Phare Cambodian Circus
Siem Reap is famous for being where you stay when visiting the world heritage site of Angkor Wat; but there are a whole variety of things to do in between exploring the temples that will compete for your time whilst in town and one of them is a visit to the circus.
Hang on, vegan travelers telling people to visit the circus?
That’s right, we whole heartedly recommend a trip to Phare Cambodian Circus which is not only an animal free circus (awesome) but is also a great example of how your tourist $ can benefit local people while you have a memorable evening that might even just inspire you too.
Oh and they also happen to make amazing vegan food; this is ‘responsible tourism’ at it’s best.
People everywhere seem to be talking a lot more about ‘responsible tourism’, wanting their travel experiences to benefit others or contribute to those that may need some help in life. It’s a positive developing trend in the travel industry and one that we are particularly pleased about as vegan travellers who care about our environment .
By providing employment to Cambodian youth from difficult social and economic backgrounds and financially sustaining the excellent Phare Ponleu Selpak school, which offers arts education to children and young people in Battambang, the organisation is hugely contributing to the rebirth of Cambodian modern art; these guys have really got it going on.
Our night at the circus started with a 3 course vegan menu at the Phare Cafe, right next to the Big Top; there is a veggie option on the existing menu but they are more than happy to offer vegan dining (just let them know in advance).
We ate traditional Khmer food which had been adjusted to make it 100% plant-based, meaning we got to experience some local Cambodian cuisine too.
Our first course was a tofu and banana blossom salad full of fresh herbs and vegetables mixed together with lightly fried tofu and a light zesty dressing and finished with crushed peanuts; we’ve tasted a few vegan banana blossom salads during our time in this part of the world but this one was right up there with the best.
This was followed by a traditional Cambodian ‘amok’ curry, served in a fresh coconut. The creamy coconut milk based curry sauce was lightly spiced, soothingly rich and full of tofu and seasonal vegetables like broccoli, peppers and pumpkin. The mild creamy sauce went perfectly with sweet and savoury pumpkin flavours and generous cubes of firm tofu; definitely our idea of vegan food heaven.
Finally we were served dessert, which when you’re vegan can often be a little disappointing. No such disappointment at Phare Cafe where we enjoyed not 1, not 2 but 3 Cambodia desserts beautifully presented on a platter with traditional banana leaf and bamboo skewers.
We ate warm bananas covered in a sticky palm sugar caramel with fresh coconut, delicate little ‘nom pla aye’ rice flour dumplings filled with crunchy palm sugar and topped with fresh shredded coconut and the most delicious pieces of pineapple stewed in that palm sugar caramel.
Having a meal this delicious is normally our idea of a good night out, so we were already smiling when we took our seats in the Big Top for the main event, a show called ‘Sokha’ which depicts the story of the founders of Phare Ponleu Selpak.
The story is set in 3 historical periods covering Sokha’s childhood before the war, the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people and the re-birth and rejuvenation of the country in the post-war period. Acrobatics, circus skills, body contortion, music and dance all combine together to tell a powerful story which has hope and optimism at its heart.
We loved the incorporation of live painting into the performance which brought a different dimension to the show as the artist painted scenes that represented each part of the story, right before our eyes.
And of course the strength, flexibility and skill of the performers never ceased to amaze us as they performed the near impossible with a light hearted spirit and camaraderie that was uplifting and mesmerising to watch.
But this show also gave performers a chance to demonstrate a deeper emotional side to their talents, with moving scenes depicting the trauma of war and it’s after effects as well as of gratitude and serenity in the final scenes.
Head to Phare Circus and not only will you have an awesome night out with the chance to eat a delicious vegan meal, but you’ll be contributing to this amazing movement to create art, opportunity and hope for hundreds of Cambodian young people.
Like we said, this really is responsible tourism at it’s best.
Phare Cambodian Circus
(at the end of Sok San Raad)
Phone: +855 (0) 15 499 480