Archive for November, 2010

Haley’s Travels: The sights and scents of Mumbai

November 30, 2010

This is a photo of the Dhobi Ghat Laundry Mat on the outskirts of the Mumbai skyline.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateur Matt Haley is visiting children at an orphanage he supports in Nepal, exploring the Himalayan culture and cuisine, traveling throughout India and then on to Europe, and reporting on an occasional basis.  His reports are presented here to expand our own perspective on other parts of the world and cuisines that may eventually find their way into the local restaurant scene. All of the photographs are by Matt or members of his traveling group.

October 2010

I arrive in Bombay and am immediately stopped at immigration for traveling in and out of India within a two-month period. It takes a while but is taken care of.

My friend Ashit Patel (brother of Tushar from Dover) has come to pick me up. We head into town and I am amazed at the amount of people, the skyline and the ease at which things move. There are close to 20 million people here and you would not know it because things flow so smoothly.

I have quickly noticed how kind the people are and how quick people are to help. Never holding a hand out. After checking into the Vivanta Hotel, to my surprise Ashit and Rajeev take me on a tour of the path the Mumbai terrorists took on what they call 26/11 which is the date of the Mumbai terrorists’ attack on November 11th a few years ago. I quickly realize it is their 9/11.

From the boatyard village to the Taj to the police station to Leopolds, we walk step for step the  path of that night. It was chilling and interesting and set the tone for the visit, and gave me a quick understanding of how Bombay operates. My friends lost a lot of their friends that night. It was very important for them to show me. I also quickly realized that this was one of the safest cities I have ever been in which was to be proven over the next few days.

Ashit is the Indian version of me. We are in the same business; we dress the same; we are the same age and we are both risk- taking, cutting-edge brothers of older reserved brothers with very similar tastes. When he picked me up we were both wearing jeans, sandals and white button down shirts – my standard outfit for 40 years.

Our first food encounter was at a place called Cafe Mondegar in the Colaba district off the Causeway. It reminded me of a cafe in Paris and we had drinks and chicken sausage with chili sauce. It was a perfect starter for the night. Colaba is bustling at night and I knew I was in for a dining treat.

Water chestnuts at the "Thieves Market."

After a short cab ride through the city at night went to a place called “Gaylords,” a very old classic Indian bistro that again reminded me of being in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Let me say, Bombay to me is a combination of Paris, Chicago and Barcelona.

At Gaylords we dined on fresh kabobs, butter chicken and spicy mutton all accompanied by wonderful flatbreads called Naan & Roti with mango and mint chutneys.

I had to turn in early that night. I was still incredibly tired from Nepal.

I had turned 180 degrees on accommodations from Nepal. Iwas staying in a Taj Hotel now. I felt a little guilty but still took advantage of it. My breakfast the next day after my steam and massage was fresh guava juice, chick pea masala and flat bread.

That day I explored Mid/South Bombay on my own. My favorite place being “Dohbi Ghat” the world’s biggest laundramat. There are over 1,000 laundry workers there. It’s incredible. The clothes that are being washed are so colorful and fresh I just had to do laundry. While waiting I had a shave and a scalp massage which is my favorite thing to do in India. Another favorite is the fact that I had all of this including laundry for $3 U.S.

Saturday night we went to Bade Miyal, a famous street vendor on a back alley street. Only in India can you eat at a table set between two parked cars, three lazy cats and two homeless children sleeping and have a phenomenal meal. Ashit knew the owner so we were treated well, but I noticed it was the same for everyone.

Lamb and Chicken Kabobs, stewed lentils, cheese naan and thin roti were on the table. The atmosphere was very fast and fun. This was just an appetizer I was then told.

Bade Miyal Street kabobs.

After a short tour in a taxi through central Bombay and viewing the most expensive house ever built – one billion dollars – we ended up in the red-light district called “The Cages.” This was interesting and another part of seeing the good with the bad. I had told Ashit not to show me the good if he can’t show me the bad. This is a basic practice for me wherever I travel. So it was.

