Say hello to my little friend

Early morning on the 20th I was waiting at the dock ready to leave Don Det and it seemed like everyone else had the idea. There was a mass exodus with about fifty people all leaving for the 8am boat that would start us on our journey to Siem Reap, including the kayaking team from the day before which meant there were a few familiar faces.

When crossing a border it can usually go one of two ways, they can make things incredibly difficult or make it very easy, thankfully at the border crossing into Cambodia it was the latter. Needing a visa on arrival I approached the wooden hut to hand in the relevant forms. There were a couple of steps into the hut so I moved around the side of the building where I could see the immigration officers sat at their desk. I started to wave at them and shouted “Hello!”, immediately catching the attention of the one sat closer to me. He came over and asked for my form, took a quick glance and asked me for the $35 processing fee then went off and did all the leg work for me, bringing me back my passport with the visa inside.

After a four hour delay getting on the next bus at the border, there was a nerve-racking ride down to Siem Reap with a driver who had no concept of a reasonable speed, even on pitch black roads while talking on his phone. As the bus parked in the bus station at Siem Reap we were greeted be a hoard of tuk tuk drivers who were all very keen to offer us assistance and find out where we needed to go. I had no idea where I was going. A German couple from the kayaking trip were heading into the centre and I thought that was a good a place as any to start looking for somewhere to stay. The place they stopped at was a bit expensive, so I asked the tuk tuk driver, Sariq, if he knew a budget place. He drove round a couple of places that didn’t have space or weren’t very accessible until we got to the Balaha hostel and for $10 I got a private room. Sariq had been helpful, had a friendly attitude and spoke good English so when he offered to take me on a tour of Angkor Wat for $15 the next day I agreed.

We set off around 10am and after a quick stop to buy a new camera we were at the ticket booth. To buy a ticket to get into the grounds you needed to have a picture taken to ensure there was no passing around tickets, before I had a chance to start getting out of the tuk tuk, Sariq had already reversed up to the counter so I could be photographed from my seat. This followed him getting the salesman at the camera shop to come out and show me cameras and was how the rest of the day was going to happen.

The temples are impressively enormous and equally inaccessible. I did think for a small time about lifting myself up the steps to get a better look around inside but I was quite enjoying sightseeing from the outside and it did mean that I got to see a lot more of the smaller temples that weren’t being crowded by tourists. There were quite a few times when we got to places that the tuk tuks were not allowed to go past but security let us through after Sariq had a word with them. Sariq was a reformed ex meth dealer, but in my books he was a good guy.

Sat in the back of the tuk tuk in the shade all day, I’d not been thinking about how much water I was drinking. While I’d been drinking coke and ice coffee to keep myself cool I’d not had any water and this was apparent as soon as I got back to the hostel and the same sickly feeling that I had felt back in Bagan. The heat had got to me again. I was getting sick, lost my appetite and couldn’t even keep water down. I decided to get an early night ahead of my early boat ride to Phnom Penh the next day.

When looking at things to do out in Cambodia, I found a shooting range at one of the army barracks that was near the mountains just out of town. While I’m not a big fan of guns, I was definitely curious about checking it out and this seemed like a one-off opportunity that I should probably not pass up. I was picked up from the hotel and driven along with an Aussie couple to the barracks. We both had a similar list of what we wanted to fire: AK47, M16, M60 (Rambo gun) and a bazooka. After a couple of emails that I’d sent to Steven, the guy organising the trip, he had agreed to set up a straw hut to shoot at. When we got there, the straw hut had indeed been set up – with a drum of diesel inside.

As there were two of us wanting to fire the bazooka we tossed a coin to see who would go first, he was star, I was elephant. Elephant landed face up. I crossed the sandy terrain to a lower part of the embankment and I was passed the bazooka. I placed it on my shoulder and secured it in place with my left hand. They wedged me in with branches beneath my wheels as my brakes are slightly knackered and told me that there would be no kick back when I fired which I was relieved to hear.

I lined up the sight with the diesel can which was tough to do with having the weight of the gun on my shoulder and not much balance. I had the target in my sight and waited for the green light. The general said “Fire!” I pulled the trigger, *click*, nothing happened. What a let-down. They told me it was a dud bullet and threw it to one side – that’s right, threw it! I got a reload and lined up my target again. I pulled the trigger and the rocket launched. It was a couple of seconds then boom! It was a direct hit and the hut blew up.

It was a fast visit there shooting a couple of rounds and ultimately quite expensive, but it was fun. The video shows me firing the weapons, which was actually pretty tricky with my balance, all except for the Rambo gun which was comfortable as I was sat on the floor and it was on a tripod. This next video was made by Steve, the guy who organised the trip to the shooting range and has some great slow motion clips.

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