A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

From Sihanoukville to Pattaya

Trying to get to Pattaya on public transport

sunny 87 °F

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I bought my bus ticket to Koh Kong the day I got to S'ville. Paid $10 and should of done a bit more looking around. There are several companies in the parking lot/bus station in S'ville. I should have looked the companies over better and picked a better bus. The company I picked used crap buses, my bad.

Photos of a finished bridge, Gordon's Restaurant, my S'ville-Pattaya bus above.

In the morning I said goodbye to Gordon and his wife, walked over to the parking lot and got on the bus. I should of bought some bread beforehand. I could not find any readily available in the parking lot. We left almost on time, 7:30am, and had a short trip. I figured as much, most on the bus were going to Phnom Penh. At the Sre Ambol junction, we are kicked off. We wait 45 minutes before the bus from PP arrives. Several of us farangs walked to a nearby restaurant/store and ordered a meal. I stuck with rice and also bought some baguettes. When the bus arrived we were herded on to an already full bus. The 3 of us got the worse seats on the bus. The very last row, bench seat rather than individual. We don't go far before we stop and everybody has to get off. The bridges are up, but they don't allow traffic to use them yet. This is great, pick up your luggage, walk in the hot sun across the finished bridge and board another bus. There are two companies playing this hopscotch game and the other company has a much newer bus. I regret not checking out the companies better when in S'ville.

I first went over the Koh Kong to Sre Ambol road back in 2000. The Thai Army got the contract to cut the road through the Cardamom mountains. KK to Sre Ambol via road was a real adventure back then. Dusty when dry, a nightmare of mud during rainy season. It could take 8 hours or 14, depended on the ferry timing and how bad the mud was that day. Back then you used a share taxi, usually a Toyota Camry. For 600 baht, you shared a seat, 4 in the rear or 3 in the front with the driver. For most westerners, this is not enough space. Everyone was happy to stop so we could get out and stretch/smoke. There were no bridges up and there are 4 rivers to cross. That means you wait your turn to board the 4 ferries. The smokers and those who need to stretch were happy for the break, those in a hurry, not so much. This was not a fun journey before the road was paved.

Now the road is completely paved, bridges are up, but not ready for traffic. The bus people tell me that in a few months the bridges will be used and cut still more time off the trip. They should be open when you read this. I went over in April, it is now June and hopefully you can go all the way to KK w/o walking over a finished bridge with your luggage. We got into Koh Kong around 1:30, not bad, but will be faster now. There is the usual rugby scrum of motodops and taxi drivers ready to take you over the Hun Sen Bridge to the Thai border. They ask for 100 baht, which is ridiculous for a 10 minute ride, I walk away and one guy follows me ask asks, "what you pay?" I offer $2.00 and he agrees. Off we go, I pay the bridge toll in riel, 2,000 if I remember right and hit the Cambodian Immigration office. It goes pretty fast and I start walking no man's land into Thailand. The Cambodian Custom guys can and do check bags, but I had 2 small bags and they did not look at either one. On the Thai side, I fill out the form and get the free 30 day entry permit. The van to Trat now loads very close to the border. You used to walk over to a hotel parking lot and wait for the van to leave. There was a scheduled departure time, but that seems to have changed as well. A small cheer went up when I told the Thai driver I wanted to go to Trat. I really want to go all the way to Pattaya, but unless there are at least 4 or 5 to split the tab, it is too expensive. The other farangs tell me that they have been waiting over an hour. They will not leave until there is a full van. I have a bite to eat and wait with the others. Lucky for us, a few more come over and we now have enough. I should of had a conference with the other farangs and got everyone to agreed to pay more to leave NOW! It would have only been 50 baht more per person to leave 30 minutes sooner. The Thais are focused on money, that is just the way it is. Once we have the required 10 passengers, we pay the 110 baht and off we go to Trat. But, we stop in Hat Lek first to pick up a Thai lady. Now that we are completely full, we proceed to Trat. Years ago, the bus station and van pick up area were on a street in downtown Trat. Now they have built a real bus station on the outskirts of the city. We arrive in Trat at 3:30pm and get out of the van. The usual swarm of Thais asking: "where you go?". Some of us were staying in Trat, some heading for Koh Chang, some BKK and a few for Pattaya. Everyone tells me that the last bus to Pattaya has left already. This is true, I found this out years ago. You have to hit Trat by 3:00 to get a direct bus to Pattaya. But, you can still get there, it just takes a bit longer. I had time for a bite to eat, had my rice & fried egg at the bus station food court, not bad and a bargain at 35 baht. On the 4:00pm to Chanthaburi, 52 baht. Got off just in time to catch the next bus to Rayong, 70 baht. Same drill, into Rayong and jump on a bus going by Pattaya, 60 baht. With the new tollways being built, many buses no longer use Sukhumvit, making it more difficult to use this route.

