Happy, Healthy, and Educated Slum Kids – ABC Charity School

A brilliant smile of health.
A brilliant smile of health.

A toothbrush is a small sign of hope. But, at the Eglal’s ABC Charity School in Dhaka, the fact that the kids brush their teeth every day, get fed every day, and get an education every day — is a tiny sign of hope. The children at the ABC school all live in the slums of Dhaka. These children are lucky that they, once they get admitted to kindergarten, will receive a bilingual education, free health care, free lunch, daily showers, uniforms, toothbrushes, and mentoring through high school and, hopefully, beyond.

It only costs $250 to sponsor one kid for one year, and all the money goes to the school. The volunteer board, the volunteer teachers, and so on, do not take any of the money. There are a few staff who do get paid, but mostly the donations go directly to the education and welfare of the kids. While there are a plethora of charities to throw oneself into in Bangladesh. I chose this one. Visiting the school allowed me to see how little money it takes to provide a bit of protein and vegetables for a healthy mind. Food for thought.

Education in Bangla and English from kindergarten!
Education in Bangla and English from kindergarten!

Another thought is how well run this place is without the bureaucracy. When the school and board members realized that some of the children (many who are being raised by one a single parent) had to leave school to go work, the school put into place an incentive which when paid to the family, keeps the kid in school. So basically the kid’s job is to go to school. How nice is that?

The school goes through the eighth grade, after which the children are place in high schools. These graduates come back to teach at the school when they themselves are not in school. One young woman says that her hope is to go on to university after which she wants to return to run the ABC school.

These girls are so eager to learn.
These girls are so eager to learn.

The ABC school was started about ten years ago by a teacher at the American International School Dhaka. She has returned to the U.S. but her students now have “pen pal” skype sessions with the slum kids of the ABC school. How cool is that?

One egg a day. The kids can eat more rice and vegetables but protein is expensive.
One egg a day. The kids can eat more rice and vegetables but protein is expensive.

It is said that they more you give, the more you will receive. I hope that the kids at the ABC school get way more than I have given them.

Parents picking up kids at the ABC school.
Parents picking up kids at the ABC school.

Restaurants in Dhaka – Part Five

80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.

The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.
The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Ideas Manzil (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat.

Mallika Snacks (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Istanbul (12/13): Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

Topkapi (6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (10/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (8/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (5/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.
Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.

I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!

Deep and Superficial in Cambodia

One of the many visual delights of Angkor Wat.
One of the many visual delights of Angkor Wat.

Cambodia may well be the next Asian tiger with its combination of world heritage sites, tragic history, burgeoning business recovery (everything in dollars and riel), and hands on service industry. I recommend visiting the killing fields, not so much for the site itself (there are many all over Cambodia) but because the audio tour is well informed and one of the most humane. The narrator makes you aware of the past plus kindly asks you to contemplate humanity and how to be humane to it.

The depressions of the killing the fields with the stupa in the distance.
The depressions of the killing the fields with the stupa in the distance.

Then go to Angkor Wat and think about the wonders of what people can build in the jungle. The place is worth seeing at dawn or sunset. It will be hot at almost anytime you visit. It costs $20 to get in and that’s not bad for a world heritage site.

Stir fried instant noodles for $1. These stalls move all over town. A meal for a buck!
Stir fried instant noodles for $1. These stalls move all over town. A meal for a buck!

The town of Siem Reap (Siam Conquered) is very touristy but if that’s what you want, then go for it! There are still enjoyable things to be had. The dollar massages are still done well, the fruit with chili salt is still refreshing, noodles for a dollar (seems like it all costs a buck) are still greasy and yummy, the shopping still good (though not as cheap as to be dirt cheap). Surprisingly the prices are not as low as you might expect. A pair of “hammer pants” or ali baba pants cost $7! (I bargained down to $4). It is not expensive but not the prices expected. Everything is quoted in U.S. dollars but the locals can give you change in both dollars and riel, or a combination of both.

The night market in Siem Reap. Very geared for tourists.
The night market in Siem Reap. Very geared for tourists.

The Khmer people are graceful, sweet, and affectionate. Visit Cambodia for the people.

This little girl hacked away happily at this coconut with her machete.
This little girl hacked away happily at this coconut with her machete.

Touched By A Manta Ray

True blue color therapy in the Maldives.
True blue color therapy in the Maldives.

I have never been into sand or sun or beaches but visiting the Maldives changed my mind. It seemed as if the water was not as salty as in other tropical places. But, maybe the fact that I was touched by a giant manta ray, has influenced my opinion. We paid the $48 for an outing to swim with giant manta rays, sea turtles, and fish. When we got into the water, the giant rays swam around us like a flock of kites gliding around our amateurish flailing limbs. I assumed that this was a popular feeding ground that the guides knew about and I also assumed that seeing the rays was a guarantee. Apparently it is not. So I feel even luckier. I am fairly sure that I was touched because I had stopped flailing around and was simply floating away on my back, totally ignoring the manta rays. Once I had been patted on the back by the ray, it had all my attention!

A colorful fish in the shallows.
A colorful fish in the shallows.

