Heading down a wide road on the outskirts of Siem Reap at night, when camera-toting temple tourists are tucking into their fish amok in front of an Apsara dance show, and backpackers head to Pub Street, you’ll hit a dead end — welcome to Kyung Yu, a funfair that sets up daily come sundown.
One of the town’s best kept secrets, and yet to be overrun by tourists, the funfair is where you’ll find primarily local residents flocking for some revelry Siem Reap-style. Fun fair rides, food stalls selling all the fried mystery items you could ever want to try and night market stalls selling the classic Cambodian wardrobe staple of patterned pyjamas are all for the taking here.
Have a go at the classic “pop the balloon with a dart” game, costing US$1 for five attempts. If it pops, take your pick from rows upon rows of prizes, including lukewarm Angkor Beer and washing up liquid — both better choices than a giant cuddly bear too big for anyone to carry comfortably the rest of the night. Watch out for the young teenagers running along the ground collecting the darts you just failed to pop the balloons with; they do this blindly, occasionally appearing waaaay too close to the targets, seemingly oblivious to the sharp metal object zipping above their heads. To up the ante further, next to the darts is a ‘shooting range’ — probably not covered in your travel insurance.
Wandering around for an hour or so sampling street food and soaking up the bright lights is all you need to do here for an enjoyable evening, and kids will have fun too. It’s an interesting location if you’re into photography so bring your tripod along for night-time shots of the rides.
As far as rides are concerned the dodgems are probably the best bet if you do want to get involved and certainly looks better than the Ferris wheel – admittedly though this writer didn’t dare try either. Friends tried to haggle for longer for their money on the dodgems. The salesman recommended five minutes was enough. They loved every minute, but the man was right: No need to overdo things here. (Please be warned: there were reports of a Japanese tourist dying on a rollercoaster here in March.)
Overall a visit to the funfair is a great alternative way to spend an evening in Siem Reap. Come, get away from the tourist epicentre, but still enjoy some neon lights, have some laughs, get a feeling for local life and still be home at a sensible hour — since it wraps up by 22:00, or a little later on weekends. It’s a fun way to see a different aspect to contemporary Khmer culture and sample some very authentic (and cheap!) cuisine, whether you’re by yourself, with your friends or a young family. Little ones may delight in being wheeled around in Angry Birds shaped cars, sit on the merry-go-round or painting mini figurines.
If you’re heading from Siem Reap to the funfair, take the road to Angkor Wat, and at Kantha Bopha Hospital take a right down 60 Metre Road where there is a photoshop on the corner. Continue straight until you see the bright lights!
It all gets going around 18:00-19:00, so an alternative to making the 15-minute tuk tuk ride from the centre of Siem Reap is to just ask your driver to stop off on the way back from your temple visit. There’s no actual sign that we’ve seen with the fair’s official name, but we know it as Kyung Yu and telling that to a tuk tuk driver should get you there.