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Cambodia- Beers, Rocket Launchers, Grenades and Cows

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.

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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!

Cambodia

  • Nature/Landscape – 6/10
  • Food                               – 7/10 (you can find good and bad!)
  • Price                               – $
  • Alcohol Price             – $
  • Locals                             – Super friendly and mostly spoke English

Trolltunga – Norway

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Welcome to Norway

The Tongue of the Troll! I didn’t really have too much hiking experience before I had decided to embark on the most extreme hike of my life. I had read plenty about this hike before hand and most experienced hikers were putting this one into the category of a “serious” hike. Somewhere in between Moderate and Extreme! and I have to say that is a highly accurate statement. Located in Tyssedal, Norway, this 20-28km hike is the most gorgeous area of the world I have ever seen. From sheer cliffs with beautiful lake views to enormous waterfalls gushing millions of liters of water per day, I will tell you right now, all of Norway for that matter is one big gigantic gorgeous post card. It doesn’t matter where you are in this country, you will have an epic selfie, worthy of becoming your newest Facebook profile photo. I highly recommend you put Norway on your bucket list. However bring your wallet, because this country is hands down one of the most expensive countries i have ever been to! I hear Greenland is worse, but I digress. Yhe country also seems to have a major anti alcohol agenda. A single beer at the liquor store will cost you between four to seven dollars Canadian. And yes they only sell beer as single bottles in Norway. So when you pick up that 12 pack and look at the price of 44 NOK ($7/Canadian) and think wow that’s cheap, don’t be fooled and end up paying 536NOK ($84 Canadian) for a case like i did! The price is displayed per bottle. That and the fact that the liquer stores all close at 6pm. However you can buy beer at the grocery store or markets, if you wanna get a drink after 6pm and have missed the liquer store. You can go to a bar or pub, but a beer there will be at least double that price. I recommend you visit other European countries, that celebrate your alcoholism first, then use Norway as a half way point in your vacation in order to sober up and enjoy some amazing nature. Go hiking, get back in shape before heading of to another party area of Europe!

Lets dive into Trolltunga. How do you get there? okay, what I recommend and did for myself was, fly into Stavenger, a town of only 150,000 people or so, and spend one night there. Rent a car, get some groceries, either you should bring a tent with you or buy one there, gather up all necessary supplies for the drive and hike and then head out to a small town close to Tyssedal Norway. Personally i stayed in Odda at Odda camping. it was a great little campground full of friendly foreign hikers and expats working in the town for the summer. Great vibes by all. You are going to want to wake up super early in the morning in order to head to the starting point of Trolltunga located in Skjeggedal. you’ll take a right turn in Tyssedal where it says Skjeggedal & trolltunga car park. You are going to want to arrive at the car park no later than 5:30am if you want to have a hope in hell in being able to drive the first 4km of brutal uphill to the upper car park. The upper car park has about 30 car spaces, so the first 30 cars lined up in the queue for that will be the lucky ones. A true case of the early bird gets the worm. This will shave 8km off of your hike. Which is why i said earlier about the hike being anywhere from 20-28km long. Don’t do what i did and arrive at the initial car park and pay thinking it was the upper most car park. I was there at 5am and I could have made the line for the upper car park but thought i was already there. The lower car park im speaking of holds probably around 100 cars. just for your own reference when you arrive. Anyhow long story short, I did the 28km roundtrip hike. The first 4km from the lower car park is walking on paved road up to the upper car park, which is a pretty extreme uphill walk consisting of switch back roads. Youll be questioning whether or not you will be able to do another 24km of this. But dont worry, from the upper car park the real trail begins. Your next 1 km will be slowly rolling up and down hills, just enough to make you start thinking “oh man this hike will be easy from here on out”. however if you think that youll be dead wrong. because the next 3km are pretty extreme up hill mountain side as well. Dont worry there is no rock climbing or cliff face repelling or anything. Im just saying its a daunting elevation gain. In total youll gain 900 meters of elevation before the hike is through. the last 4km are ups and downs which are nice because they even each other out. This is my favorite part of the hike. Especially the last 1km because you know you are getting close and the adrenalin starts flowing heavily and you are so excited you dont even realize how exhausted you are anymore. Then you crest that final hill and it all opens up right in front of your eyes as if you were blind and had a miracle occur and you’ve just seen your very first sunrise! One of the most magnificent views I have ever had bestowed upon me! Trolltunga! spend a few hours there, have some lunch and a rest, take a few hundred pics for editing them later and you are set to turn around and make the long 10-14km hike back to your vehicle. In total i did the hike in about 10 hours. that was with an hour at the rock ledge. But i had a really steady pace going the entire time, with only one quick sandwich break each way.