The Bread Lover’s Guide to Dhaka

From King's.
From King’s.

As someone who loves good bread, I find it hard to find European-style yeasty bread in Dhaka. There is plenty of pillowy naan, stretchy rhumali, chewy paratha, and flaky dhosa. When I want European style bread, I go to the following places:

Kings Confectionary: This is where to get long baguette-like hoagie or subway rolls. Plus, the sugared doughnuts are chewy, doughy, and sugary.

German Butcher: They bake their own bread. They call it black bread but it’s more of a whole wheat blend. You can even buy a half loaf if you want to start out with that.

Do Mi Ok: The best sliced white bread in Dhaka. It’s doughy. If you squeeze it, it will hold your finger imprint. They also sell a few other types of fresh bread but it’s the white that I like.

Le Souffle. It is slightly ridiculous how expensive they are. They have a bakery and sell French baguettes and other types. The bread is hard crust sourdough style. They sell croissants and cakes as well.

Nordic Club: They do great cinnamon rolls… the black bread has too much molasses and tastes slightly off.

Antique bread tins.
Antique bread tins.

Dancing at the Bangladeshi Wedding Holud

The groom is carried in on friend's shoulders.
The groom is carried in on friends’ shoulders.

At a Bangladeshi wedding holud, or bride or groom’s party, there will be entertainment. Both skits, video skits, and dancing. If you get invited to get dressed up and dance in a wedding holud, say yes! It was great fun. The groom’s holud includes the groom’s party welcoming the bride’s party with flower petals and party favors and appetizers. Next time, I’ll talk about typical food at holuds.

Purple and orange are popular colors and match the petals to be strewn on arriving guests.
Purple and orange are popular colors and match the petals to be strewn on arriving guests.

Wedding Season Again in Dhaka – The Bride’s Holud

Flowers decorate the entrance to the holud venue.
Flowers decorate the entrance to the holud venue.

It’s that time of year again when the Bangladeshis get married. I am lucky to have been invited again. A year ago, I went to a combined holud which I described in an earlier blog. At the bride’s holud this year, the bride was carried in on a palanquin. While the groom was absent, his family and guests attended, carrying gifts. I will blog more about the next part of the wedding later… right now, I need to go to dance practice!

The "mishti" or sweet pots.
The “mishti” or sweet pots.

Madventures.me – 2012 in Review

Happy New Year! Thank you to those who read my blog. If you wondered, I blog using WordPress… and they (or their monkeys) have written this post for me… The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

I will keep writing my blog as long as folks keep reading it. Enjoy more food and adventure in 2013! Love and be loved.

Best Vineyard Food – New Zealand

Eggplant/aubergine salad. So much better than it sounds.
Eggplant/aubergine salad. So much better than it sounds.

We were whizzing past the views of paradise on Waiheke Island off Auckland’s coast. The bus driver/guide had suggested places in his well rehearsed voice but after all the other tourists got off at the beachfront restaurant, I asked him again. Where would you eat? He mentioned a vineyard that had won some award last year. He said it was a bit of a walk at almost a kilometer.

The view from our table... vineyard to ocean...
The view from our table… vineyard to ocean…

We got lost. We asked a local for directions. He heartily endorsed Casita Miro. When we found it, we went in through the kitchen. Like everything else in New Zealand, it was both casual, elegant, and ridiculously fresh. The restaurant bakes all their own bread and their food is tapas style. They make good coffee as well so you can enjoy a latte as well (in New Zealand, they have another drink called a “flat white” which is a latte with no foam hence flat. The best one we had was made by an Italian guy down at the harbor in Auckland).

Tagine style lamb shank.
Tagine style lamb shank.

Casita Miro is only open for lunch so plan for it. Enjoy some of the vineyard’s wines… make this a destination.

Deep-fried mozzarella.
Deep-fried mozzarella.
The large windows of the restaurant.
The large windows of the restaurant.

Bucket List Foods – Fresh Hazelnuts in Denmark

Some people have places they must see before they die on their bucket list. To me, certain interesting people and certain foods are the destination. Fresh hazelnuts in Denmark is a destination.

Hazelnuts in shell and two ready to eat (one I have started…). These are not completely fresh.

Fresh hazelnuts are juicy and crisp. Try them. Make it a part of your trip if you are in Denmark in September.

One Year of Madventures.me – Still Mad for Food and Adventure

Madventures.me is one year old. One year ago, I started this blog in preparation for new adventures in food and travel. One year of great food and travel in Amman, Copenhagen, Dhaka, Doha, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Krabi, Luang Prabang, Mumbai, New Delhi, New England, Singapore, and many more.

I started this blog to share some of my adventures with family and friends. As I’ve blogged, my blog has evolved into a source for providing information on restaurants in Dhaka, shopping, and how much one can do in Bangladesh. As a blogger, I’ve been enormously happy when readers from all over the world visit my blog. Thank you for stopping by… from almost the entire world:

Map of visitors to madventures.me in the first 11 months.

As my readership expands beyond people I know, I’m curious about what leads readers to my blog. So here are the top search terms people have searched for in the past year:

Top search terms on madventures.me.