Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Kim Bong Carpentry Village

As part of the My Son day tour we got to visit Kim Bong Carpentry Village which is on an island off Hoi An. Being a trading port with lots of seafarers - the residents around Hoi An are also great boat builders. They still build boats - but with the blossoming of tourism wood carvings have become a lucrative side business for them.

The wood carvers at Kim Bong are very skillful and some of their handiwork are quite amazing.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - My Son Sanctuary

My Son Sanctuary is like a mini version of Angkor Wat. It is located about 40km from Hoi An and takes around 1 1/2hrs to get there by bus. The easiest way to visit would be to join a day tour - which could also include a side trip to a nearby island off Hoi An.

The temple itself is in ruins and not yet fully restored. Actually I hope they would leave it this way as ancient monuments that are restored often lose their mystical aura. There are only a few structures which are relatively intact - but even from these you could visualize the grandeur of the temple in its glory days. Those who have visited Angkor Wat would no doubt find this underwhelming - but it is still an amazing site - to see the ingenuity of our ancestors thousands of years ago.

My Son was built by the Cham people of central Vietnam who also fell under the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism like their surrounding neighbours in Cambodia and Laos. I always wonder how the designs are transmitted from India to South-East Asia without the convenience of drawings. The artisans must have carried the designs in their heads and travel across thousands of miles to build these amazing structures.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Banh Mi Khanh

Hoi An boasts not one but two great Banh Mi outlets. Besides Banh Mi Phuong - there is Banh Mi Khanh which some people say is even better. She is called the Banh Mi Queen - I know know how the title originated but it is plastered in large letters at the shopfront. Banh Mi Khanh is on Tranh Cao Van Street - a little bit further out of town towards the North.

Mdm Khanh is now over 80 years old. When we went there she was not around - a much younger lady was making the Banh Mi. The most popular item here is the Banh Mi with fried egg - and that was what we ordered.

The baguette is just as good as Banh Mi Phoung's, and the fillings were very flavourful. On the whole though I think Banh Mi Phoung's Banh Mi has a slight edge over Mdm Khanh's. However I'll be happy to have either one any day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Banh Mi Phoung

One of the surprising things about Hoi An is that it has supposedly the best Banh Mi in the whole of Vietnam. Anthony Bourdain visited the small town and tasted the Banh Mi by Madam Phoung and declared it symphony in a sandwich.

Banh Mi Phoung is located along Phan Chau Trinh Street on the eastern side of the old town. It is easy to find - just look for the long queue in front of the shop. They have a long counter at the front of the shop with a production line making hundreds of banh mi to order.

The seating area on the ground floor is very small and usually packed. Go to the 1st floor and there are some additional seats. Both times we went we managed to find a table on the 1st floor.

The banh mi at Banh Mi Phoung is simply sensational. The baguettes are so perfectly baked - crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. There are many choices for the fillings - but most people would go for the Banh Mi Thap Cam - which is everything mixed. It is one fantastic Banh Mi - but the better one is the Banh Mi with roast pork - you get a more distinct taste of the pork which is delicious.