Historically a gem town, Pailin attracted immigrants from gem-packed Burma, which gives it a unique culture that is neither strictly traditional Khmer nor Burmese. It's more recent history is particularly dark, with the successful invasion by the Khmer Rouge in the 80's. For most of the 90's the area was a Khmer Rouge stronghold, resulting in exploitation of gems and hardwoods, with the profits funding their guerrilla campaign. The town and its surrounding area today, has been stripped of any natural resources, including those that made it famous. Mine fields are a common sight, and like the rest of Cambodia, locals live in abject poverty.
In 2009, a new strain of malaria was discovered in Pailin province, immune to the current 'silver bullet' treatment.
Pailin is 80km from Battambang on National Highway 57. The highway was resurfaced in 2011, making for easy access, even during the wet season. A couple of bus companies run a service from Battambang to Pailin, costing between $3 and $5 a ticket, and taking roughly 2 hours.
A small town, Pailin is easily covered on foot. Motodops will give a lift anywhere in town for about 1,000 riel and will drive to the Thai (16 km by road) border for about $3-5.