This full day excursion initially takes you to the remote Eastern extremities of Cambodia, bordering the northern edge of the Cardamom Mountains. Until 2010 the road out to the Thai border at Pailin was in a dreadful state and virtually impassable for much of the year, but now it can be reached in around an hour and a half. Pailin Province was carved out of Battambang province to become a separate administrative division after the surrender of the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge in 1996. It is remote, rarely visited by foreigners and considered to be something of the ‘wild west’ of Cambodia.
In the early 1970’s Pailin was a prosperous town generating wealth from the precious gem industry and after the Khmer Rouge took control they used the gem deposits and the timber resources to fund their ongoing offensives. Although the area is still heavily mined the town is once again a peaceful place and open to tourists. There are a number of attractions in the area including stunning Phnom Kiev waterfall, Wat Phnom & Wat Rattanak Sopoan temples and un-touched forests.
After lunch in Pailin town, you stop at Phnom Sampov en route back to Battambang. You are aiming to get here for the later afternoon, for reasons which will become aparant later. An important religious site known throughout all Cambodia, Phnom Sampov is a striking limestone mountain. On the top of the hill is a Wat and many stupas along with various shrines and grottos. During the Khmer Rouge period the mountain was used as a place to kill “”enemies”” of the regime and in what are known as the “”killing caves”” there is a memorial to these victims. Also on the mountain are two rusting artillery pieces which were used by the Cambodian government and their Vietnamese allies in the fight against the Khmer Rouge which ended in 1996.
Although Phnom Sampov has a tragic past it is also a pleasant place to visit. The panoramic views from the top are truly breathtaking and there are a variety of food and drink stalls at the base of the mountain. Every evening at nightfall thousands of bats make their way out of caves in the hillside to feed before returning at dawn.