Bus rides, machine guns, and taxis - oh my!

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Shooting a fully automatic M-16 assualt rifle in Aranya Prahthet.

Right now I'm sitting in the lobby of our guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Five minutes away are the world-famous Angkor Wat ruins, which I've heard put any Europeon castles/ruins/temples to shame. We spend tomorrow, and possibly the next day, exploring the expansive ruins by tuk-tuk. The ruin area spans hundreds of kilometers, so we'll see only a small fraction. Very exciting.

At the end of my last post I mentioned that we were taking a gov bus up to the border town of Aranya Prahthet. On the bus we met Kay, a 22 year old soldier in the Thai army. He's pretty much a badass. He knows 10 ways to kill a man with one finger (something he's very proud of). He patrols the southern part of Thailand where the muslim groups are doing bad terrorist stuff and basically keeps locals safe.

Us with the Thai army. The guy on the left is the Captain, Kay is in the green t-shirt, and I look really tall.
From the stories he told, he's very lucky to be alive, having been shot at and attacked countless times. But he's awesome, and invited us to hang out with him in his hometown of Aranya Prahthet. After going to his house we went out for some amazing thai bbq. With thai bbq, there's a bin of coals in the middle of the table with a weird shaped grill on top. The grill is shaped kind of like a juicer - the meat goes on top and you make a soup ''moat'' around the outside. Very cool and tasty - I want one for back home.

After lunch he offered to take us to the local army base, where he told us we could shoot shotguns and handguns if we paid for bullets. Never one to say no to an interesting opportunity, we agreed. When we got there the Thai army was shooting assualt rifles and machine guns - more on that later.

Me firing a machine gun.
We bought bullets for a big .38 six-shooter handgun and a few shotgun shells. In addition to the regular paper targets they have metal targets that knock down when (if) you hit them. Lots of fun, and it turns out I'm a pretty good shot with both. Kay also showed off his speed shooting skills - I would not want to fuck with him in a firefight.

So it turns out the Thai army really only goes shooting the big guns one day a year, when they have to use up all the old bullets so they can buy new ones for the next year. Sort of like selling day old bagels super cheap, or something like that. So after we finish shooting the handgun and shotgun, Kay asks us if we want to try shooting a fully automatic M-16 assualt rifle. How do you say no to something like that? So we shoot mag after mag through an M-16. Then he asks if we want to shoot the machine gun. I didn't want to be impolite so I agreed... something like that ;-). So yeah, I got to shoot a handgun, shotgun, M-16, and machine gun with the Thai army, all for free. Kay says we probably shot about $200+ worth of bullets. Wow, those things go fast. But come on, how many people can say they've shot M-16's and machine guns with the Thai army? Everyone was very nice, and Kay introduced us to the captain and various officers, who were all very nice and polite.

It's worth noting that the army shooting range borders a soccer field and golf course, with no fence separating the two. Had I walked 20 feet away I would have been in the driving line of the golfers. Most of the soldiers stick empty bullet shells in their ears for sound damping.

Kay says that next time we come, we'll get to shoot a rocket launcher. Seriously.

After spending the night, we went over to the Cambodian border the next morning to catch a cab to Siem Reap. While the three hour taxi ride is expensive, it takes less than half the time of the busses, and are far more reliable. We split a $60 cab with two girls, so it was only $15/each. The road from the border to Siem Reap is utter shit, filled with potholes the size of busses (literally). Word on the street is that an unnamed airline is paying off the local government to keep the road crappy. We finally arrived in Siem Reap, grabbed lunch/dinner, and headed back here. Everything is very cheap, and we're staying at the nicest hotel yet, all for $8/night.

Tomorrow are the ruins. I've taken soooo many pictures so far.

lisacoleman says:
So I guess we can expect to see our friendly neighborhood rock climber toting an assault rifle the next time he's at the crags? Man, Zac, you're having an INCREDIBLE time! Andy, Cashus and I are living vicariously through you. Your trip sounds like it's been one adventure after another. You are inspiring this family to take off for Asia! (For the record, uh, I'm not into guns, but I would definitely not pass up the opportunity, either!) We look forward to hearing about more. Much love, Lisa, Cashus and Andy
Posted on: Jul 27, 2008
jaeWALK says:
that's one cool encounter! so cool you got to meet the army guy and went shooting. unexpected but really cool experience. i should meet him some day too. haha!

have a safe and fun trip exploring angkor. im really green with envy right now
Posted on: Jul 26, 2008
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Us with the Thai army. The guy on …
Us with the Thai army. The guy on…
Me firing a machine gun.
Me firing a machine gun.
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