The “Cages” is where men go to exercise their needs. I appreciate the fact that 95 percent of the women in India stay sexually inactive till marriage. I could easily look at this as something to judge but I chose to look at it in an interesting way and understand the system. Something I certainly can’t change by commenting on.

I will say that I was surprised when we stopped. Ashit and Rajeev got out of the taxi and signaled to me to come along and I thought: “I don’t think this is going to work for me.” Right when I finished that thought we crossed the street and walked into the busiest restaurant I have ever seen! “Jaffer Bai’s Darbar Deli.” Glad that we were not on the other side of the street, I started to notice the amount of people in and outside of this place at 12:30 at night. The take-away line had three people working computers and another line down the street. The favorite was the “Arab chicken in butter sauce” and the roti which was so thin you could see through it.

We spent the next few days traveling around and researching restaurants and the styles of various food service businesses. All doing real well I thought. Once again I had no idea Bombay was on such a roll in the food scene. Another thing that’s true is they say “Bombay doesn’t sleep at night.” This is more than true. Not just clubbers, families too, just having good fun.

On one of the last nights, we spent the evening with Ashit’s friend Chitra, a beautiful woman who has been in Mumbai for her whole life. She was very elegant and laid back at the same time. She also had the coolest apartment (flat) I’ve seen. Decorated in a Indo-British look, it had to have been extremely thought out. It had some of the finest artwork and antiques of their time I had ever seen.

Ashit had his restaurant cater the meal. One of his businesses is a Chinese restaurant chain called Mr. Chows. Chinese is huge here. The table was full of our Chinese favorites back home, but done impeccably well with an extra touch of freshness. It reminded me a lot of Confucius in Rehoboth Beach.

The next day (the last in Bombay/Mumbai) we went to Ashit and Rahul’s new venture. A three- acre restaurant/event property in north Bombay two weeks before opening and toured the facility which was astounding. While we were there they booked a wedding party for 1,000. After touring the kitchen, which reminded me of Rehoboth Beach Country Club,  we sat down for a 25- course tasting of the menu.

The menu was lamb galouti, sheek kabob, chicken wrapped in foil, mutton organ gosh, butter chicken, creamed corn spinach and pander cheese, black lentil dal, garlic chicken kabob, matka chicken and fabulous desserts: chikki kulfi and gulab jamunan, a frozen sweet milk with praline and a reduced sweet milk bread in almond syrup.

Later that night we visited the Royal Cricket Club of India (RCCI). It was old and tasteful. Members only! I felt like I was walking into old Yankee stadium by myself at night and being catered to by the elite staff of India.

After leaving RCCI I met up with my friends from 60 kph motorcycle club to discuss my motorcycle ride south through Goa. 60kph is a motorcycle club in Bombay started by Gaurav Jani and friends. Meeting with Miliand and Dipesh was a treat. I have promised to return for a ride with them but for now they put me on my way to Goa with an adventurous itinerary.

Next stop: Goa

Talk to you then.  Matt

Ashit Patel in his new restaurant in North Bombay.

Season’s first freeze and Cape Park pictures

November 30, 2010

Knockout roses in Delaware's Cape Region made it almost to December without a freeze.

30 November 2010

This morning, at first light, the temperature was 30 degrees warmer than yesterday morning when we had our first hard frost of the 2010-2011 cold season. Now that frost is just a memory but the roses that had been hanging on are browning.

It’s dark at 6 a.m. and dark at 6 p.m. Somehow, darkness at 6 p.m. is thicker and weighs more than darkness at 11 p.m. or even 3 a.m. The good news, and the same good news that has been celebrated for thousands of years, is that we’re less than a month away from the winter solstice when the days will begin lengthening again. Each of these short winter days brings us closer to the first day of spring.  I enjoy the monochromatic colors of winter, so much starker now that the leaves have dropped, but I look forward more to spring than to fall.  That makes me normal.

Here are some pictures I took last weekend in Cape Henlopen State Park while riding, and walking my bike, northward from Gordon’s Pond to the trails in the north end of the park. There are great panoramas  to enjoy in the marshes and the dunes and there are also small wonders to appreciate, like the perfect circles traced in the dunes by breeze-spun grasses.

Nature can be so graceful.

