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Seeing an Apsara dancing show is high on the to-do list of any tourist visiting Cambodia. The classical Khmer dance incorporates ancient stories into the performance, making it into a hybrid dance/drama. For visitors to Siem Reap, there are many options for seeing Apsara, from a casual free show at a dinner restaurant to brand new full on Vegas-style review. You all know how much I love Vegas, so after seeing a more traditional performance one night at Temple Restaurant, I was gung-ho to see a splashy show.

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

Smile of Angkor certainly delivered on that front. The show consists of several different acts, ranging from large full cast numbers to more individual performances. Highlights include acrobatics and an edge-of-the-seat fire show.

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

These peacock costumes, featured in all three of the Apsara performances I’ve seen, are my favorite. Look at the little hat! Wouldn’t these make for great Halloween costumes?

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

One of the most clever parts, I thought, was when the cast reenacted a scene from the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat. The scene The Churning of the Milk is one of the most famous stories played out on the temple’s ancient passageways, and Smile of Angkor brought it to life. Mark and I immediately recognized it from our visit to Angkor the day before.

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

On the positive side, the cast put everything they had into their performances. The costumes were beautiful and the sets were fun. On the other hand, those expecting Broadway style choreography will be disappointed. And personally I was turned off by the graphics being projected behind the actors in many of the acts (see the first photo of the post). However, this show certainly doesn’t advertise itself as being traditional, so the lights and lasers are all part of the deal.

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

At $38-$48 per ticket, this show is certainly not aimed at backpackers. And the over-the-top graphics and cheesiness factor would turn off many visitors. So who is this show aimed at? Well, if the crowd on the night we visited is any indication, the answer is Asian package tour groups. Also, I think this show would be perfect for families, especially parents who want to reward their kiddos for being such good temple troupers all day at Angkor Wat.

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

If you go: Shows are held every evening from 7:15 to 8:25pm. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket office in town, next to the Prince d’ Angkor hotel. The theatre is decently far from town, so make sure to leave at least 15 minutes to get there in time, and not run in late like moi. Expect to pay $4 return for a tuk tuk driver, and make sure he waits for you, as the theatre is in a remote area! For more information, visit http://www.smileofangkor.com/

Smile of Angkor Siem Reap

Full disclosure: For the purpose of reviewing Smile of Angkor, we received a complimentary admission.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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12 Comments...
  • Kris Koeller
    November 9 2011

    Interesting, I had no idea. We pretty much spent the entire two days in the monuments. Looks like fun!
    Kris Koeller recently posted..Yves St. Laurent’s Gardens in Marrakech, Morocco

  • Dad
    November 10 2011

    The pictures don’t make it look like a cheesy production. It looks like fun and may be one of those been there done that kind of experience. It does provide jobs for the performers and backstage crew.

    • Alex
      November 10 2011

      Well, like I said the cheesy part were the ridiculous graphics being broadcast behind the performers. If they scrapped that for a more elegant set or even a simple curtain I think they’d be upping the production value. But as I noted, I don’t think I was the target audience 🙂 And you are right, another positive it is a grand scale production that creates a lot of jobs.

  • Arun
    December 30 2011

    Hi Alex…came across your blog while looking for reviews on Siem Reap theater shows..nicely written & good pics. I m including the show in my upcoming Siem Reap itinerary. For booking, I observe there are 2 types of seats – A & B. The B seats on the edges can save me few dollars but do you know if they provide a good view?

    • Alex
      December 30 2011

      Hi Arun, Thanks for reading! We sat in the B category seats near the front and had a great view. I hope that helps. For more info on Siem Reap like where to stay, what to do, etc, use the search bar on my site to look for my other Siem Reap posts 🙂 And feel free to email me with questions anytime. Enjoy your upcoming trip!

      • Arun
        January 1 2012

        Thanks Alex for info! I have decided to go for the B seats.

        Have a joyful trip in Vietnam!!:-)

  • Natty
    May 7 2013

    The advertisement told us that Smile of Angkor is another wonder of Siem Reap. The show actually did have some good dance. However, the special effect, costume, story, and other parts are of very poor quality, It is like mixing of the popular culture in a cheap way. The price is far too expensive. Don’t waste your money and time here.

    • Alex
      May 9 2013

      Hey Natty, sorry to hear you had a bad experience here! It’s been years now since I was there so I’m sure it has changed quite a bit. Thanks for sharing your updated experience.

  • Fab
    April 29 2014

    Thanks Alex for the review. I’ve lived in Siem Reap for a while and I never dared to see the show because of the price of the ticket. I finally decided to go after I read your article and checked out their new website, they offer discounted tickets, 25 bucks is fair enough! The show is ok even if it could be better, I don’t know about the food which seems to be their blackhead…
    Here is the website: http://www.smileofangkor.info
    Cheers!

    • Alex
      April 29 2014

      Glad you found the tickets for a good deal, Fab. Glad to hear they’ve lowered their prices, though I hope they’ve done so without cutting any salaries.

  • Miriam Risager
    March 31 2015

    Thanks for the recommendation for Smile of Angkor, Alex! I went there a few months ago after reading your post and it was a GREAT show.
    Miriam Risager recently posted..The mystery behind the Khmer Apsara Dance

    • Alex
      March 31 2015

      I’m so glad to hear that, Miriam! I love seeing shows when I travel.

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