Some 80km southwest of Battambang, PAILIN is a dusty little frontier town. The only link to the rest of the country is the unsurfaced National Route 57 from Battambang, and once you arrive there's really no reason to be here unless you're crossing the border into Thailand. The former gem-mining centre has a wild and edgy atmosphere, ringed by hills and revelling in its isolation. After being ousted from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge were easily able to hole up here, supporting their campaigns against the government by tapping into the area's rich natural resources – gemstones and untouched forests; it's said that gem-mining alone earned them a monthly revenue of $10 million. These days, the mines are pretty much paid out, however.
The best hotel in town is the Hang Meas (Tel:012/787546; Price: $11-15), a little west of the centre, towards the border. Rooms here are clean and pleasant, with chunky wood furniture, hot water, en-suite bathrooms, a/c and TV; it also has the best restaurant in town, with an English-language menu and a selection of Khmer, Thai and Western dishes, as well as eggs and bread for breakfast. The Kim Young Heng Guest House (Tel:016/939841; Price: Up to $5), located a few steps up the hill from the market behind the restaurant of the same name - which turns out tasty Khmer food and also has an English menu - has a range of fan and a/c rooms, some bright and appealing (although others are windowless cells). Opposite the market, the Punleu Pich Guest House (Tel:016/958611; Price: Up to $5) offers basic facilities and the cheapest rates in town.
Eating in Pailin is no gastronomic delight, but there are plenty of stalls in the market and cheap restaurants nearby. These apart the hotel restaurants are your best bet, although the Phkay Proek, near the top of the ridge road, is another reliable choice. Nightlife in Pailin revolves around numerous karaoke/dining places: the brightly lit Phnom Kieu on the ridge road is the best of the lot, though few foreigners venture inside.