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There are bus transportation options as well from the nearest towns that you can look into if you didn’t want to rent a vehicle. But if you are going to Norway, you’ll want to check out some of the other amazing places and hikes they have available such as Kjeragbolton rock and Preikstolen. These are just two examples you can look into if you havent heard of them before I highly recommend you google them. Unfortunately when I was there it rained everyday except one and that was the day I went to Trolltunga. And be warned, they will shut down these trails if it is raining so you’ll want to have a few days at each place as a buffer zone in case the weather is bad.

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Supplies for hike; at the minimum you should have, a backpack, flashlight, rain jacket and pants, warm sweaters, food for the day, enough water for yourself, hiking boots, hat and sunglasses. They recommend that you should bring walking sticks with you, but those people piss me off so i’m not recommending that at all. You’ll look like a douche with them and nature didn’t intend us to walk with sticks.

There will be a lot of people hiking this trail with you and there will be a long queue for the picture-taking at the rock ledge. So be prepared for that. A lot of people had full camping gear with them. You are allowed to set up a tent along the trail, but off the trail and camp over night. But for god sakes take all of your garbage with you and I don’t think you are allowed to have fires either. Anyhow, if you decide to camp out over night you’ll be able to get great pictures at the cliff at sunrise and sunset. Be careful not to get up in the middle of the night to pee and fall off of a cliff!

Norway

  • Nature/Landscape – 10/10
  • Food – 4/10 (not very good)
  • Price – $$$$$
  • Alcohol Price – $$$$$
  • Locals – Super friendly and all spoke English

Moscow

Moscow, The Business City of Well Dressed Russians!

Welcome to Moscow

Overall Impressions- I loved my time in Moscow. Everyone was super friendly and polite and it’s very English friendly. As in most Russians in Moscow know how to speak and understand English. But its wise to learn a bit of Russian before going and at least try. they will smile and giggle at you and then speak to you in English! it is a business oriented city so there is little to no poverty that i saw anyhow and everyone is dressed well. lots of Dapper looking Suited up Russian folk walking around the streets.

I traveled to Moscow in August 2018. After some lengthy and a little bit expensive Visa application processes, I got accepted. Off to meet up with a Russian friend. I landed in Moscow and headed to the Novotel Kievskaya. I was surprised to see the tight security at the hotel when i arrived. it was on the fourth floor of a tall building and upon exiting the elevator there was full blown airport style security you had to go through before even entering the hotel. which is kind of annoying but makes you feel safe at the same time. when you go to Moscow there are a couple of must see attractions. of course i’m going to say the Kremlin and also St Basils Cathedral, but what i’m always more so into is the food and party scene. when i arrive at any major new city i like to start drinking with the locals. so for these kind of shenanigans, head down to Old Arbot Ave and also New Arbot Ave. they are about one block away from each other and just west of the main center of Moscow. New Arbot is obviously newer with nice pubs and restaurants everywhere layed out down a busy road but has large walking areas on either side. Old Arbot is more of a European style walking street with lots of little cafes and pubs. my recommendation is to head out there at night and pub hop and make some new international Russian friendships! Start off by saying, “Dobri Vecher, ya govoryu tol’ko nemnogo, ya hochu tebya 😉

When in Moscow i advise you to take the Metro everywhere. its super cheap and very punctual of time. The metro stations are simply incredible. Every station has its own art theme and displays as seen above. It will honestly make you wanna stop at every station and get out just to walk around and look at all the cool stuff they’ve got displayed everywhere. Or you can take a taxi as well. They are really really cheap in Russia!

Moscow

  • Nature/Landscape – 3
  • Food                          – 8 (very very good)
  • Price                          – $$ (cheap)
  • Alcohol Price           – $$ (cheap)
  • Locals                        – Super friendly and mostly spoke English
  • Transportation         – $ (Super Cheap and effective and efficient)