Entertainment in Southeast Asia

  • 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 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 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 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 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 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.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Phnom Penh

    Traditional Dance Show

    For this must-see performance, put on daily by Cambodian Living Arts, artists come from CLA's incubator program and work on specific shows for up to two years. Each is set in the attractive grounds of the National Museum. There's an optional dinner-show combo ticket (from US$30) that includes a meal at nearby Friends. A dance and workshop package (from US$25) gets you face time with the performers ahead of the production, teaching you about the history and traditions behind the gestures you'll see in the show.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Solo

    Sriwedari Theatre

    The theatre in this vacant plot (formerly an amusement park now undergoing redevelopment) is the unlikely venue of one of the best shows in Java! Traditional dance performances by Solo's esteemed and long-running wayang orang (masked dance-drama) troupe involve hundreds of magnificently costumed participants and a full gamelan orchestra. Performances are given several times per week to sadly dwindling audiences. It’s well worth dropping by to experience this form of ritualised drama; it's acceptable to leave early.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Yangon

    Htwe Oo Myanmar Traditional Puppet Theatre

    Book ahead for this utterly charming cultural experience by Htwe and his family, who stage traditional puppet shows in their front living room. They've travelled the world and won awards for their shows, which last around an hour. The shows include English explanations and you can inspect and play with the beautiful puppets. If you'd like to buy one of the puppets – far superior in quality to those found in Yangon's tourist markets and shops – Htwe can arrange this with the master puppet maker for around US$60.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Little India & Kampong Glam

    Singapore Dance Theatre

    This is the headquarters of Singapore's premier dance company, which keeps fans swooning with its repertoire of classic ballets and contemporary works, many of which are performed at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. The true highlight is the group's Ballet under the Stars season at Fort Canning Park, which usually runs midyear. See the website for program details.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Kuala Lumpur

    Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

    Part of the Sentul West regeneration project, this modernist performing-arts complex puts on a wide range of progressive theatrical events including dramas, musicals and dance. Also on offer are performing-arts courses and screenings of art-house movies. Combine a show with a stroll in the peaceful leafy Sentul West park and dinner at one of the restaurants there.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Siam Square, Pratunam, Phloen Chit & Ratchathewi

    Major Cineplex

    In addition to housing Thailand’s largest IMAX screen, Major Cineplex's options include the Blue Ribbon Screen, a cinema with a maximum of 72 seats, where you’re plied with pillows, blankets, complimentary snacks and drinks and a 15-minute massage; and Enigma, where, in addition to a sofa-like love seat designed for couples, you’ll be served cocktails and food.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Ubud


    Sharing a building with the vegan Earth Cafe & Market, this surprisingly plush 150-seat cinema screens two films daily. The price of admission is redeemable against items from the cafe menu – so a great deal. Mondays are half-price; on Tuesday and Thursday a community choir sings here. Check the website for a schedule.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in George Town


    This shabby-chic bar in China House has an indie vibe and is one of George Town's most reliable live-music venues for jazz and rock. Gigs usually kick off from 9.30pm, and there are occasional afternoon slots at 3pm on weekends. Canteen is also accessible via the China House entrance on Lr Pantai.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Ubud

    Pura Taman Saraswati

    The beauty of the setting may distract you from the dancers, although at night you can’t see the lily pads and lotus flowers that are such an attraction by day. Janger dance is performed on Sunday and Monday, the Ramayana ballet on Wednesday and Legong on Saturday. On Tuesday and Thursday, women play the gamelan and children dance.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Thanon Sukhumvit

    The Living Room

    Don’t let looks deceive you: every night this bland hotel lounge transforms into the city’s best venue for live jazz. True to the name, there’s comfy, sofa-based seating, all of it within earshot of the music. Enquire ahead of time to see which sax master or hide-hitter is in town. An entry fee of 300B is charged after 8.30pm.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Phnom Penh

    Meta House

    This German-run cultural centre screens art-house films, documentaries and shorts from Cambodia and around the world at its rooftop cinema. Films are sometimes followed by Q&As with those involved. There's also a large art gallery and on-site Art Cafe, while dance, theatre and music events round out the busy cultural calendar.

  • Top ChoiceEntertainment in Chiang Mai

    North Gate Jazz Co-Op

    This compact jazz club tends to pack in as many musicians as it does patrons, with local and visiting instrumentalists offering nightly sets and experimental jam sessions that tend to go long. The performances are so inspired that a crowd regularly gathers at tables set up on the sidewalk; arrive early to get a good spot.