list. Who knows, maybe you’ll leave wanting to join the circus too!