Pailin

Pailin is a province in western Cambodia at the northern edge of the Cardamom Mountains near the border of Thailand. This province is surrounded by Battambang Province, and it was officially carved out of Battambang to become a separate administrative division after the surrender of the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge in 1996. Pailin is known to the world for having long been a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, remaining under their control long after they were defeated in 1979 and serving from 1994 to 1998 as the capital of the "Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia." Within Cambodia Pailin is known for its natural resources, namely, precious gems and logging.

Tourism AttractionsPailin 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 Phnom Yat: built by Shan migrants from Myanmar in 1922. It is a holy place for worship in the heart of Pailin. It includes an old pagoda, similar to the Kola Pagoda. With loads of folk tales and legends in the area, the Wat is the centre of popular devotion  for residents of Pailin and visitors alike upon many ancient structures on Phnom Yat, including big and small stupas and Asroms or hermitages, places for meditation. The building up of the place is originally coming up with a folktale about a husband and a wife who had the same names, Yart. They worked as gem miners in Pailin area. When they grew old they went to take meditation on a mountain which is now called Phnom Yart. The Pailinners who often went to sell gems in Siam bought some hand guns and rifles in order to protect their property and residence. When they were bored, they took guns and went to hunt animals in the wood for pleasure. Such a pleasure of hunting made all spirits living in the forest surprised. One day the most powerful spirit transformed himself to meet grandfather Yart and grandmother Yart to send verbal message to tell the hunters not to fire at animals all over the woods because that caused all spirits of the wood to be frightened hence lose their children and grandchildren. "So, stop firing, we will help you with finding precious stone," the spirit said, "in order to become rich and prosperous." "But if you become the rich, build a pagoda at this mountain site and then play music with peacock dance every holyday," said the Spirit. The Great Spirit disappeared soon after sending his words, Grandpa Yart and grandma Yart took the message and went to inform all residents. The residents obeyed the spirit's advice.

•    Wat Rattanak Sophoan: At the foot of Phnom Yat is another pagoda, Wat Rattanak Sophoan. On the walls of the enclosure surrounding the pagoda is a bas-relief depicting the Hindu saga of the churning of the Ocean of Milk.

•    Phnom Khiev Waterfall (Blue Mountain): Located at Sangkat Steung Kach, Khan Saha Krau about 20 kilometer from Pailinn, set near the border of Thailand with some parts is already been through to the Thai area. The rainforest and high source of natural resources with an extremely popular tropical zone in Pailin faced the famous history during Khmer Rouge; Phnom Kiev Waterfall was a place for Khmer Rouge killers to escape to. From 1979 onwards it now beckons foreign tourists for becoming their adventure area. It provided several different kinds of birds and animal community which lived in the forest and the waterfalls. No tigers or other dangerous animals are to be found in the area. Snakes, however, are common: small cobra and large pythons. This natural resort is a specific tourism place after Wat Phnom Yat.

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 and 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 Rattanak Sambath is believed to be kept in here. Rattanak Sambath is the father of Cambodian literature Khun Niery, 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 and faces to the west featuring the defeat of evil. Also, on the foot hill, Phnom Yat is now one of the must see in Pailin which is visited by both local and international tourists who also enjoys relaxing on the small cottages while sighting the view from above.

At about 50 meters from the foot of the mountain is Wat Rattanak Sopoan. 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 are 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.

Culture

Pailin's culture is distinctly different from most of Khmer culture. According to some data, Pailin's culture is predominantly Burmese, and has much in common with that of the country of Burma. This affinity is shown in the region's cuisine, dress, temple architecture, festivals and arts. The culture can be seen as similar to the culture in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The people of Pailin are predominantly Kola. The Kola people originally migrated from Burma at the beginning of 1876. There is some dispute as from what region of Burma the Kola originated, as there is no group in modern day Mayanmar known as the "Kola". Another wave of migrants, the Shan arrived from Burma in the 1920s. Both groups are known for their work in the precious gem business, which likely is what attracted them to Pailin.

There are several dialects spoken locally including Khmer, Shan and Kola. The local Khmer dialect shows influence in tone and pronunciation from the Burmese languages as well as Kham Muang and Mon language.

In Pailin, there are a few different kinds of cuisines. Kola's food is distinct from Burma's Cuisine as well. The most popular Burmese style one is Mee Kola which is a vegetarian noodle dish made from thin rice stick noodles, steamed and cooked with soy sauce and garlic chive, sometimes mixed with some meats and small lobster. Other dishes include Tom yum from Thailand and Mon banana pudding of Burma. These have all spread to other parts of Thailand and Cambodia, but normally in versions which are flavored more sweetly than the Pailin version, especially in Phnom Penh.

The traditional clothes of Pailin is Longyi, also known as Sarong. The cloth is often sewn into a cylindrical shape. It is worn around the waist, running to the feet. It is held in place by folding fabric over, without a knot. It is also sometimes folded up to the knee for comfort. These traditional "longyi" have about 2 meters in length of swan. The cloth is made of cotton and sometimes from silk. Kola men wear ankle-length patterns of checks, plaids or stripes "Longyi" in any kinds of color. The men always wear their white eingyi shirt which has a mandarin collar and sometimes also wear a traditional jacket called taik-pon over their eingyi. It has white, grey, black or terracotta colors. They put the gaung baung turban on their head, and on their feet, they wear simple rubber or velvet slippers.

For Kola women's calf-length longyi are in solid colors, flower prints and many kinds of designs. They often have a red based color, with partial stripes or very small checks similar to what Mon wear. They also often have horizontal or vertical stripes at the middle part. Royalty traditionally wore a long dress called "thin-dai" decorated by many threads. It was always worn by a lord's daughter and the king of the province's lady. The women wear a beautiful blouse and a lovely shirt which is known as eingyi. The shirt is decorated with several colors and many piece of silver. The shirt also has horizontal or vertical stripes at the middle part in some beauty color. Kola women tie a traditional shawl on their eingyi as well as they put the shawl on their shoulders. Women tie a lovely band on their head and wear beautiful flowers in their hair, allowing their hair to drop as a ponytail above their shoulders. They sometimes took a traditional umbrella made from bamboo with them. The footwear is simple slippers of leather or velvet called Hnyat-phanat.

All of these costumes were shiny with bright colors during celebrations. The clothing is very similar to what is worn by the Shan in Burma.

The houses in Pailin are built from wood, about 8 cm to 1 meter includes a wide door and in the middle of house, there are the hermitages of Buddha and another spirit house. The Kola People are fond of planting roses in front of their homes.

Economy

The surrounding area was rich in a variety of gemstones which were mined almost clean to support the Khmer Rouge. They also logged the area extensively, creating great environmental damage. Now all you can find is low-quality, cheap, hand-faceted gemstones at the market in downtown Pailin. 

Unlike most of Cambodia, Pailin is composed primarily of uplands where little rice is grown. This makes it very difficult for farmers to rely on subsistence agriculture. Crop failures trigger collection of food and gems from the forests, increasing the number of land mine accidents. Many farmers produce non-traditional crops for the markets, including sesame, mung and soya. In 2003-2004 it produced 17,204 tons of maize, the second-highest production in the country.