My bus stops at Pattaya Tai (south) and I know my way from here. There are moto taxi guys just about everywhere and one yells at me. A farang walking with luggage is a bit of a tip off. I have an old address card for La Chiquita GH, just off Soi Buakhao. He knows the area of course and off we go. A quick 50 baht fare and I get off at my GH. I used to stay with my friends at Sutus Court, also on Soi Buakhao. But, it has just gotten too popular and expensive for me anymore. Most of their rooms are taken by longstay guys and they seldom have a vacant room. Certainly not at 9:00 at night. I started staying at La Chiquita back in 03 and now use it as my spot in Pattaya. The rates have gone up from 06, but what hasn't? I did barter for a weekly rate and did get a bit off. I paid 3,000 baht for 7 nights. Daily rate is now 450 baht, not out of line for a secure room with a/c, cable TV, hot water, lockbox. What I like about this place is that they have hasps on the door. This way you can use your own padlock to lock the door. Room keys are a joke. There is also a lockbox in the room that you program yourself. I don't use that because they also have gym lockers in the hall. You use your own lock on this as well. I can leave my important things in the locker: passport, airline ticket, money, camera, etc. All in all, La Chiquita gives you good value for your money. There is a bar downstairs, pool table and darts for those interested. There is rock music playing most of the time, but once in your room with the a/c on, you cannot hear it. I always ask for a room facing the rear of the building. I don't want a view and I don't want to be facing the street. I want quiet and secure. La Chiquita GH provides both for a reasonable price.

I left Sihanoukville at 7:30am and got to my room in Pattaya at 9:00pm. A long day to be sure, but better than past trips. Back in 2001, I left Phnom Penh at 6:30am in a share taxi and did not arrive in Pattaya until 11:30pm. That was one long and tiring day. With the bridges open, you should be able to leave either PP or S'ville in Cambodia and arrive in either BKK or Pattaya by 6:00pm. Total cost for transport: S'ville to La Chiquita GH was $20. Not bad in 2008 prices.

Photos below are from the 2000 S'ville-KK trip.

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Posted by vegasmike6 21:19 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Sihanoukville Revisited

Going to see my friend in S'ville and checking out the beaches

82 °F

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I had a few days in Phnom Penh and got to see my NGO friends, the Soldner's. Ann & Alex, with the help of their children and small staff, help orphans and poor families in Cambodian. Readers of my posts know that I try to help those TP members that want to volunteer get in touch with Ann & Alex. Alex picked me up and I had a very nice evening at their house. Ann and her children whipped up a great meal for the whole crowd. I am a veggie so Ann made sure there was plenty of options for me. Daughter Sharon got me back to my GH after our evening was over. The Soldner's are a terrific family and I always stop by when I am in PP.

Most of my friends that used to live in PP have left. I cannot blame them as PP gets old after a few days, at least for me. I used to know about 10 guys that lived in PP and I would bump into them when we made visa runs from Pattaya. They got tired of PP as well and have left for other cities. The Soldner's are the only ones left in PP that I know. Everything changes as the years go by, that's for sure.

Photos of: Tuk Tuks, Capitol bus station, Mike & the Soldner family are above.

