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Pailin

Pailin

Pailin is a small municipality in the West of Cambodia very closed to the border of Thailand. The provincial capital is called Pailin City and is known to much of the world as being the area where many of the Khmer Rouge leaders came from and retreated after their fall. Until the year of 2001 Pailin was part of the Battambang Province, but was then elevated to city status and thus became a province and autonomous zone of its own.
Pailin Overview
Pailin City municipality is the second smallest so-called province in Cambodia with 803 square kilometres. It's located in the West of the country surrounded by Battambang province and bordering Thailand to the West. In the North, the small municipality consists of the typical plain wet area for Cambodia, covering rice fields and other agricultural plantations.

The surrounding area of Pailin City was rich in a variety of gemstones which were mined almost clean to support the Khmer Rouge. They also logged the area to create personal wealth with no regard for the effect on the environment. Nowadays all you can find is low-quality, cheap, hand-faceted gemstones at the market in Pailin downtown.
Pailin History
The city was during the 1980s and 1990s a major Khmer Rouge strongpoint and resource centre. Even after the death of their brutal leader Pol Pot in 1998, many Khmer Rouge leaders still remained there. Some of the leaders went into hiding in fear of punishment for their crimes, although other leaders or henchmen lived openly in the province. It is said that almost 70 percent of the area's older men were fighters for the Khmer Rouge, but unfortunately none of the regular fighters have yet been brought to justice.
 
As of September 2007, Pailin's remaining Khmer Rouge leaders were being rounded up to face justice by an international tribunal, including Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. So after years of the governmental dump contemplation regarding the crime of the Khmer Rouge, its time for lasting enlightenment of what has happen.
 
Poipet is now more and more becoming a boomtown attracting Cambodians from around the country seeking to make their fortune, or at least a better salary than back home. Pailin was the major revenue producer for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, being a major gem producing area as well as a prime logging area.
 
While gem production seems to have tapered off a bit, other business opportunities and the lifestyle have attracted prospectors to the town. Up until the surrender deal of Khmer Rouge's number three men, Ieng Sary, in 1996, the townsfolk lived under the strict rules of the KR hierarchy, with little freedom of expression and most aspects of life being completely controlled by the paranoid regime.
 
Pailin is just another Wild West town of Cambodia and like the gold-rush days of California, people seem to be everywhere in the hills sifting through mud puddles and scratching at the dirt, looking to strike it rich with the find of a nice gem. Still, there is more control of some aspects of life than in other areas of Cambodia.
 
But this seems to have attracted people rather than kept them away. Several people, who had moved to Pailin from Phnom Penh, gave this as the main reason they made the move. They liked the idea that criminals did not enjoy the same impunity that they seem to enjoy in Phnom Penh. The influx of residents from other parts of the country has produced a friendlier Pailin. Nowadays the mixed lot of Pailin residents seem happy to see foreigners coming in for holidays and check the place out, realizing that their presence means that normalcy and revenue are arriving in Pailin.
 
Even the Vietnamese residents seem to have been accepted, which is truly amazing given the hatred the Khmer Rouge have generally shown them. Pailin is worth checking out. The town is nestled in a beautiful valley with picturesque sunsets over the mountains that separate Cambodia and Thailand close by.
 
Wat Gohng-Kahng is very famous and features the much-photographed landmark gate of Pailin town that you face as you arrive on the highway from Battambang. This wat is the centre of holiday festivities these days in Pailin and was the scene of the official Pailin reintegration ceremony in 1996, after the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge worked out surrender and semi-autonomy deals with the Cambodian government.
Pailin climate and best time to visit
The country has a tropical climate - warm and humid. In the monsoon season, abundant rain allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. This year-round tropical climate makes Cambodia ideal for developing tourism. Travellers need not to fear natural disasters such as erupting volcanoes or earthquakes, and the country is not directly affected by tropical storms.
 
Climate: Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However, those plans to travel extensively by road should be avoided the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. December and January are the coolest months, whereas the hottest is April.
 
General information about the provincial climate:
- Cool season: November- March (22-28c)
- Hot season: March- May (27c -34c)
- Rainy season: May - October (24-32c, with humidity up to 90%.)
Pailin Transportation
Minibus/Share Taxis
For getting from Phnom Penh to Pailin please have a look on the Battambang Province Page. Coming from Battambang is the only wise thing to do, except if you're coming from Thailand over the international border crossing. Pailin itself lies about 83km southwest of Battambang and is just 19km from the border with Thailand. The Major Road 57 from Battambang to Pailin has gone to pieces and makes it a pretty hard ride. The road can only be managed by smaller lighter cars such as minibuses, pick ups or share taxis due to its wimpy condition, but its still better than it was a couple of years ago, with many new bridges. The scenery along the road heading to Pailin is nice and there are a couple of interesting places on the way. One is Phnom Sampeu, a mountaintop temple, which has memorials set up with skulls and bones of Khmer Rouge victims. It's located 15 km from Battambang on the Pailin road. Security is not a problem. Never go off the street as there are many mines still remaining in the ground. The ride from Battambang to Pailin (4hours) with a share taxi or minibus costs around 160Baht and with a pick up 120Baht (inside) or 80Baht (on the back).
 
