Entertainment in Asia

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Asakusa & Sumida River

    Ryōgoku Kokugikan

    If you’re in town when a tournament is on, don't miss the chance to catch the big boys of Japanese wrestling in action at the country's largest sumo stadium. The main spectacle starts 3.40pm when the makuuchi (top division) wrestlers parade into the ring. Advanced tickets must be purchased through Ticket Oosumo (http://sumo.pia.jp/en), up to five weeks before the start of the tournament. Tournaments run for 15 days each January, May and September. Doors open at 8.30am, but the action doesn’t heat up until the senior wrestlers hit the ring around 2pm. For the opening and closing days and the days in between that fall on the weekend you can expect advance purchase seats to sell out quickly. In addition to advanced tickets, 400 general-admission tickets (¥2200; cash only) are sold on the day of the match from 8am at the box office in front of the stadium. You'll have to line up very early (at the latest from 6am) to buy one and everyone in your party must be present (only one ticket purchase per person is allowed, children included); weekdays mid-tournament are your best bet. If you arrive in the morning when the stadium is still fairly empty, you can usually sneak down to the box seats for a closer view. Rent a radio (¥200 fee, plus ¥3000 deposit) to listen to commentary in English. Stop by the basement banquet hall to sample chanko-nabe (the protein-rich stew eaten by the wrestlers) for just ¥300 a bowl.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Siem Reap

    Phare the Cambodian Circus

    Cambodia's answer to Cirque du Soleil, Phare the Cambodian Circus is so much more than a conventional circus, with an emphasis on performance art and a subtle yet striking social message behind each production. Cambodia's leading circus, theatre and performing-arts organisation, Phare Ponleu Selpak opened its big top for nightly shows in 2013, and the results are unique, must-see entertainment. Several generations of performers have graduated through Phare's original Battambang campus and have gone on to perform in international shows around the world. Many of the performers have deeply moving personal stories of abuse and hardship, making their talents a triumph against the odds. An inspiring night out for adults and children alike, all proceeds are reinvested into Phare Ponleu Selpak activities. Animal lovers will be pleased to note that no animals are used in any performance. There are additional 5pm performances from November through March and special standard tickets plus dinner are available for US$30.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Wan Chai & Northeast Hong Kong Island

    Happy Valley Racecourse

    An outing at the races is one of the quintessential Hong Kong things to do, especially if you're around during the weekly Wednesday-evening races. Punters pack into the stands and trackside, with branded beer stalls, silly wigs and live music setting up an electric party atmosphere. To bet, you must first exchange cash for betting vouchers inside the stands, then use the machine terminals (which have English settings and instructions). Stewards will help. The first horse races were held here way back in 1846. Now meetings are held both here and at the newer and larger (but less atmospheric) Sha Tin Racecourse in the New Territories. Check the website for details on betting and tourist packages. Take the eastbound Happy Valley tram to the final stop and cross the road to the racecourse. You can use an Octopus card to enter the turnstiles.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Battambang

    Phare Ponleu Selpak

    Battambang's signature attraction is the internationally acclaimed circus (cirque nouveau) of this multi-arts centre for Cambodian children. Although it also runs shows in Siem Reap, it's worth timing your visit to Battambang to watch this amazing spectacle where it began. Shows are held two to four nights per week, depending on the season (check the website), and kick off at 7pm. Phare, as it's known to locals, is not just a circus – it's involved in lots of other projects. It trains musicians, visual artists and performing artists as well. Many of the artists you'll bump into around town, such as Ke of Choco l'art Café fame, lived and studied at Phare. Guests are welcome to take a guided tour of the Phare complex during the day and observe circus, dance, music, drawing and graphic-arts classes. Tickets are sold at the door from 6pm and at many retailers around town. To get here from the Vishnu Roundabout on NH5, head west for 900m, then turn right and continue another 600m.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Mandalay

    Mintha Theater

    Colourfully costumed dancers perform around 10 dances from a larger repertoire. Some give human form to traditional stories of local folklore, while others are examples of typical Burmese slapstick – perhaps a comedic drunkard or the jokily incompetent, moustachioed U Shwe Yoe tumbling off the stage as he fails to impress his beau. The Mintha Theater doubles as the public venue of the Inwa School of Performing Arts, a high school for youth who aspire to be professional stage artists. Proceeds from the theatre benefit the school and preservation of Myanmar performing arts, which receive little funding from state sources. To learn more about and support these efforts, check out www.artsmandalay.org.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Mandalay

