Welcome to Cambodia
I have friends that have family over in Cambodia, so when they offered for me to tag along on a family trip, I gladly accepted! The year was 2013 and we gathered a group of about 8 of us and headed over to Phnom Phen. We landed, and OMG what a fucking shit show at the airport to get a visa on arrival. Basically you stood in a line up for 45 minutes, then handed a man your passport and he runs off with it out back and does’nt return. Then the other airport workers are shoving you over to the waiting area, which by the way has zero seats and little to no air-conditioning. you are standing there sweating thinking, “well this is it, Cambodia has me now. My mother always told me this would happen. God dammit why didn’t I listen to her.” and 30 minutes later a man appears from behind the wide open counter with an arm full of passports. Yells something to the heard of eager migrant tourists that we were and dumps a pile of passports on the desk. For a second everyone looks at each other confused and then the heard stampedes toward the counter just hoping one of those passports in the strewn about pile is yours with a fresh Cambodian visa in it. The man comes in waves of every five minutes with a fresh armload and you have to endure the punishing heard until you realize its every man woman and child for themselves so you start throwing elbows and getting violent until finally, “YES” there is yours you’ve found it! Off to the next line up, Customs. When you get to the front of the line, the man speaks no English and you just have to assume what he is saying to you are the standard questions. “How long are you hear, where are you staying?” you answer politely, hoping he cannot smell your fear until finally he pulls up that large entry granted stamp and gives it a good hard wack down onto your newly stickered page in your passport. Freedom you think to yourself as you run toward the luggage carousel in excitement. Then you realize you are officially in Cambodia. “Is this country free? why did i do zero research before i came here? shit!” well lets just get my bag and get a beer. You pick up your bag and head outside to a barrage of Cambodians yelling, “touk touk, touk touk” and then one approaches you, “you want to shoot rocket launcher?” you think to yourself, “fuck ya i wanna shoot a rocket launcher” but you are questioning shooting a rocket launcher in Cambodia. you think you should probably do something like that in a safer place such as Texas! But what the hell its an option for later. We take a group of touk touks downtown to the river front and check into what is hopefully destroyed at this point, a hotel called the Kmher Royal. There was nothing fucking royal about it. I had a single bed with one thin sheet and a window that looked into a parking garage. A shower tub with no curtain and black mold in every crevice of the bathroom. The best part about it was the lobby bar had ice cold $1 draft Cambodian beers and hell it was $20/night. so we did what anyone would do on landing day and got a good day drunk going, went and got some average supper and took it fairly easy. Walking down the streets there was a lot of beggars and street kids selling small merchandise approaching. I bought some bracelets off the kids and moved along.
Rocket launcher day. Today was the day we all decided to go to the shooting range. The one piece of research I actually did about Cambodia before entering the country was shooting a rocket launcher. It was my one sole reason that I was very excited to go to Cambodia. There wasn’t another place on earth that I had heard of being able to do this. So we rented a van and a driver for the day at a grand cost of $50US. He drove us to the gun range in the city. We exited the van into a warehouse looking building. On the inside was about 5 Khmer guys and a pleather of guns basically laying around. There was no official counter like as you would see in an American store. Nope just the odd wooden picnic table. One of the men sat us down and handed us all literal menus of guns. They had M60’s, Ak47’s, a Browning machine gun, and of coarse there was the rocket launcher for $300US/Rocket. In my opinion, worth it! And what was this hidden little gem at the very bottom of the menu? A little picture of a Grenade for $100US! No way i exclaimed. “Can we throw a hand grenade?” i asked. “Of course”, the Cambodian man said. “Okay sign me up for one rocket and one grenade i said. We went around the table and Wes, Tony and Phil all decided on a rocket and Tony also opted for the Grenade. The man convinced us into the M60 machine gun as well. So there it was we all reached into our pockets and dropped $1500US on the picnic table. The Cambodian man gathered it up and yelled something in Khmer to his staff members and it was on. 4 Khmer guys running around the shop gathering up rockets, rocket launchers, grenades and Machine guns. They hustled them into the back of our van, told us to get in. His exact words being, “hop in, we drive one hour to mountain.” “Okay” we all proclaimed and piled into the van. So there we were, Tony, Wes, Phil, Wes’s girlfriend, myself, a range staff member and of course our driver who was surprisingly non chalant about the whole situation. Like he sees it everyday! So there we are driving through downtown Phnom Phen, Cambodia with a van load of heavy artillery. You had to pinch yourself to know it was real. But yes it was real. You could tell by the distraught look on Wes’s Gfs face. She was not happy about driving in a van full of explosives. To tell you the truth i think we were all a bit nervous about the situation as i said, “could you please avoid any potholes sir?” To the driver. Its funny because that’s an impossible expectation for Cambodian roads.
