The Day I Almost Got Shot with a Machine Gun in Thailand

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 11/07/14 •  4 min read

After 15 or 20 minutes of nothing happening I heard that unmistakable “tick, tick, tick” that could only come from rapid gunfire.

Without having any clue what was really happening, I dove behind car only to hear the window get shot out right above me.

Wait, no context there? Maybe we should back up.

In 2010 I moved to Bangkok to build a business, and have an adventure.

I got both of those things, but some of the adventures I had, well, they weren’t exactly what I had in mind.

You see shortly after arriving in the city, all of Thailand got caught up in a giant political battle.

The short version is, there are two political parties in the country: the Red Shirts (rural, generally not as well off), and the Yellow Shirts (urban, with money).

The yellow shirts were the current ruling party and a couple years prior they had over thrown the Prime Minister at the time (Thaksin Shinawatra) who was a Red Shirt leader.

Thaksin was none to happy about this.

So from behind the scenes he organized a massive protest, paying Red Shirts from all over the country to descend upon Bangkok to protest – occasionally holding massive demonstrations with tens of thousands of people.

This post does a pretty good job of outlining the basics of Thai politics.

At first it was a jovial vibe with lots of dancing and shouting – but there was never any sign of violence. I accidently stumbled into one of these massive demonstrations, and happened to be wearing a red shirt. Never have I ever gotten so much attention in a foreign country before.

Red Shirt Protests in Thailand

After a couple months of this happening, things started going downhill.  The camp of protestors in the Silom district of  Bangkok, was continuing to grow, and they had called in for thousands more protestors to arrive during this one weekend.

That’s when shit got real.

You see one of the main arteries going into the financial district of Bangkok from outside the city just happened to be a block away from my apartment.

I went out for lunch that Friday afternoon and heard a couple gunshots.

Ah, T.I.T.! (“This is Thailand”) – I told myself. This was a common saying for when something weird happened that you wouldn’t see in the States.

Then I saw the soliders walking down my street. There was an army base nearby, so it wasn’t a totally unusually occurrence.

Soldiers Soi 2 - 2

45 minutes later, my buddy Cody and I were finishing up lunch, and decided to walk out to the main street to see what was going on.

We were met with a few hundred Red Shirt protesters that had been ordered to take off their red shirts so that they would more easily blend in.


The Thai military was barricading the main street heading into the financial district and standing there looking pretty scary with their guns ready.


It was around this time my naive American ass started to take some pictures, and didn’t really expect anything to happen.

Of course, I also didn’t expect a protestor to take a baseball sized rock and hurl it directly at a solider.

“Tick, tick, tick”

“Tick, tick, tick”

Holy crap, they’re actually shooting at us.

We dove behind a car just in time to hear a window get blown out.

Broken Window

When there was a lull in the shooting we then scurried around the block and back to safety.

This was the first time during the entire protest I actually felt like “hey, maybe this is a place you shouldn’t be right now.”

Well that, and the time I got tear gassed. But we’ll save that story for another Friday post.

The result of that gunfire wasn’t pretty.

That weekend ended up being one of the most surreal as my life, as that intersection became the most contested battle ground in a fight that was escalating by the day.

I went to sleep that night to constant gunfire, and the occasional grenade going off outside my building. I could see the flashes of light from the grenades outside my balcony.

They went on to build smoke barricades with old tires the next day and the fighting continued.

t17 23466815

Photo from “The Big Picture

On Sunday I was able to flee the neighborhood during a break in the firing and head to my friend Derek and Clay’s apartment across town. And that sets the scene for this post.

Moral of the story? If a country is in a raging civil war of sorts, and you don’t belong? You should probably consider having your adventure someplace else.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you while traveling?

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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7 comments on "The Day I Almost Got Shot with a Machine Gun in Thailand"

    1. Sean says:

      Now THAT doesn’t look fun…

      1. Sean,
        I suspect that it was a lot like your Thai (mis)adventure.
        It cost some time, some inconvenience, and probably a lot more money than you were expecting to spend just then… =)

  1. Holy shit! My guess is that getting shot at isn’t on your bucket list – that is crazy! Makes my story of coming face to face with several oxen in an open field sound like a walk in the park.

  2. Ah jeez Sean, I was planning on making my first location-independent move to Chiang Mai in Thailand, and had been doing all this research all weekend. Maybe I should re-consider…

    I guess, uh… thanks for the warning lol!

    Are you moving out of there or do you still feel safe? Any recommendations of where else to go? My second option I was thinking of was Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

    1. Sean says:

      I wouldnt stress too much – this was in 2010 and it was definitely very centered around BKK. And to be honest except for that one random situation, I never really felt that unsafe.

  3. Jon Bowes says:

    Wow! That’s an intense story. There’s a part of me that says, “Damn I wouldn’t want to experience that.” but there’s another part that says “That actually sounds really cool.” I guess my adrenaline seeking and my survival instincts are in a constant battle.

    This kinda reminds me of a time in Italy, I barely spoke any Italian, and my cab driver was taking me to my new hostel. The car behind us honked. My driver hung his head out the window and yelled some stuff at him.

    Then the car pulled up, in front of us at the stoplight and the driver jumped out.

    He came over to my taxi, and forced the driver’s door open. Then he started punching the taxi driver in the face. They were yelling shit in Italian, and I was sitting there wondering, should I leave? What the hell is going on?

    Then my taxi driver floored it, and peeled around the car stopped in front of him, and he drove off. He had a bloody lip, but that was about it. The other guy probably would’ve pulled him out of the car and beaten him senseless if it hadn’t been for his seat belt.

    Like I said, not quite gunfire over my head, but still an intense story where I was wondering “What the hell do I do in this situation?”

    Thanks for the share Sean!

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