There's a magnificent sweep and sheer to this dune as the winds are sculpting it around the green and black pine.

At the north end of Gordon's Pond. This has to be the most photographed piece of driftwood in Delaware.

Above, the state has posts ready on the Gordon's Pond parking lot to place snow-fencing (below) - in this case dune fencing - to serve as upland groins to capture blowing sand and keep the dunes stable.

Cape’s new entrance sign a work of art

November 24, 2010

The waves, dunes, ocean and grasses of Cape Henlopen are all represented on the new high school sign. The LED sign will be activated in the next couple of weeks.

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Eve • Northwest wind howling • Skies clear

• I wrote about the new high school sign in my Barefootin’ column for the Nov. 26 paper.  I told readers they could find a color photo of the sign in this blog so here it is.  It really is a beautiful sign to go with a beautiful school.

• All this wind is creating havoc with the striper fishing.  It’s going to be bumpy out in the mouth of Delaware Bay for the next several days, just when the fish are showing up in strong numbers. Bummer.  The question is how much you want to get beat up for a magnificent striper.  Praying for the forecaster to be wrong.  Be prepared.

• I have been relaying a number of blogs from Matt Haley who is traveling in Asia and Europe for several months.  I’ll keep them flowing through as we go along.

• I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.  Please drive carefully.  It’s the most dangerous thing we do every day. And for God’s sake, don’t text while driving.  It’s just like driving with a blindfold over your eyes.

• And how about this fall?!? Late November and Knockout roses still blooming.  Lots of sunshine and a warm ocean keeping hard frosts at bay.

• Halleluia – Be Prepared – Praise God from whom all blessings flow and remember to count them all!

Haley’s travels: improving orphanage, moving on

November 23, 2010

Last night before I leave. Ganga, Pretima, Angela and Arya say goodbye.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateur Matt Haley is visiting children at an orphanage he supports in Nepal, exploring the Himalayan culture and cuisine, and reporting on an occasional basis.  His reports are presented here to expand our own perspective on other parts of the world and cuisines that may eventually find their way into the local restaurant scene. All of the photographs are by Matt or members of his traveling group.

Leaving Kathmandu
Oct 2010

In the last few days Shannon, Bruce and I have tied up loose ends with the school, the group house and orphanage. We have added ten beds to Kusi Ghar, acquired a full set of kitchen supplies, remodeled the infirmary at the orphanage, straightened things out with Bal  and added new students to Reliance School.

Leela andLaxmi at Lord Shiva's temple where they took me to pray for me before I leave.

Tonight we will take the 10 & ups to the cinema. Most have never been. It is an Indie movie called ” Never Say No.” I am not sure that is a good title for the girls since it’s a love story. They convince me otherwise.

Great film! I didn’t understand a word but cried and laughed.

I just left the girls at the airport. Leela and Laxmi brought me to the airport along with Kiel. It was emotional for all. Leela cried but looked me right in the eyes and let me know that she knows I love her and will be back and she will count the days. Laxmi is older and always more professional when I leave but I have heard she cries after. Kiel gives me a Nepali goodbye and blesses me then gives me the American bear hug and sheds a tear.

Sonu, myself and Tripti at my going away dinner.

I sit in the airport and fall apart after realizing how much I will miss them and all the children. Leela, Laxmi and Kabita always hurt the most.

I am heading to Bombay then Goa before NW India where I am presently producing a film on the Pakistan border which should be exciting.

Stay tuned, Matt

Seeing Kabita before I leave. She has promised to write her life story for me since she can't speak it so I can read it when I come back in April.

Movie stars and roxy at an after-hours club

November 10, 2010

The Elders giving tikka to the children on Dashain. It is custom to place the tikka on the forehead then bless the children with words, some fruit and a few rupees.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateur Matt Haley is visiting children at an orphanage he supports in Nepal, exploring the Himalayan culture and cuisine, and reporting on an occasional basis.  His reports are presented here to expand our own perspective on other parts of the world and cuisines that may eventually find their way into the local restaurant scene. All of the photographs are by Matt or members of his traveling group.