There are many buses that make the 4 hour run to Sihanoukville. Some leave from the Central Market, some from Sisowath Quay, some from their guesthouse. I use Capitol GH bus because I can walk from my room at Lucky GH II to the Capitol in a few minutes. If you do need transport, the tuk-tuks are a better option than a moto if you have luggage or there are 2 in your party. I got to the Capitol to eat by 6:30am. Had my omelette/bread and bought another baguette for the trip. Off at 7:15, one stop for bathroom/smoke. We got into the central bus station, St. 108, a parking lot really, at 11:30. I walked over to Expresso Kampuchea, where my friend Gordon lives/works. Gordon is a UK citizen and I have known him since the early 1990s. We used to stay in the same apartment complex in Pattaya until he moved to Phnom Penh in 1998. He spent about 4 years in PP and "R" and I would always visit Gordon when we would hit PP. Around 2002 he got tired of PP and moved down to S'ville. "R" and I would then stop in S'ville for a few days to visit him. In 2004, Gordon got married to a lovely young Cambo girl. He then bought the Expresso Kampuchea and now has a nice bar/restaurant to keep him busy.

I have not seen Gordon and his wife for a couple years and we had a nice chat catching up. I was only going to be in S'ville that day, so I got a room next door at the Freedom Hotel. They have a decent sized fan room for $9/nite. There were cheaper rooms across the street at the Angkor Arms, but I did not like the looks of them. I wanted a lockbox, the Freedom has them, Angkor Arms did not. I unpacked, got my shorts on, camera and went back to see Gordon. I told him I wanted a tour of the beaches, a couple hours at most. The laws renting motos have been in transition. Years ago, you could rent no problem. But, there were so many tourists injured and/or robbed, the Cambodian gov't stopped the rental bike business. Then they reversed themselves and you can now rent again. But, I did not want the hassle or problems of renting and asked Gordon to find a good moto driver for me. His wife went out and found one of their regular motodops at the market. Gordon told me $3 was OK for my tour. The guy agreed and off we went.

Readers of my older posts will know that I usually recommend staying on Victory Hill. There are cheap rooms, good food, nightlife and you can walk to the beaches. I have not been to the other beaches in years and wanted to see them. Our first stop was Ochheuteal /Serendipity Beach. I checked out a few hotels and walked the beach for some impressions and photos. I am now going to recommend TP members stay close to Ochheuteal/Serendipity. Nice combination of reasonable rooms, very nice beach and restaurants in easy walking distance. Back to the Golden Lion Roundabout, an old landmark in S'ville. On to Sohka Beach. There is a huge posh resort on Sohka, and I did not see any other places to stay that are easy to reach. A few photos and off the Independence Beach. We used walk to Independence from Victory Hill and had friends that had a beach business close to the derelict Independence Hotel. For many years, it sat there empty. Then about 3-4 years ago, we saw them starting to renovate it. Now it is open and a beautiful place to stay. They took over the entire Independence Beach and all the small businesses left. Regular people not welcome anymore at Independence. One reason I now vote for Ochheuteal. I took photos of all the new buildings going up around Independence and moved on to Hawaii Beach. Hawaii is the beach most tourists use that stay on Victory Hill. I walked around, photos and then got in a chat with some Russian guys. They are opening a restaurant/bar/disco using an old Russian plane as a prop. Photos and then up to Victory Hill. Several casinos in this area, then the old backpacking street, where Mealy Chendra is located. Mealy is the original BPers hotel/GH. They have a restaurant, great view of the ocean and a decent buffet on certain nights. The street has really gone downhill since my last visit. Many empty slots and not near as many restaurants as before. It was mid-day, so I did not see the bars open for business, but I could see several that looked like they could be in Pattaya. A quick walk around the area and it was time to head back to Gordon's. The VN consulate is on your right as you go down the steep section of Ekareach, flag out front. You can get a VN visa in a few minutes from the guy running the consulate. Figure $30-35 and 10 minutes. A real deal compared to most places in SEA. I paid my moto guy and off he went. I told Gordon how it went and had some tea. I agreed to eat with him that night and went to my room for a shower and a rest. Gordon's wife fixed a nice meal for us and we had a quiet evening, sharing stories.

