Pailin is a city in Pailin Province, located to the north of Cardamom and Elephant Mountains in Cambodia, bordering Thailand. It is mainly known for natural resources like timber and gemstones that are procured, processed and sold in various forms. Pailin is relatively a newer destination to tourists visiting the country. Tourists visit Pailin for its ancient temples, wildlife, native forests and to shop for gems.
Pailin has a unique culture than the rest of Cambodia, as it is mostly dominated by Shan Burmese, an ethnic group from Burma. Known as Kola, these people have a different language, customs, food and traditions found in parts of Thailand and Myanmar. Exploring Pailin also helps travelers to experience this difference.
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Wat Phnom Yat - The hilltop temple of Phnom Yat is among the top attractions in Pailin. Located at 500-meters atop Phnom Yat, the temple features a Burmese-style stupa built by people of Shan tribal community. A giant statue of Buddha dominated the top of the hill, which is to be climbed to reach there. There is no entry fee to the temple. Visit the temple in the early morning or the evening for spectacular views of sunrise and sunset along with witnessing the beautiful views of Cardamom and Elephant mountains.
Wat Rattanak Sophoan - Wat Rattanak Sophoan is another pagoda located at the foot of Phnom Ya. It is also a Burmese style Pagoda more than 600 years old. It is known for the intricately carved bas-relief depicting the Hindu mythological event of the churning of the Ocean of Milk.
O'Tavao Waterfall - It is a bed consisting of water streams located amidst the beautiful mountains. It originates from the nearby Phnom Khieu, and because of its close location to the mountains, the water is very clear and great for swimming. It gets crowded during holidays and weekends as it is a popular getaway for locals. The entry fee for foreigners is 1 USD.
Steung Kuy - It is a wildlife and natural resources conservation centre located in Phnom Kuy Village, about 1 hour away from Pailin town. It is known for boating in the river and the surrounding views of forests.
Tribal village tours - Pailin is home to many tribal communities who live in nearby villages like Kbal O'Chra and Banh Hoi. It is possible to visit these villages on guided tours that can be booked via tour operators, guesthouses and hotels. They cost about 5 to 8 USD per person and can take a few hours.
Day 1: Spend the first day exploring the town on a walk. Head to Wat Rattanak Sophoan first and then climb up to Wat Phnom Yat in the late afternoon for fantastic sunset views.
Day 2: Head to Steung Kuy Wildlife tour for swimming in the river, boating and spotting wildlife. Next, visit O'Tavao Waterfall for the evening. Spend the night checking out the market for gemstones and other souvenirs.
Pailin was conquered in 1558 by the Burmese and later by the Thai until 1907. It was returned to Cambodia after WWII. Pailin became the central city for the Khmer Rouge who occupied the province due to its abundant natural resources and precious gemstones.
They continued to plunder and hold a regime even after their defeat in 1979 as such Pailin suffered huge economic and natural losses, which declined the standard of living of the Khmers. It was only since the 1990s that the city was revived. Due to the efforts of many non-profit organizations, NGOs, government organizations and ecotourism projects, things have stabilized in the province along with boosting tourism.