Breaking Bad

January 15th, 2013 by magicant 2 comments »

Ah, here I am again. Paying a visit to my long neglected blog. To anyone who stumbles on this, I have a second blog – this one dedicated to how I broke my leg in Beijing (and the subsequent trials, tribulations and misadventures).

If you’d like to check it out, it’s at


Letting Saigons Be Saigons

March 7th, 2012 by magicant 15 comments »

There’s not a tremendous amount of tourist-friendly stuff to do in Saigon, but I absolutely loved living there. Sadly, it was only for 6 months.

Saigon is a unique place – different from other cities in Southeast Asia and even different from anywhere else in Vietnam. As has been documented by almost every visitor to the city, the proliferation of motorbikes is unreal, far beyond anywhere in Thailand or China because automobiles are generally limited to use as taxis or shuttles.

Here are some more of my favorite quirky things in Saigon:

Electrical work: the photos below are similar to what you see in parts of Cambodia or Thailand, but again the sheer VOLUME you can find in Saigon is unlike anything in other places.

Typically, the repair work on these lines is done by an electrician who climbs the post then sits on the bundles of wire while he works on one of them.


“Don’t throw anything away.” As much as that may apply to food and a predilection for salvaging trash, the best example I have is this apartment building, built on top of an old A-frame brick house. They didn’t even plaster over it to LOOK like the rest of the building.


European architecture. While much of the city is filled with typically compact, narrow buildings you find elsewhere in Vietnam, there are some buildings that still show the French influences. Churches, the Reunification Palace and several of the historic hotels showcase European style.





Oktoberfest: The last quirk to share (for this edition) is the revelation that one of the biggest parties of the year (other than Tet, the celebration of the new year) is Oktoberfest. Massive celebrations in some of the city’s hotels and German restaurants occur every year.



That’s enough for now. Do you have any favorite quirks or aspects you love about Saigon? Share them in the comments below.

Tuesday Travel Trivia #2: Thailand

March 6th, 2012 by magicant 3 comments »

Okay, it’s week 2 of travel trivia. This week, I’m focusing on my current residence: Thailand. A few changes in format. To ensure the posts work in RSS feeds and e-mails, I’ve written the questions out below. If you want to play the game, see the correct answers and read the facts behind the answers, you’ll need to click through to play the full game HERE.

If you don’t, then I’ll share the answers from this week in next week’s post. Got it?

Yeah, I know it’s still a bit confusing, so don’t be surprised if it changes again before too long.



  1. Bangkok is commonly referred to as Krung Thep by the Thai people. What does Krung Thep mean?
    • City of Love
    • City by the River
    • City of Angels
    • Capital City
    • The Big Easy
  2. The traditional Thai New Year celebration takes place in mid-April. By which name is it known?
    • Songkran
    • Loi Krathong
    • Nakhon Pathom
    • Doi Suthep
    • Phat Kraphao
  3. A former U.S. military intelligence agent took up residence in Bangkok and helped build a huge silk trade for Thailand. What was his name?
    • Jim Thompson
    • Richard Noone
    • Julius Rosenberg
    • Sterling Archer
    • Felix Leiter
  4. The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world’s longest reigning monarch. In which year was his coronation?
    • 1940
    • 1945
    • 1950
    • 1955
    • 1960
  5. In which country was the King born?
    • Switzerland
    • Thailand
    • United States
    • India
    • England


If you want to play the game and get the answers, you can follow this link to the full quiz page.