Sihanoukville is a pretty nice beach town and worth a few days while you are in Cambodia. I stayed downtown this time, but usually stay up on Victory Hill. Now that I have seen the changes, I won't be recommending that area anymore. There are still cheap rooms on the hill, but the atmosphere has changed, not for the better. The Ochheuteal & Serendipity beach area have better options now, IMO. There are places to stay that won't break your budget. I looked at Jasmine Hotel and you could get a nice room for $15. Rooms for even less at Makara GH or Mohachai GH. Beach is less than 100 meters away, and plenty to restaurants to choose from. That makes for an enjoyable beach experience.

Below are my friend Gordon and his wife, the new Independence Hotel, construction at Independence Beach, photos of Victory Hill, Golden Lion Roundabout, Ochheuteal Beach, Russian plane bar/restaurant at Hawaii Beach.

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Posted by vegasmike6 21:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

HCMC to Phnom Penh

Back in HCMC and taking the Sinh Cafe bus over to Cambodia

semi-overcast 86 °F

01640121123.jpgMy friends were waiting for me at the Sinh Cafe office when the bus pulled in. I walked over to mini hotel alley and got a room at the same place, the Xinh Hotel. Same room, #7 which means 5 flights of stairs. $10/nite, a/c & tv. Same deal as before, I left my bag at the front desk and joined my friends for dinner. We picked a restaurant in the alley and chatted about their sleeper bus and what next. After dinner, "R" and I walked to Sinh Cafe office to book our bus to Phnom Penh. This was our last night together, "R" and I were off for Phnom Penh in the am. "V" and his bride "H" were going to stay another few days in HCMC before they separate. "V" will fly home to Canada and "H" will returned to her village. It has taken a year and they still don't have the proper visa for "H" to join her husband in Canada. I knew the US makes it difficult, I did not know Canada was slow as well. The 3 guys went out in the rain for a farewell drink. It will be at least a year before any of us see each other.

We paid $12 for the trip:HCMC-PP. This is more than I paid in past years, but you don't have to change buses at the border as past years. It was a pain in the a**, get off on the VN side, clear VN Imm., walk to the Cambodian side, pay the $20 visa fee, walk to the Capitol GH restaurant, wait and board a new bus for the rest of the journey. Now a new system is in place. You pay $25 while on the bus and a guy gets your Cambodian visa for you. It is easier, but you do pay $5 for the service. I really don't know if you can pass and do it on your own, nobody did on our bus. Due to increased tourism, the Vietnamese have built a new Immigration center and have streamlined the process. You do spend about an hour getting out of VN and into Cam. This is better than past years. Now you use the same bus and travel over to the Capitol GH restaurant for lunch. The road is now paved all the way from the VN border to PP. My first bus trip between PP & HCMC was in 2000. It was a real ordeal then. Bad road and bad buses. It took between 12 to 16 hours to make the journey, mostly because of the dirt road on the Cambodian side. In rainy season it was really a joke. Many times the bus driver would have to hire a tractor to pull the bus out of the mud so you could continue the trip. Now it is an easy trip lasting 7- 8 hours.

After having lunch at the restaurant, off we go for Phnom Penh. There is still the wait for the ferry that takes all vehicles across the MeKong River. We did not have to wait very long this time and were in PP by 4:00pm. Plenty of touts are waiting for you once the bus stops at the Capitol GH & Restaurant. We know where we want to stay and just keep walking, the touts finally quit following us. It is an easy walk from the Capitol to Lucky GH #2, located at #30, Street 115. Fan rooms for $8/nite, a/c rooms for $13. It was brutal hot in PP, so I splurged for an a/c room. We stayed 3 nights, so I took a $15 hit. But, I had been pretty frugal the entire trip and had plenty of money left for my last week in SEA. Once showered and unpacked, we walked over to Mama's Restaurant on St.111. Mama's has been serving decent food at reasonable prices for over 10 years that I have been going to PP. I had dinner for 8,000 riel.There is a very cheap option if you stay in the Capitol GH area. After the Orussy Market closes, street vendors set up shop in the parking lot. Both food and drink are less than any restaurant you could find. Dinner for 4,000 riel, hard to beat that. Just like in VN, you will see sidewalk vendors setting up after dark. Small table & chairs, primarily locals having a cheap meal or drink. A good way to save some money when in Cambodia. Give it a try.

Below are the border and the ferry system across the MeKong River.

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Posted by vegasmike6 22:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged bus Comments (1)

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