Cambodia’s entertainment industry has recovered since the late 1970s; and now ranges from gracious traditional arts such as the apsara dance (with a close link to the artistic zenith of Angkor and popular among visitors), to the city cocktail lounges and clubs (offering live music performances and a leisurely atmosphere).
- Watch a traditional Cambodian puppet dance show
- Be enchanted by the gracious movements of apsara dancers
- Sing along to the best live music performances in Phnom Penh
- Sip well-mixed cocktails at the best cocktail lounges in town
- Start your night adventures at city night markets
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Traditional dance and theater
Most traditional Cambodian dance and theater performances were disrupted during the Khmer Rouge regime, but owing to the incessant efforts of Cambodian artists, such cultural events are now well-preserved, flourishing as the pride of the country.
Sovannaphum Arts: Traditional Dance and Puppets Show
A one-hour show telling the epic Ramayana story, offers a unique mixture of traditional dance, puppet show and humor. Dancers hold the puppets while dancing behind a white background. By using light manipulation, they create a beautiful shadow dance.
The show is convened on a small outdoor stage. You’ll be seated near the musicians, which means it can be loud. The show is narrated in Khmer. English translation is provided, but is limited.
After the show, you are welcome to go to the stage to interact and take pictures with the dancers. If you’re lucky they will teach you one or two of the dance movements!
Location: 166, Street 99|Phsar Doeum Thkov Commune, Chamkar Mon District, Phnom Penh (on the corner of street 484 and street 99)
Performance times: 7.30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays
Ticket information: US$ 10, contact +855 10 337 552 for more information.
Apsara dance shows
Apsara dance represents the beauty of Khmer culture and its women. The centuries-old dance is performed by women who represent goddesses and celestial figures, narrating classical myths.
The intricate, gentle yet graceful dance (watch the dancers’ fingers!) embellished by majestic costumes and loud yet unique traditional Khmer music, used to be reserved for entertaining royals; but nowadays anyone can enjoy it.
Apsara Arts Association: the Dance School
The Apsara Arts Association has been one of the pioneers in preserving and developing apsara dance, as well as one of the first apsara dance schools in Cambodia.
To become a professional apsara dancer, one may have to start practicing at a young age. At this school you will see how little girls of various ages are trained in this dance.
During their training, you may find the student dancers on stage with the teacher, who corrects their movements and singing. You can have a seat and support the students’ learning by keeping quiet and not using too much flash during the routine.
Location: 71 Street 598, Phnom Penh
Opening times: Performances are on Saturdays at 7 pm; student training is from Monday to Sunday from 7.30 to 10.30 am and from 2 to 5 pm.
Ticket information: US$ 6-7, contact 012 979335 for more information.
Angkor Village Hotel: Apsara Dance Show and Dinner
Angkor Village Hotel is renowned for its beautiful traditional Khmer architectural style. Its spacious yet quaint theater offers a great experience of simultaneously enjoying apsara dance and Cambodian food.
The dinner is served as a set menu. It consists of a diverse range of 6 small portions of dishes, such as shrimp with yellow curry and lemon marinated fish salad. Wine is also available.
A helpful booklet introducing the program, the names of the dancers, and the stories of the dances is also provided.
Location: Wat Bo Road, Siem Reap
Opening times: 7.30 pm daily
Ticket information: +855 63 963 561, email@example.com
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Contemporary Cambodian music
Cambodia’s traditional music is represented by pinpeat, the orchestra that performs for traditional dances like apsara or shadow dances.
The orchestra usually consists of nine to twelve wind and percussion instruments, such as ching (cymbals) roneat (bamboo xylophone), gong (bronze gong), pai au (flute), sralai (oboe), chapey (bass banjo) and various kinds of drum.
In recent years, more Cambodians have begun to enjoy contemporary music like jazz or other upbeat dance music. Below we recommend a place where you can enjoy such music.
Jazz Club Phnom Penh
Jazz Club is located in the heart of the city and frequently hosts live music performances from Cambodian or foreign artists in various genres, such as gipsy jazz, or Cambodian music.
The club may remind you of an 80s Parisian jazz club, with elegant decorations and intimate yet relaxing ambience. Signature cocktails like pinacolada and snacks are ready, to help you relax.
Location: St. 315, No 87, Sangkat Boeung Kork 2, Phnom Penh
Opening times: 8 pm to 1 am
Ticket information: 092 094 176/097 209 4176
Nightclubs and bars
Bars weren’t part of traditional Cambodian culture, but with the growing tourism, more Cambodians enjoy spending time with friends in places with good ambience, and the number of nightclubs and bars is increasing.
The bars are equipped with a growing choice of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, served in pleasant environments; some even enjoy the city’s best river views. We list some bars below.
Le Moon Rooftop Bar
Ranked 4th on TripAdvisor, the Rooftop Bar is renowned for its ambience. Located at the river and the top of a busy street, the place is perfect for sitting awhile and enjoying the sunset and city lights, with some frozen margaritas or spritz.
Location: Street 154, Corner Sisowath Quay, Level 3 of Amanjaya Hotel
Opening times: Sundays 5 pm to 12 am, Mondays to Saturdays 5 pm to 1 am
Average cost starts from US$ 5
Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC)
The FCC has a faded-yellow walled lounge with a colonial atmosphere, and cool breezes at night. Get your best Mekong River view here, or if you like, gaze down at the busy traffic jams from the second floor, while sipping cocktails or cold beer.
The FCC also has a wide range of food ranging, from Asian to Western.
Location: 363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
Opening times: happy hours from 5 to 7 pm (perfect for enjoying the sunset), then 10 pm to midnight, daily.
Average Cost: US$ 10
The Elephant Bar
The Elephant Bar, located in the posh Raffles Le Royal Hotel, offers a wide range of wines, beers and spirits, along with a sophisticated ambience. Try its signature cocktails; such as Singapore slings, or Femme Fatale.
Be sure to enjoy the generous happy hour from 4 to 9 pm, when you can buy drinks at half-price.
Location: 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh
Opening times: 12 pm to 12 am, daily
Average cost US$ 7-8
After the sun sets, when the day is almost done, you can find many Cambodians at night markets, walking side by side with friends and family; just roaming about, dining out, or finding another souvenir for home.
With merchant tents, lively crowds, colorful lights and street food, exploring the night markets may be one way to explore the locals’ daily lives, integrating into their culture.
Phnom Penh Night Market (Phsar Reatrey)
The riverside night market is Phnom Penh’s only formal night market, located just across from the Old Market (Phsar Chas) in the Old French Quarter. It opens daily, but closes early, at 8 pm.
At Phsar Reatret, you can learn about the locals’ ‘fiesta’, as besides shopping, you can also watch dance performances, live local pop, and musical performances on stage. It is quite loud; Cambodians like it loud.
Location: Sisowath Quay, Street 5, Phnom Penh
Opening times: Fridays to Sundays, 5 pm to 12 am
Siem Reap Angkor Night Market
Angkor Night Market was the first night market in Cambodia, founded in 2007 to preserve Khmer handicrafts and support local artists.
Here you can find a wide range of clothing and local handicrafts such as stone carvings, silverware, silk paintings, shadow puppets, and brass products.
You can also visit bars near the market, or if you fancy, try foot massage!
Location: Stung Thmey Village, Sankat Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap
Opening times: 5 pm to 12 am, daily
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