“Thirty Dorrar or go home!” The customs officer shouted at us with a dead-straight face. I instantly got the giggles due to his hospitality. After all, saying things as they are is a feast for the mind. Yet to my surprise, I seemed to be the only one that openly laughed at this legendary quote. Everyone around me ignored the loud hotshot, and I wondered why. Is everyone too exhausted from the jet lag? Too busy with social media feed, perhaps? Maybe those tourist bums just don’t have any sense of humor? Either way, leaving wise words in the dust is a missed shot. Such slips come at a high cost. Always and everywhere. Yes, even in ‘cheap cheap’ Southeast Asia.
After spending some precious cash, I arrived in Siem Reap. I took a shower, left my stuff in the room and made my move. Four men harassed me as soon as I stepped outside. Team Cambodia made wild gestures and competitive offers from their tuk-tuks. ‘Special price for you my friend!’ ‘Where do you want to go sir?’ ‘I can get anything for you!’ That kind of copy-paste thievery left me ice-cold. The last man standing firmly stood his ground, though.
Hmm… No boom-boom or psss-psss. This ain’t a brothel or drugs, but then what’s this all about? He gestured a pistol as I looked at him in silence. He pulled the trigger as he smiled and got a colossal bullet out of his pocket. “Shooting range sir. Big guns. Cheap cheap. Wanna go?” Fine. Just because you ask so nicely. And because the economy and employment are sacred. So I obediently took a seat for a good cause. After a mad rollercoaster ride, we arrived at an eerie silent and deserted plain. I let the ruined dump in front of me sink in. What a shady shithole. I silently anticipated the return of the Khmer Rouge, yet no robbery happened. The shutter opened and I was kindly greeted by the entrepreneur. I almost choked once I saw the wall. Bloody hell. There was enough military kit to set up an army of mercenaries. Machine guns, shotguns, submachine guns, RPG’s: he indeed had it all. The choice remained simple nonetheless. I wanted to use a world-famous rifle with which I made thousands of virtual headshots. Besides, I was quite intrigued by the AK-47’s symbolism. Now I could get my hands on something that’s jam-packed with misery and untold stories.
“Okay my friend. It’s loaded. Hold it. Aim and peng peng. Very easy. Any questions?” Yeah-Nah. That’s for later, I replied dryly. Then I posed like a trigger-happy Yank for a pic. After shooting a snapshot came the real deal. The temptation to casually blast from the hips was strong. To mindlessly fire it all in one quick go because we can. Or I’ll simply try hitting the bulls-eye. Out of allergy for over-the-top Hollywood nonsense, I chose the latter. I broke out in a sweat while on duty. This thing didn’t seem to be cleaned or serviced for a long time. Yet I willfully ignored the explosive risks of a used-up Kalashnikov. I went on and on like a possessed Jihadist. Just as long until the holy goal – a completely riddled mannequin – was met.
“No bullets, no problem my friend. Machinegun. Thirty Dorrar!”
Oh well, why not? We’re here now anyway. I leaned over the killing machine with a goofy grin. So, Rambo time commenced after all. I pulled the trigger and didn’t let go anymore. This absolutely smashed me to the bone for a few lousy seconds. Right. Missed pretty much everything, but who cares. I handed that miserable toy back with burning hands, ringing ears and a destroyed shoulder. If I want to blow something up with a rocket launcher? Something? A cow?! For fuck sakes man. Fuck no, I said in utter disgust. Just take me back to the city already.
There was no shortage of entertainment or amusement in the tourist stronghold. It was all too much for my liking. Snorting culture for a bargain, making spotless selfies, going all out and having a blast. All good, one could say. Yet I walked through the nightlife with growing reluctance. I awkwardly strolled past all the begging children and teen prostitutes. Shit music, distressing poverty and a totally pissed Easyjetset were calling the shots. This was ultimately confirmed by a drunk bunch of compatriots. I overheard their drivel with vicarious shame:
“Joost. Hey Joost! BEEEEEEEP! Want another beer?!” (The incredibly harsh swearword is untranslatable: it’s the rudest and most degrading thing you can say to someone)
Sure, there are Wild Westerners in the Wild West. That’s all there is to it. This safari has been fun and games so far, but let’s get the fuck outta here. I understood the Joker among customs a lot better during my retreat. Foreign thrill-seekers, barbarians and disaster tourists wipe their asses with such petty change. For that bargain, everything is possible with no obligations or whatever. Then they can act like immortal royalties. Scratch their names into historical world heritage sites with no second thoughts. Commit sheer stupidities for the sake of a meaningless thrill. Thanks to Joost’s pals, I came to the sad realization that I’m no better. I also engage in banging, misbehaving, public drunkenness, wild pooping and other uncivilized behavior. So. Hypocrite. With that crystal clear conclusion, I will admire Angkor Wat for – guess what – thirty bucks. Then, as a purebred Millennial, I’ll move on to the next fantastic and authentic experience. I’ll take place on the front row seat for a penny. Just as Joost the Caveman most likely does.
The best things in life are priceless, luckily there’s still plenty of entertainment for a dime.