    Myanmar Marionette Theater

    At this puppet theatre, colourful marionettes expressively re-create snippets of traditional tales on a tiny stage. Occasionally a curtain is lifted so that you can briefly admire the deft hand movements of the puppeteers (one's an octogenarian), who have performed internationally. You can also buy puppets at this new location at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Ginza & Tsukiji


    The flamboyant facade of this venerable theatre is fitting for the extravagant dramatic flourishes that are integral to the traditional performing art of kabuki. Check the website for performance details and to book tickets; you'll also find an explanation about cheaper one-act, day seats. A full kabuki performance comprises three or four acts (usually from different plays) over an afternoon or an evening (typically 11am to 3.30pm or 4.30pm to 9pm), with long intervals between the acts. Be sure to rent a headset (single act/full program ¥500/1000) for blow-by-blow explanations in English, and pick up a bentō (boxed meal) to snack on during the intervals. If four-plus hours sounds too long, 90 sitting and 60 standing tickets are sold on the day for each single act. You'll be at the back of the auditorium but the views are still good. Some acts tend to be more popular than others, so ask ahead as to which to catch, and arrive at least 1½ hours before the start of the performance.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Gangnam & Southern Seoul

    Seoul Racecourse

    Enjoy a day at the races at Seoul's impressive and hugely popular horse-racing track. A 40,000-capacity grandstand faces the sandy track and its backdrop of verdant hills, where giant screens show the odds, the races and close-ups of the horses. You'll need a subway card to get through the turnstiles; once inside, make a beeline for the ground-floor Foreigner Information Desk to collect the day's form guide in English and a handy leaflet explaining how the betting system works. A great tip is to head to the foreigner-only Champions Suite on the 5th floor (you'll need your passport). For ₩15,000 you get comfy seats, a panoramic view, free tea and coffee, and cheap beer all day. There are only 45 seats, so turn up early, or you can book in advance. High-rollers be warned – the largest bets permitted at the racecourse are ₩100,000.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Mumbai (Bombay)

    Royal Opera House

    India's only surviving opera house reopened to suitably dramatic fanfare with a 2016 performance by Mumbai-born British soprano Patricia Rozario, after a meticulous six-year restoration project that saw the regal address returned to full British-rule glory. Architect Abha Narain Lambah combed through old photographs of gilded ceilings, stained-glass windows and a baroque Indo-European foyer to restore the three-level auditorium. Commissioned by King George V and originally completed in 1916, it's now owned by the Gujarati Royal Family of Gondal. Portraits of famous playwrights and musicians are painted on the dome-shaped ceiling and gold-painted wallpaper dominates the exquisite detailing at this Chowpatty-area landmark. It has seen a cornucopia of India's creative talent grace its stage through the decades, including Marathi artist Bal Gandharva, actor Prithviraj Kapoor and singer Lata Mangeshkar. After catching a second wind as a cinema hall from the 1930s onwards, the ROH fell out of favour as single-screen cinema conceded to multiplexes, and it was shuttered in the 1990s. Facilities include a cafe and jazz bar and the venue hosts musical performances and plays. Brief tours are ₹600 (just turn up when an event is not on) but if you want to dig a bit deeper, visit with Khaki Tours or local historian Simin Patel (www.bombaywalla.org).

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Bukit Peninsula

    Kecak Dance

    Although the performance obviously caters for tourists, the gorgeous setting at Pura Luhur Ulu Watu in a small amphitheatre in a leafy part of the grounds makes it one of the more evocative on the island. The views out to sea are as inspiring as the dance. It's very popular in high season; expect crowds.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Tashkent

    Alisher Navoi Opera & Ballet Theatre

    Tashkent's main opera and ballet theatre is worth a visit as much for its impressive interior as its fine opera and ballet performances. Verdi and Puccini are standards, or be bold and try a Soviet Uzbek opera by Mukhtar Ashrafi. The ticket office is hidden in one of the exterior pillars.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in The Bund & People's Square

    Shanghai Grand Theatre

    Shanghai’s state-of-the-art concert venue hosts everything from Broadway musicals to symphonies, ballets, operas and performances by internationally acclaimed classical soloists. There are also traditional Chinese-music performances. Pick up a schedule at the ticket office.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Southern Higashiyama


    This theatre in Gion is the oldest kabuki theatre in Japan. The major event of the year is the Kaomise festival in December, which features Japan’s finest kabuki actors.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Kowloon

