After having not been there for about 18 months, I decided to check out what’s left of the Boeung Kak district of Phnom Penh, the area formerly known as Lakeside.
In August of 2010 I wrote a piece about the development of Boeung Kak by Shukaku, Inc. While construction has not yet commenced, most of the businesses around the now filled-in lake have either closed down or moved, but there are a few holdouts against the decline of the neighbourhood. Grand View and Number 10 are two of the old guesthouses still operating (though the view is far from grand now), and the only actual bar still there is Lost And Found.
I spoke with a tuktuk driver who’d lived in the area for most of his life, and he was of the opinion that once the proposed highrise buildings went up, bulldozers would be run through the rest of that end of Street 93 to make way for an access road to the development.
But, as many people like to say, “This is Cambodia.” Anything could happen at any time, or nothing might happen for years.
A small town 17 kilometers from the Thai border and 80 kilometers from Battambang, Pailin is often called the Wild West of Cambodia. During my three-night stay, I didn’t see another Westerner. I was even forced to try out my very limited Khmer when it came to ordering food and drinks and finding out how much things cost. Pailin would be the perfect antidote to anyone burned out from Cambodia’s “tourist trail”.
It’s true that there’s not a lot here for travellers, but for me that’s part of its appeal. There are no Western-style bars, no nightlife to speak of. It’s a true Cambodian town which has not felt the touch of tourism. In fact, every transport option that I was given while there offered me a lift out of town, either to Battambang or to the Thai border. For a Westerner to stay in Pailin is evidently still something of a novelty.
The town has a chequered past, from being a wealthy area famous for its abundance of gems and timber in the 1800s to being one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge as recently as 1998.
The area is populated with descendents of Burmese immigrants who came to the area in the late 1800s in search of fortune. One of the remaining influences from Burma is the golden stupa at Wat Phnom Yat on the edge of town.