Kathmandu Dashain Holiday
Oct 2010

We are back in Kathmandu getting ready to celebrate Dashain. It is early Friday morning and the big days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I have been chosen as an elder. An elder gives tikka to the young. This is the red dot you see placed on the forehead of people of various Asian, Hindi and Buddhist cultures.

Matt's buddy Vishnu had fun chasing goats before the celebration at Bal-Mandir.

We are at Kusi Ghar, our group home, but need to get to Bal-Mandir to get more of the children to come celebrate with us. We have trouble getting. Some of the orphaned children have been released but only available at last with the help of one of the politically unconnected directors who puts the children first. Think “The Great Escape” or “Sand Pebbles.” As we leave there is such a sigh of relief that the whole family will be together – we all break down and cry. Thirty-eight children altogether with their brothers and sisters for the holidays. You can’t buy this. I did not know this kind of hard-earned joy was so rewarding. To see one of the young girls look up at Shannon and me and say “I am so happy you are bringing me to my sister” with tears in her eyes is as much an emotional experience as I could ever expect and I have had some eye-opening experiences.

Later that night, after giving tikka and celebrating with the children, we head out for some adult time with friends from Kathmandu. One, a popular writer, and another a classic bookstore owner. The girls drink roxy and red rice malt liquor, both homemade at Cafe Newar my favorite Newari restaurant in Thamel, Kathmandu.

Things get good and everyone is happy. We decide that the town is shut down so we need to go to our friend Prawin’s pal’s after-hour club. We arrive and it is classic. It’s like my grandfathers basement with a bar, only it’s in an attic of a warehouse and run by four buddies.

This is great. Foosball and cards til 4 a.m. No drinking for me, but Shannon, Alex and Meredith are having a blast. Our new friends are very nice and hospitable including the two rats in the rafters that watched us all night as if to say “here are the Americans keeping us up late again.”

In the after-hours club there were only the four of us, the four owners, Prawin and two ladies – Nisha and Nellu .It wasn’t until we left that we found out from the taxi driver that we had been with three of the most famous actors, actresses and filmmaker in Nepal and India. The difference between fame there and in the U.S. is pretty much night and day. These people would get hounded in public but we would have never known anything but humbleness otherwise. Pretty cool after the fact though.

Stay tuned for more.  Matt

Matt, on his way to Kusi Ghar, stopped by the orphanage to wish some of the young ones a happy day

In Nepal, trekking as spiritual evolution

November 5, 2010

Jeevan, my new soul mate and trekking partner, stopping at a baby waterfall on the way down.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateur Matt Haley is visiting children at an orphanage he supports in Nepal, exploring the Himalayan culture and cuisine, and reporting on an occasional basis.  His reports are presented here to expand our own perspective on other parts of the world and cuisines that may eventually find their way into the local restaurant scene. All of the photographs are by Matt or members of his traveling group.

Down Trekking
Oct 2010

After a well rested night in Gorepani and a great meal of goat salad, momos and dahl bhat (lentils and rice), we are headed to Poon Hill to see the sunrise on the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas. It is a spectacular sight to see the sun rise on four mountains almost the size of Mt. Everest. It is glorious!

Alex Capano, another Delaware travel mate, stops for a break outside of Tadapani on the way down.

We are trekking downward now towards Tadapani, then back towards Pohkara the next few days. Physics say down is easier but I will have to disagree. My knees are killing me but once again time is on my side. I take it slowly and walk with Jevaan, a 14-year-old boy who calls me uncle. I have known for a few years now. He is also taking it easy after bruising his thigh while slipping on a rock earlier. He has decided I am Tiger Daddy and he is Leopard Boy.

The night before we were sharing a room and I woke up in the middle of the night to find him standing in the corner of the room, afraid from a nightmare. He explained to me that he was afraid because his dream was about being in the jungle alone and that he would never get out.

Supas, a little friend we picked up along the way. He brought us a homemade Ferris Wheel made out of timber.

This is what my kind of traveling is all about. This was an opportunity to explain to a child that he would never have to be alone again or feel that way unless he chose to. We can’t help dreams, but I could relate with him. Being a young person some time ago, I can understand what he was going through because I have felt the same way for most of my life. I explained that for me it only went away by sharing my fears with another.