And, for those of you who received the questions last week but didn’t play the full game to get the answers, here you go:

Last week’s answers: Rio

  1. In what year was Cristo Redentor completed?
    • 1931, although the suggestion for a statue on that site dates all the way back to the 1850s.
  2. What was the nationality of the statue’s sculptor?
    • French. Paul Landowski’s other work can be seen throughout Paris and a museum featuring over 100 of his pieces is located in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.
  3. “Tall and tan and young and lovely” is a lyric from the English version of which song?
    • Garota de Ipanema. The song has been used in many films and television programs. You can hear a clip of the 1964 hit here:
  4. What is the name of Rio’s enormous football stadium?
    • Maracanã. It’s currently closed for renovations in preparation for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Summer Olympics and planned to re-open in early 2013.
  5. The largest concert performance in history was held on December 31, 1994 at Copacabana Beach in Rio, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Who was the act?
    • Rod Stewart. A staggering 3.5 million attendees were at the New Year celebration and concert. But at Copacabana, shouldn’t it really have been Barry Manilow?

Brain Drops Rising

March 4th, 2012 by magicant 2 comments »

Ah yes, it’s the return of Brain Drops for another installment after a long absence. No particular topic or destination here, just a lot of randomness with a bit of Thailand sprinkled in.

My standard disclaimer: While I’m traveling, lots of random thoughts pop into my head. Each week (or month, or year) I like to share a few of them. Please don’t judge me, I know I’m a bit crazy.



Reason #434 I love Asia: no time of the year is the wrong time of the year to play Christmas music.


Walking through the night market in Chiang Mai, I feel some sympathy for the sellers of handmade bookmarks. They’ll soon be collateral damage in the growth of eBooks.


Watching all of the people in Thailand and their custom of a wai (below), it reminds me of when I was young. I used to think that any time I clasped my hands together I was automatically praying, as though I was triggering a holy walkie-talkie to God. I’d absent-mindedly put my hands together and then get scared that I was bothering Jesus when I was just thinking about Batman or something.

Bangkok 036-1


Does anyone ever buy a piggybank for a child in Vietnam? It’s just not the same when you don’t have coins plinking around inside.


Some countries require 2 passport sized photos for visas and some require only one, so I have lots of strays. I’m now carrying around 5 different photos with various hairstyles and outfits. I feel like Jason Bourne.


Reason # 437 I love Asia: You can believably say you have the body of a god when there are Buddhists everywhere. It’s so much easier than comparing to the Greek gods or even skinny Jesus.


This week in dubious marketing claims:



Camera phones should have time locks that prevent them from taking photos after 10pm.


It shouldn’t count as forgetting a birthday if you remember the person’s birthday but just have no idea what day it is today.


I find it difficult to look directly in the face of people who do things that don’t make sense to me. It makes my head hurt. It’s like trying to stare at the carpet in a Vegas casino that’s been purposely made with asymmetrical patterns to force you to look up at the slot machines.

Tour Drops #1: This Week in Odd Travel News

March 2nd, 2012 by magicant No comments »

Each week, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite unusual travel news stories, along with commentary. This is the first week, so let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

Passengers freak out, then complain to the FAA after mishearing a pilot’s greeting to a “mom on board” as “bomb on board.”


bomb2The highlight: The airline says the pilot was making a “fun announcement” that the mother of an air traffic controller was on the plane, but Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandi King told WCBS 880 that some of the passengers mistook the phrase “mom on board” for “bomb on board.”

Perhaps he shouldn’t have said his mom is “the bomb.” Especially since it’s not 1993.

Southwest Airlines has now implemented a new chapter in the pilot’s manual instructing them not to use any greetings that might be mistaken by the 99% of passengers who are barely listening to what they say. Also on the list: Do not ever say “Welcome to the nuclear theorists we have on the flight today” or “Oh my god, do mai tais make you as woozy as they do me?”

The full story here:


New cruise tops the list of world’s most expensive vacations at $1.5 million.


The highlight: The trip begins when passengers are picked up from their home by helicopter, and, en route to a London airport, will sample Beluga Caviar that costs £4000 ($6,320) per kilogram and tea so rare it’s priced at more than £2000 ($3,160) per kilogram.

Dinners include such extravagances as fried yak kidneys, elephant testicles and baby seal tartare. Unfortunately, after 9pm the options for food are still limited to cheese pizza and the frozen yogurt machine on the Lido deck.

The full story here:


Another story about the “Travels of the 1%” discusses extravagant amenities at high end hotels.