Pailin to Koh Kong
It's now possible to make a journey from Pailin to Koh Kong through the scenic Cardamom Mountains of Pursat and Koh Kong provinces. This route takes in areas that are considered to be the most pristine and untouched in all of Southeast Asia. Ask the pick up drivers.
 
Cambodia-Thailand international border crossing
The Cambodia-Thailand border crossing is just 19km west of Pailin town. It's supposed to be a full-service crossing issuing tourist and business visas. Crossings however, can sometimes take its time while the border officers try to ask you for more money for the visa issue. The border opens daily between 7am and 8pm. To get from Pailin to the border crossing take a moto (50-100Baht) or a share taxi (40Baht). Don't wonder about the two big casinos there, where mostly Thai people try to chase their luck. There is also a small market if you need something.
 
Motorbike Info
There is also a breathtaking tour from Pailin to Krong Koh Kong (South) for hardcore bikers with plenty of off-road experience. It starts in the Treng district, just 25km East on the road to Battambang. Than it runs down South through former Khmer Rouge strongholds such as Samlot and Veal Veng, which is 275km from Pailin and the last place to refuel. Good luck!
Things to do and see in Pailin
Waterfall - Pailin
Waterfall Like all waterfalls, the rainy season is the best time to go with the water flowing best then. But there are still pools of clean water to cool off in during the dry season and the heavily forested hills provide nice scenery. Locals and folks on holiday from Battambang come here on weekends and holidays and the well-worn pathways and picnic spots are safe for your use. Hiking to the upper level brings you to more pools. Your best bet for getting out here is to take a moto-taxi or have one lead the way, as there are several turns on unmarked small roads.

Kbal O'Chra - Pailin
Kbal O'Chra is located O'Chra village, Toul Lwea Commune, Kan Pailin, about 5 kilometes . It is a Nature & Wildlife Preserves. One of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Pailin City is the Kbal O Chra, Pailin City. A pretty little town positioned in the west of Cambodia, Pailin City is dotted with a plethora of points of attraction. This picturesque city is snuggled between Battambang and the border of Thailand. When you come to this beautiful city, a visit to the Kbal O Chra, Pailin City should be in your list of must-visits.Kbal O Chra, Pailin City is located at the Ouchra Leu Village in Tuol Lwea Commune, Khan Pailin. The provincial town is just 5 km away from Kbal O Chra in Pailin City.

Wat Phnom Yaht - Pailin
Wat Phnom Yaht This is the hilltop temple next to Wat Gohng-kahng. The temple is a good example of how things have changed in Pailin since the surrender deal. A number of moths after the deal a friend and I had a conversation with the head monk of the temple and he said that he still felt very intimidated by the local authorities, all ex- Khmer Rouge. He was strongly discouraged from giving Buddhist instruction to the townspeople. With the influx of Cambodians from other parts of the country and a change of heart for some of the ex-KR, the temple has seen a rebirth.
 
There is a beautiful new decorative stairway leading to the hilltop temple area, where a new temple is under construction and the monks openly teach the faith. Obviously, respect for monks has risen, and temple projects are receiving a lot of donations. Great views of the Pailin area and the dynamite sunsets over the Border Mountains can be had from the hilltop.

Phnom Yat - Pailin
Phnom Yat is a cultural and historical site located in Pailin City. It is not a holy place where people come to worship, but also the heart of Pailin City. The mountain is 60 meters high, 700 meters long, 300 meters wide and covers 30, 000 square meters. The top is accessible on foot or by vehicle. A staircase of 242 steps, each step about 25 centimeters high, was completed on Oct 13, 1998.
 
The site includes an old pagoda similar to Kola pagoda. It was built on the hilltop by the Kola people in 1922. The are many ancient structures on Phnom Yat, including the big and small stupas and Asroms (the hermitage, a place for meditating). The area holds many superstitions for Pailin residents and some visitors.Although a wealth of gems already have been mined in Pailin, the hill is till believed to hold more. Many kiosks, or small cottages, are available for visitors to relax in on the mountaintop.
 

Pailin Travel Tips
As it is quite common in Cambodia even small cities, such as Pailin City have at least one marked. You may also find a market in Pailin City centre, which is very busy with local shops dealing the local daily consumer products, like fish, fruits, vegetables, meats and packed products mostly from Thailand. Most of the food and drink shops are surrounding the market. To take something special from this province along, buy some small gems from the gem shops, but be aware of fakes.
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