Maybe this is what they talk about when they relate trekking to spiritual evolution. Jevaan and I have upped the ante in our relationship and now travel together as soul mates.

We have made it back to Pohkara and are ready for another celebration and dance after a big meal. Tonight we dine on fresh lake fish from Fishtail Lake and various curries align with fresh-baked flatbreads. During our celebration we are surprised with a Nepali dance and song troop. The trek ends on a high note and we are back to Kathmandu. Tomorrow. Stay tuned.  Matt

Looking back at Annapurna South while resting in a small village below Tadapani.

Matt Haley: Slow roaming Annapurna region

November 2, 2010

Start of trek outside Pohkara.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateur Matt Haley is visiting children at an orphanage he supports in Nepal, exploring the Himalayan culture and cuisine, and reporting on an occasional basis.  His reports are presented here to expand our own perspective on other parts of the world and cuisines that may eventually find their way into the local restaurant scene. All of the photographs are by Matt or members of his traveling group.

October 2010

We have landed in Pohkara, a small town almost like the Rehoboth Beach of Nepal, but still the second largest town in Nepal.

The group has settled in at the Trekkers Hotel and is going over last minute plans with Wangchuu and his brothers Pema, Bakrim and Phurba, all who I have trekked with before. We are finalizing our punch list and all is good. The kids are excited. Their first plane ride was smooth and they’ll want to go back up today.

The group has decided to go to dinner. It is important to catch up on carbs before trekking to Gao. Going against my belief in staying with indigenous food, the kids pick pizza. I must say that, ironically, I have now had the best pizza in my life in Mexico and Nepal. Both beat anything I have had in NYC, Chicago or any Little Italy in the U.S.

I did not know that Nepal grew such wonderful mushrooms so my carb fix for the night was a pizza of fresh oyster mushrooms, Nak (female yak) mozzarella and fresh, local shaved green onion and herbs. Outstanding and 100 percent natural. Everything, including the cheese, is made and picked on site.

We have been dropped in a little village a few thousand feet above Pohkara following a great, side-winding mini van ride on a beautiful river with the freshest water on earth coming straight out of the Himalayas. I am looking up to peaks of more than 25,000 feet and my legs are starting to hurt already, knowing we are heading that way. The kids attack the trail like baby antelopes. The night before I was bragging about how awesome it will be to turn 50 next month. I take it back!

The paths on the way up are made of large stone, manmade over the years for transporting goods on one of the oldest trade routes on earth. It is not always easy, but always beautiful. Knowing that people have walked this route for over 1000 years is inspiring. We are headed for Gorepani which will take a few days. We will stay in small guesthouses and tea houses along the way. Gorepani is the village under two of the tallest mountains on earth and the primary stop before heading to Annapurna Base Camp.

Goats, after being blessed, on their way to market for the Dashain holiday meal.

Along the way we have encountered a large amount of goat herds and shepherds. All the goats have rainbow-painted horns. When I asked Wangchuu about the goats he replied that all the goats we passed were going to be “Dasain Dinner.” The rainbow horns were on blessed goats that could be bought to be sacrificed for Dasain. I will tell you about our goat dinners when we have them. Can’t wait!

We have spiraled our way up the mountain the past two days. The kids are doing great as well as the rest of the crew. I am always a couple hours behind but doing well. “Bisarai Gumbe” means slow roam in Nepali. This is how I like to trek.

We have passed through a few climate and environmental changes on the way up. Plantations with rice paddies, goat farms and tea houses, to jungles full of monkeys and fruit farms, and, finally, Gorepani. A much-anticipated rest awaits us. Tonight we will celebrate and relax our victory over what seemed like two straight days of walking up the Empire State Buildings stairs.

Matt Haley’s next blog, on Wednesday, will discuss trekking as a form of spiritual evolution.

The kids taking a break at a tea house outside Gorepani.

One of our Sherpas, Phurba, having coffee with me in the morning, watching the sunrise in Annapurna. We are surrounded by four of the tallest mountains on earth. We are already over 10,000 feet where we are standing.