The highlight: The Benjamin Hotel in New York has a sleep concierge who assesses your sleeping habits and helps you choose from an extensive pillow menu.

Pillow menu? Reminds me of the time I dreamed I was eating a giant marshmallow and woke up to find my pillow missing. Yes, that was my favorite joke when I was 7. And the other thing to consider is shut up.

The full story here:


Slovaks May Name Bridge to Austria After Chuck Norris.


chuck-norrisThe highlight: You pretty much got it with the headline, but since it bears repeating: Slovaks have been voting overwhelmingly in favor of naming a new pedestrian and cycling bridge near their capital for 1980s action film and TV star Chuck Norris.

How do they not realize this is a bad idea? Anyone who’s seen Lone Wolf McQuade knows that bad things happen when you cross Chuck Norris.

The full story here:


Thanks for stopping by. Please let me know any thoughts or ideas in the comments, including any travel stories you run across you think may be of interest!

Animals in Adelaide

February 29th, 2012 by magicant 1 comment »

One of the stops I made in Australia back in April was the Cleland Wildlife Center in Adelaide. It was a wonderful experience, allowing me to get closer to some of the fascinating fauna that runs around in the land of Oz.

I expected to see kangaroos, but I didn’t expect to see dozens of them hopping around in the open fields. At the entrance, they offered bags of feed that I assumed I would toss to animals behind a moat or rock enclosure. Instead, the kangaroos hop right up to you and eat out of your hand.

I ate a kangaroo steak a few days later and didn’t let the cuteness slow me down too much.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from that visit:


Travel Trivia Tuesday: Rio!

February 28th, 2012 by magicant 5 comments »

As an avowed trivia geek, I decided to start adding a weekly travel quiz to the blog. It’s not just a test of knowledge, because I plan to include photos, information and fun facts about destinations around the world. Hopefully, it will be a nice way to present some travel content in an entertaining way.

Please be patient as I work to find the best way to include quizzes – the format may change a bit from week to week until I settle on a design I like.

This week, on the heels of Carnival, a quick look at the city of Rio.

Good luck and enjoy!

Special bonus game: Where's Joel?

The questions are listed below, but if you’d like to play and see the answers, go to the full quiz page HERE.

  1. In what year was iconic statue Cristo Redentor completed?
    • 1893
    • 1907
    • 1923
    • 1931
    • 1947
  2. What was the nationality of the statue’s sculptor?
    • Italian
    • Brazilian
    • Portuguese
    • Argentinian
    • French
  3. “Tall and tan and young and lovely” is a lyric from the English version of which song?
    • Garota de Ipanema
    • Minha Princesa
    • Lambada
    • Por Amor
    • Como vai você?
  4. What is the name of Rio’s enormous football stadium?
    • Sambodromo
    • Maracanã
    • Tornozelo
    • Fevereiro
    • Galinha
  5. The largest concert performance in history was held on December 31, 1994 at Copacabana Beach in Rio, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Who was the act?
    • Rolling Stones
    • Rod Stewart
    • Pantera
    • Madonna
    • Michael Jackson

Play the game in full, along with answers and interesting facts by following the link below. Otherwise, the answers will be published next week along with a new game.

Note: The link will open up a new window with the full game but you will still be on Freedonia Post and not some random new site!



Freedonia Post: New Weekly Features

February 27th, 2012 by magicant 2 comments »

Since I’m kicking off the blog again, I thought I’d spice things up a little bit. That means adding a couple of new features on a weekly basis.

Starting tomorrow, you be able to enjoy a weekly trivia quiz about a destination somewhere in the world. I’ll be making it a bit more in-depth than just some random questions by including photos and interesting facts about places in the world you may want to visit.

Then, beginning Friday I’ll be posting a weekly travel news summary. This won’t be some dreary summary of news headlines, though. I’ll be focusing on things in the news that are humorous or silly or just plain wrong.

