Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia : Cardamom and Elephant Mountains : Pailin
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. Its 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. Paramount Bus Company run a service from Battambang to Pailin (2 hours) costing $4. This journey can also be done by taxi, costing a little more.
The border crossing at Phsar Prom ($4 by motorbike taxi) is 18 km west of town on National Highway 57. This crossing is more scenically situated than the much busier and more stressful Aranyaprathet/Poipet crossing further north. Crossing here borders on enjoyable! Visas are issued at this border. It faces Ban Pakard in Thailand, from where there are connections to Chantaburi, likely via Pong Nam Ron which is on highway 317.
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.
Circumnavigate Phnom Yat using a well worn dirt path around its base. Various other paths lead off to villages replete with peasants, livestock and landmines (at least landmine warning signs). While much of the immediate vicinity of Pailin has been demined and is cultivated, it's still best to walk only where others have walked (or driven) before.
Phnom Yat is known to be a sacred place of worship for the natives of Pailin Province. It is considered as well as the heart of this border province, wrapped with superstitions both known to the residents and local visitors. The mountain ranges 60 meters high, with 7 km. in length and 3 km. wide that covers an area of 3,000 square km. The top of the mountain is accessible by foot or by vehicle. A staircase of 242 steps with each step of about 25cm. in height was completed on October 13, 1998.
Here on top of the hill you will find Kola Pagoda. It was built by Kola natives in 1922 as a symbol of respect to grandfather and grandmother Yat. Another must see in this hilltop is the stupa behind the Kola Pagoda wherein the ashes of RattanakSambathis believed to be kept in here. RattanakSambath is the father of Cambodian literature KhunNiery, featured in the famous novel Pailin Rose written by Nheck Tem.
Recently, a giant Buddha statute just built on top of the hill. It highs 26m in faces to the west featuring of evil defeating.Also, on the foot hill
Phnom Yat is now one of the must see in Pailin visited by both local and international tourists who also enjoys relaxing on the small cottages while seeing the view from above.
At about 50 meters from the foot of the mountain is WatRattanakSopoan. A pagoda walled with bas-relief depicting the Hindu saga the story of the churning of the ocean milk similar to those in the Angkor Wat temple. Several ancient structures can be found in Phnom Yat including stupas and asroms in various sizes.
The Boyaca Valley part of Pailin boasts some of the most scenic and majestic views of the Cardamom Mountains and the countryside. When exploring the area, the locals are very friendly and welcoming. Hiking, biking, and general outdoor adventures is popular for tourists. There is a resort (Memoria Palace & Resort) in that area and is a good central point for starting and finishing adventure outings. In addition, they are very familiar with the area and can provide a tour guide if you or your group needs one.
There are at least two banks with ATMs: including Canadia, which does not levy a fee for use by foreign cards.
Gems are the traditional produce of the region and there are many jewellers. However, rumour has it that the gems now purchased in Pailin are sourced somewhere else, due to the fact that Pailin's supply has almost dried up.
The market offers atmospheric dining.
As usual in provincial Cambodia, drinking beer at cafes and restaurants is as exciting as it gets.
There are a couple of cheaper, drabber options at the top of the market.
There are at least two internet cafes with good connections. From $0.50/ hr.