Monday, October 31, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - The Essence Hoi An

We have booked ourselves into The Essence Hoi An - a boutique hotel that is slightly outside the old town. When we arrived at the hotel we were really happy with the choice. The Essence Hoi An is a really beautiful small hotel with great design and decor.

The spacious and beautifully appointed lobby is a great place to come home to.

The rooms are generous in size and even come with a PC for internet access. Our only quibble is that the rooms at the lower levels do not offer great views - so opt for the higher levels when you book. The hotel provides complimentary bicycles for the guests and we make full use of the bikes for trips into the surrounding country side. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - From the River

On the way back from Kim Bong Village - the approach to Hoi An from the water is worth the trip alone. Thu Bon river is a very busy waterway with lots of activities - you see fishing boats, ferries and boats carrying goods up and down the river.

The locals travel between the islands on big ferry boats which carry both people and their motor bikes and bicycles.

As you approach the town - you begin to see the buildings from the water - which is a really captivating sight. This must be the view that has greeted fishermen and seafaring merchants for hundreds of years.

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.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - Cycling Around Hoi An's Countryside

While Hoi An old town itself is beautiful and charming and can easily keep you occupied for a few days - if you do not venture into the surrounding countryside then you would have missed out on another side of Hoi An's charm. The countryside with picturesque small houses and green rice fields is a joy to explore. The best way to get around is by bicycle - which really lets you get close and down and dirty.

Rice fields cover much of the country side - and many of the bunds around the rice fields have been sealed with concrete making them perfect for motor bikes which are the preferred mode of transport for the locals - but bicycles also benefit tremendously form this informal network of small roads.

The roads can be a bit difficult to navigate and you can easily get lost. It is good to bring along a handphone with GPS to find your way back.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hoi An 2016 - The Cargo Club

The Cargo Club is another of Ms Vy's restaurants in Hoi An, on the same street as Morning Glory. It is a European style cafe inspired by her visit to Australia. She wanted to recreate the buzz and casual atmosphere of cafes in Lygon Street and Brunswick Street in Melbourne - where people can linger and enjoy coffee and conversations.

 The interior is warm and inviting, and there are a large range of cakes on display in the counter.

The cakes were very good.