Cambodia Pages > Cambodia Pages > Travelogue

Text and pictures by Bernhard Heiser

    Part 13:  Pailin  -  City of Gems, Moto to Poipet
The last night in the most comfortable hotel I ever had in Cambodia is over. The pickup departure point is south of the city. A full pickup is still waiting and somehow I manage to squeeze myself in. There's not even a millimeter of space left to move my legs. Not a very convenient ride, as the road to Pailin is still very bumpy. Must have been hell before it was improved not so long ago. We stop at the checkpoint of the Pailin special zone. A soldier checks our truck, nobody seems to care about luggage, me or my passport. Until late 1996, Pailin was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge. After they capitulated to the Cambodian government, the ex KR was given virtual autonomy in exploiting the region's rich gemstone and timber resources.
After two hours we reach the market in Pailin. I decide to stay in the Young Heng Guesthouse next to the market. The small room costs 150 Baht. Ah, Thailand is not far... I have baguette with meat and salad and order a sugar cane juice from the next booth. Hmm, delicious. Most people here seem to be addicted to gambling, at least the makeshift casino on the market is always very busy.

The first one I meet here is a girl from Colorado with her Swiss friend. They are here on a christian mission or something like that. I regret that it is almost impossible to have a "normal" conversation with her. She leaves me with the words: "see you in heaven". Umm, yes, maybe...

During my little hike around the city I meet Votha. He is a motodriver, taking his passenger to the next village. Soon I find out that he's quite good in his business when we talk about the direct way to Poipet. He is one of the few drivers who knows the route and he is willing to go there with me tomorrow. Great.

In the afternoon we have a short trip to the gem mines near Pailin.

A Thai mining company is working here with heavy machinery. Rubies, sapphires, topaz and opals can be found here. The whole montain is washed into a huge machine where the material is shaked and sieved until only the precious stones remains. Khmer girls are searching the waste for the remaining smaller parts. She shows me her yield of the day so far, approximatelly worth 100-200 Baht.
Our last stop is at Phnom Yai, not far from the city. A long staircase leads up to the top. Of course it is a holy place with Buddhas, stupas and statues. Again I meet the mysterious girl with the long hair, the saga seems to be well-known all over this region.

The mountain top offers a great view over the surrounding landscape of Pailin.

We ride back to the market, where Votha's family runs a small grocery shop. They sell everything from rice to all kinds of household plastic. He introduces me to his wife and his little daughter.

Later I have dinner at a market stall and walk around the quiet streets of Pailin. At the other end of the city towards Phnom Yai there is a little night market. Young girls are selling the typical Cambodian sweets, another stall serves grilled sausages and drinks. Okay, I can't say no to the colourful stuff with sweet condensed milk. This is my last evening in Cambodia, so I need it once more...

When Votha picks me up at the hotel at 7am, it's still quite chilly. We have breakfast in the restaurant over the street and then leave the city in nort-western direction. I'm really glad about this shortcut to Poipet, it will save me a long pickup and taxi ride via Battambang and Sisophon.

Short after the city boundary we cross the dilapidated suspension bridge. They have already started to build a new one, but that doesn't mean much.

Soon we reach a newer bridge, a German aid project. It has just the right size for the bike, cars still have to drive through the riverbed. The ricebag technology (see photo) again prooves very practical for bagpack transportation on the bike.
Roads and bridges both get more and more adventurous now. I prefer to walk across in some distance, just in case...
Now we reach Lerm, the first bigger city on our route. We are at the Thai border now, this crossing (photo) is open for locals only. Lerm is a busy place with hotels, guesthouses and a huge casino.

By the way, the border casinos are the main reason why Thai authorities still delay negotiations about the Pailin border as an international crossing point. They still insist on closing the casinos on the border. However, many of them are owned by Thai companies, as it is the case in Poipet.

After some time we pass the villages of Oaonlouk and Karbean. At the horizon Phnom Preak comes into view. It's a huge limestone mountain, that can be seen an hour before we actually reach it.

Compared with our Mondulkiri expedition, this biketrip is totally different. Most roads and paths we use are in good condition, although unpaved. There is not much traffic here that could damage the road, so we are spared from a bone-jarring roller coaster ride.

Finally we arrive at Phnom Preak. In a small village I ask Votha to stop for a moment to take this photo. The area is one of the most scenic places I know in Cambodia, what a luck I could manage to come here!
We drive round the mountain top on the eastern side. The road offers some great views over the flatlands around and some neighboring mountains. We pass many more small villages in Sompouv Loun and Malai districts. From there we will go to Svaysisophon and Poipet.

Until now everything went perfect and it looks like Votha can return home at the same day. But...

...20 km before we reach Poipet we have a flat tyre. Votha carefully drives back 1 km to the last village, while I walk there. Very friendly people help us mounting a new tube. Everyone wants to know where we come from and they are quite surprised to hear that we left from Pailin today. It's hot now while we do not move. 15 minutes later we can go on. Soon we reach the big road that comes from Sisophon.

Read about my last hours in Cambodia in Poipet on the next page.


              Overview       Travel Info        Links        Photo Licensing        Previous     Next Page 


© 2003 by Bernhard Heiser
No part of this site may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, without prior written permission of the copyright holder. Any use of this material to target
advertising or similar activities are explicitly forbidden and will be prosecuted.