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.