The guy had told us one hour but after 3 hours we pull up to what appears to be a military compound of sorts with a gate guarded by two Cambodian soldiers. Our driver pulls up and rolls down his window. After some exchange of words in khmer, the driver pulls a $1 bill out of his pocket and hands it to the soldier. He pockets the $1US bill and lifts the gate and waves us in. We all look at each other and wonder, did we just bribe our way into a military compound for $1US. We drive for about 5 minutes through the compound and then into a slightly wooded area. We round a corner where the trees open up and there on a picnic table are 5 Cambodian men in military fatigues all drinking beer with all sorts of weaponry strewn across the table. They are surprised by our van pulling around the corner but then immediately spring into action. They open our doors and let us out, and they grab our weaponry from the back and start a little rocket assembly line on the table as well. We all crack a beer and cheers some of the soldiers. “Jol Kay Mou”! While the rocket assembly line and beer drinking is taking place, one of the guys asks us, “who wants to blow up a cow?” Now i had also researched this. I heard of being able to blow up a cow or whatever farm yard animal you wanted to actually before coming here. I had pondered the idea. I am an animal lover, so that part of me said no, but the devil on my shoulder was telling me, “Nick when are you ever gonna get the opportunity to blow up a cow with a rocket launcher ever again? it’d make a great story!” I’m like, “i know evil part of Nick, but i don’t think i could live with myself after doing something like that to a poor innocent animal. I eat cows and that’s bad enough. But at least that is using the cow for a purpose. And blowing up a cow with a rocket launcher is purely for sport and i’m not into that!” So we bartered with the guy anyhow just for fun while pondering the option. I had researched that a cow should cost $200. The man started at $400 and then i worked him down to $200. But after only a little bit of deliberation I decided ultimately that it was immoral and Karma would get me later in life for doing such a thing, so i declined. After about 10 minutes the man that was assembling the rockets asks, ” okay who’s first?” I quickly raise my hand and proclaim loudly, “meee!” Alright he says, lets go. He takes me to a berm and there is a mountain in the far off background probably about 700Meters away. I ask him where to aim? he says. “you shoot high, you shoot level, but don’t shoot low!” I said “okay sound good.” I decided i’d go dead level and make it hit the mountain side in the distance. He hands me some tissue paper to put in my ears. I wedge it in and he hands me the RPG. He helps me place it correctly and I ask, “so its live? ready to go? just pull the trigger?” he says, “yes i give you count down then pull trigger” my friends all have there phones out. I’m shaking I’m so nervous. But in the best way possible. He says, “three….. two…….. one”
BOOOOM! Nothing prepared me for how loud that was going to be and how much smoke there was after. I own guns and have been shooting them my entire life, but Jesus nothing compares to that! Then after about 2 full seconds another Boom far off in the distance on the mountain side, incredibly exactly where i aimed it. You could see a tiny explosion and a puff of smoke in the distance. The back blast and gases expelled out of the trigger area had cut my thumb and I was bleeding but not to badly! haha i was shaking from enjoyment.
In the next 10 minutes, Wes would shoot it then Tony and then finally Phil. The Cambodian man gives Phil the same countdown, three, two, one……. “click”………(and nothing for about one second)…. and in that second, Phil looks over at us, tilts the RPG Launcher slightly down and BOOOM, it goes off. and then a large Explosion and fireball directly in front of us about 100 Meters out. we all look in amazement. it takes me a full second to realized what had just happened. Phil shot the ground in front of us. the one thing the Cambodian man told me not to do! I look down at my legs and chest area, give myself a good scan. I’m amazed I’m okay because that fireball was so close to us. the Cambodian man grabs the launcher from Phil and walks by me, looks at me and says, “very bad shot, I never see so close before”!
Time for the Grenades!, he takes us over to a berm and again I go first. For safety reasons he gets me to throw 3 rocks in a very specific location over the berm. All three of my rocks land in the spot he pointed out. He says, “good now you throw grenade right there.” I say, “okay.” He gives me the grenade, I pull the pin and after that pin was pulled I realized this thing I’m holding is now an extremely hot potato! I panic a bit and launch that thing far past the spot I had thrown the three rocks! He grabs me and we both take cover. Boom! Haha it was another exhilarating experience that I highly recommend any gun enthusiast do before they die!
- Nature/Landscape – 6/10
- Food – 7/10 (you can find good and bad!)
- Price – $
- Alcohol Price – $
- Locals – Super friendly and mostly spoke English