Sisophon, also "Serei-sophon" or "Svay", is a small town in North-western Cambodia. It is the capital of Banteay Meanchey Province. Stueng Sisophon is a medium sized river that meanders round the southern circumference of the town.
Sisophon is a transport hub that almost every overland visitor to Cambodia will unknowingly visit for at least 15 min. It is located at the junction two fully sealed main routes: National Highway 5 (to Battambang [80 km south] and Phnom Penh) and National Highway 6 (to Siem Reap [100 km east] and Phnom Penh). Highway 5 continues west for 50 km to Poipet and the Thai border.
The town's main tourist draw is the Banteay Chhmar Temples, which offer a more remote and atmosheric alternative to the those in Siem Reap.
The town is sufficiently large to benefit from modern technological advancements not found in the countryside but is largely untouched by foreign influences, which makes it an interesting representation of modern Cambodia. There's a smattering of aspiring English speaking students, mentally unsound Khmer Rouge survivors, peasants and provincial townsfolk which give the those who care to spend any time in Sisophon a glimpse of folk that are not found in the more visited, more urbane cities.
Several bus companies' offices can be found on the north side of the shared taxi stand. This is where they pick up and drop passengers, though a less centrally located bus station is being threatened (as of early 2012).
There are direct buses from:
The milestones along the main roads on the approach to Sisophon have it labelled as Banteay Meanchey.
The town is small enough to be comprehensively covered on foot. Even the nearest attraction beyond the town, the lookout tower on Phnom Bak, can be enjoyed on foot from the town.
Phnom Jorn-Tien is perhaps within walking distance though the major road and unforgiving climate make taking a motodop the best way to enjoy it.
Motorbikes can be rented at the Golden Crown Guesthouse for $10 per day, ideal for a solo trip to the Banteay Chhmar temples.
Sisophon Station lies south west of central Sisophon. It is on the Phnom Penh to Poipet line. Services to Sisophon terminated in 2006, and the station is currently in decay. Its French-built art deco architecture can still be appreciated, as can the platforms and the informal economy that has taken over the station area, which lends the area a lively flavour of urban squalor.
Phnom Bak (131 m) to the immediate north of Sisophon's centre, features an old government lookout tower, used in the 1990's to watch the Khmer Rouge's movements in the area. There are great views of the town town to the south and dusty planes to the north. The track to the top ascends the hill's northern side. The guard at the top will unlock the gate to allow access to the tower itself.
Phnom Jorn-Tien (Wall Mountain, 98 m) is a hill approximately 2 km west of town, on Road No. 6. There is a pagoda half way up and a well. The hill's vertical face has been used by visiting climbers, though there is neither equipment hire nor guides. Two crazy outcast women live next to a small shrine at the top of the hill - take care, they bite but are easy easy enough to outmanouver!
Opposite the Golden Crown Guesthouse is an internet cafe, $0.50/hour.
Sisophon Market (Psar Sisophon) is to the north of the shared taxi stand. Its stalls sell many necessities from toothpaste to basic meals.
English language newspapers and stationary can be obtained from the Apsara Book Shop near the market.
The Mirror Restaurant, is a reasonably new fast food restaurant, with air-con, serving fried chicken, french fries, and - according to the proprietor - fried ice cream. It can be found to the east of town, opposite Sokimex gas station on Road No. 6. Meals $1 - $4.
The Golden Crown Guesthouse Restaurant, situated underneath the guesthouse, is your standard, tiled, Khmer restaurant, serving rice, and different meats. Meals $1.25 - $3.5.
A lack of Irish pubs, trendy wine bars, coffee house, tea rooms and laudanum dens means that tins in the market, cafes or restaurants are one's most commonly encountered forms of drink. A tin of beer or soda is usually $0.50.
Golden Crown Guesthouse ($6 - $12), is considered the only decent guesthouse in town, and can be found to the east of the central shared taxi stand, where most buses drop passengers. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout.
Pyn's Place ($10 fan - $20 a/c), is on National Highway 5, 3.5km west of town, at the base of the mountain. Free Wi-Fi and swimming pool.
On the shared taxi stand's south side is a row of cheap, basic guesthouses with box rooms ($2.50).
Highway 69 runs north to the temples of Banteay Chhmar (70 km). It is a less substantial road than the major highways and may be impassable at times during the rainy season. Self drive motor bikes ($10/day) or tuk-tuk drivers ($30/8 hr) can be arranged at the Golden Crown Guesthouse.