    This Town Needs

    This Town Needs…more underground music venues like this, staging 10 to 15 gigs monthly in a hip warehouse space in the coastal Kowloon burb of Yau Tong. Formerly known as Hidden Agenda, TTN is a much expanded rebranding, now offering an exhibition space and movie screenings (1pm to 8pm; days vary) as well as a bar during live shows. Shows could be anything from post-rock to reggae, jazz, techno or punk. Hidden Agenda hopped around locations in Hong Kong for years, setting up in abandoned factories when the rent was cheap, then getting turfed out when landlords began to develop the area and neighbours complained about the noise. At prior locations, they've hosted underground bands from mainland China (Chochukmo, Hungry Ghosts, Carsick Cars) and overseas (Tahiti 80, The Chariot, Anti-Flag, Alcest, Pitchtuner). For up-to-date listings, go to their Facebook page. The entrance is one door to the west of the flashy Ocean One apartment building entrance.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Roppongi, Akasaka & Around

    National Theatre

    Japan's most important theatre for traditional performing arts stages kabuki, gagaku (music of the imperial court), kyōmai (Kyoto-style traditional dance), bunraku (classic puppet theatre) and more. Visit the website to see the schedule and purchase tickets. Premium tickets can cost over ¥10,000, while the cheap seats are indeed cheap (from ¥1800); student concessions available. Earphones with English translation are available for hire (¥700, plus ¥1000 deposit) for kabuki performances. The theatre's 'Discover Bunraku' series runs with English subtitles and includes a brief introduction to the art form. For other performances an English synopsis is provided. To the rear of the main building is the Traditional Performing Arts Information Centre (10am to 6pm; admission free) where you can see exhibitions that include videos of performances.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Central Java

    Ramayana Ballet

    Held at the outdoor theatre just west of the main Prambanan temple complex, the famous Ramayana Ballet is Java’s most spectacular dance-drama troupe. The story of Rama and Sita takes place three nights a week; from May to October it is performed on the open-air stage (weather permitting), while other times it's held indoors. With the magnificent floodlit Candi Shiva Mahadeva as a backdrop, nearly 200 dancers and gamelan (traditional Javanese and Balinese orchestra) musicians take part in a spectacle of monkey armies, giants on stilts, clashing battles and acrobatics. Tickets are sold in Yogyakarta through the tourist information office and agencies dotted around tourist districts. It is also possible to buy them at the same price from the theatre box office. A taxi from Yogya costs 450,000Rp for the return journey and waiting time.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Kowloon

    Canton Singing House

    The oldest and most atmospheric of Temple St's singalong parlours, Canton resembles a film set with mirror balls and glowing shrines. Singers take to the stage one after another to belt out the oldies; some customers applaud between glugs of beer, while others are too busy with card games. Every character in here looks like they have a story to tell. Each session features 20 singers, all with a fan following. Patrons tip a minimum of HK$20 if they like a song. Even if you don't, it's nice to tip every now and then for the experience – just slip your money into the box on stage. For HK$100, you can sing a number yourself. They have a few western classics, and you can bet the keyboard player will know them.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Chiang Mai

    Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre

    For an interactive immersion in all things Lanna, this first-of-its-kind Khantoke dinner-theatre experience remains unparalleled in Thailand. Guests stretch out on floor mats to feast on northern Thai dishes served family-style on rattan trays, while musicians strum, blow and beat traditional instruments as costumed performers dance, chant and twirl the occasional sword. The 'long nails' dance is a perennial crowd favourite, as is the fire finale. The tasty food is all-you-can-eat, but note that beverages of any kind cost extra (and are exorbitantly priced). It's possible to purchase a ticket with refillable water or herbal drinks included.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Tashkent

    Ilkhom Theatre

    Tashkent’s main cultural highlight is this progressive theatre, whose productions often touch on gay themes and racial subjects, to consternation of the more conservative elements of Uzbek society. Alongside the cutting-edge plays (performed in Russian but often with English subtitles) there are also occasional jazz concerts and art exhibitions in the lobby. The Ilkhom’s director, Mark Weil, who founded the theatre in 1976, was tragically stabbed to death in 2007, allegedly for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed in his Pushkin-inspired play Imitations of the Koran. Imitations of the Koran remains in the repertoire today.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Bangkok

    Rajadamnern Stadium

    Rajadamnern Stadium is Bangkok’s oldest and most venerable venue for moo·ay tai (Thai boxing; also spelt muay Thai). Be sure to buy tickets from the official ticket counter or online, not from touts and scalpers who hang around outside the entrance. Children under 120cm are allowed free entry (fights often get bloody, so it's probably best to not bring young kids along). There's a souvenir shop to the right of the ticket counters, where you can buy sundry accessories and paraphernalia associated with the sport, such as gloves and colourful shorts worn by contestants. The store is open during bouts.