Finally, on Sunday you’ll see the return of Brain Drops. I sorted through old bits I’ve scrawled on napkins since the last Brain Drops in March and pulled out enough for a few weeks. Sadly, some are hopelessly out of date, like a reference to Black Swan’s lesbian scene. So those stay in the scrap heap.IMGP4681

Of course, I’ll also start up actual blog columns again. Because I’m not currently traveling, those columns will be about past travels or opinion pieces on travel issues.


The rough schedule will look like:

Sunday: Brain Drops

Tuesday: Travel Trivia

Wednesday: Feature post

Friday: Travel News Wrap-up


I also wanted to give a shout out to a site run by a couple of friends of mine, Dave Dean and Dustin Main: It explores the latest in news and information about traveling with technology. I’ll be an occasional contributor to that site, which I kicked off with a review of the Kindle Fire from a traveler’s perspective. Check it out here: 

As always, thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy the new features.

Can I Have Some More, Sir?

February 20th, 2012 by magicant 1 comment »

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been starting to dabble in writing and participation with other sites. There may be more to come, but here are a couple of places you could recently find me on the web.


Tuoi Tre News

I wrote a little expat piece while I was still living in Vietnam. It was great because it was published in Vietnamese in their print edition, as well as in English and Vietnamese on their website. It’s just a little perspective about the introduction of more fast food chains to Vietnam, specifically Saigon, which currently has fewer than any major urban area I know of. It is probably the most heavily populated country in the world without a McDonald’s or a Starbucks.

Here’s a link to that article:

If anyone wants to read it in Vietnamese, let me know in the comments and I’ll dig up a link.


Indie Travel Podcast

For their podcast on travel to Brazil for Carnival, Craig and Linda Martin included an interview with me about my experiences at Carnival, which included actually getting into costume to participate in the annual Samba parade.

I once swore this photo would never be seen, but what the Hell. And honestly, I am straight.

Here’s a link to their site and some photos. I definitely recommend subscribing to their exceptional podcast while you are there.


And for more on Carnival, I wrote a blog post about my experiences a couple of years ago, when I was just starting this site. You can catch up on that one here:

Catching up with… Redux

February 16th, 2012 by magicant 11 comments »

If you’re anything like me (which you aren’t), then you may be asking yourself “where’s Joel been?” (although I’m also sure you aren’t).

After a wonderful six months living in Saigon, my consulting gig came to a close. It’s been a sad transition, because I truly loved living there and loved the people I met and shared my time with.


My favorite temple in Chiang Mai, which inexplicably has a Donald Duck statue amidst others in its garden.

Now I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This place is the home to many things – more beautiful temples than I can count*, too many options to get western food and a steady flow of travel bloggers. I’m not quite sure why it hasn’t been the site of a major travel blogger conference, since it seems to house 28% of the world’s travel bloggers at any given time. Seriously, there are more bloggers here than there are construction cranes in Dubai.

I have a few goals while I am here, one of which is to kick off writing the blog again. I’m not going to have a regular posting schedule, nor am I going to try to monetize it. But I miss writing and sharing my blather, even if my audience is a random mish-mash of family, friends and people who stumbled in here while searching for a Paris Hilton sex video.

What will I be writing about, since I’m technically not traveling at the moment? I have no freaking clue, but a few possibilities. Past travels are a possibility, since I skipped writing about a lot of places while I was actually traveling (who knew I actually spent six weeks in Australia?). I am also considering sharing some weekly travel news, along with my own personal perspective.

And that’s the core of it, I guess. This has really always been my corner to share my thoughts about my travels and not a site that you should plan your vacation around.

In addition to that, I will be doing some writing here and there for other people and other sites. And, I have a long-promised novel to work on. I won’t share much of that here, but I may provide some updates, if for no other reason than to keep me honest about whether I’m actually making progress or not.

So, welcome back to the Freedonia Post. I’ll try not to bore you too much. But if I do, let me know and I can point you to some much more interesting sites.


*not because I have trouble counting, but because I get lost a lot and lose track.

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