Hoi An, Vietnam: Our Love/Hate Relationship

Hoi An Lanterns

I was really excited to check out Hoi An after hearing so many great things from friends and other travelers. It’s definitely on the beaten path; pretty much every travel blogger has written about this city. My high expectations definitely influenced my perception of this city. The more I stayed, the less I liked it. Despite my qualms, though, I really did enjoy what this city has to offer.

I’ll also add that there’s a high probability that the “hate” part of my relationship with Hoi An stems from the upset stomach (to put it politely) I contracted from the food in this city. This sickness left me bedridden for a couple days. I won’t mention which restaurant I got it from, but I’m sure you can guess if you read my next post (read it here). Being sick in a place doesn’t lend itself to making a great impression.

Here’s what we loved, and what we didn’t like so much, about Hoi An, Vietnam.


Hoi An

The Scenery

Hoi An has a pretty magical feel. It’s situated on a river, which can be very picturesque, especially for sunsets.

River in Hoi An
River in Hoi An at dusk

Everywhere you look, you’ll find bright & colorful lanterns strung across alleyways, in front of restaurants and within stores. I’ll admit, I did love the abundance of lanterns.

Lanterns in Hoi An
The cliche lanterns picture

 The Food

Being self-declared foodies, we loved the wide range of options for food in Hoi An. Since we’d been eating Vietnamese food for 10 days straight for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we welcomed the diverse choices. Look out for my next post about what & where we ate.

Banh Mi, Hoi An
Lovin the banh mi; not lovin the sweat stain that looks like pee

The Energy

There is just so much going on in Hoi An. All the time. The energy was especially high during the full moon lantern festival, which happens once a month, but the other days are busy too.

Hoi An Martial Arts
Surprise – it’s a martial arts show!

Every corner you turn provides a surprise: from martial arts to group Chinese checkers, there’s plenty of action to see in this city.

Chinese checkers Hoi An
Group Chinese checkers

The Beach

An Bang beach was a breath of fresh air. Our lovely homestay let us borrow bikes for free and we rode about 20 minutes to the beach.

It was tranquil, the water wasn’t pee-warm (like it was in Cat Ba), there were plenty of restaurants, and it satisfied my beach craving.

Biking in Hoi An
Great scene on the way to the beach

Didn’t Love

The Tourism Culture

It’s not that we hated this city. There were just parts, however, that we didn’t love so much. Like the fact that it felt like it was a town built for tourists. We initially loved the “western” vibes of this city; it felt much more organized and clean than other cities we’d visited. After a few days, however, that initial relief turned into sadness when these vibes started to feel manufactured. I hate to think this city is selling out for tourism, but that’s exactly what it felt like to us.

So. Many. People! Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival
So. Many. People. at the lantern festival

The Lanterns in the River

We went to Hoi An a few days earlier than we originally planned to catch the full moon lantern festival. We had a great time casting our lanterns into the river because it felt like a special experience.

Lantern Hoi An
Makin a wish and putting it out to sea! (Er, the river)

You can imagine our disappointment when we saw people selling these same lanterns to tourists every night after. It felt like they were selling out on their own culture, not to mention adding to the already-polluted waters on such a consistent basis.


The Inflated Prices

The prices at the restaurants were much higher than other places we visited in Vietnam. This definitely goes along with the high number of tourists who visit this city. Since I didn’t feel great, we didn’t explore the food scene outside of the main Old Town area of Hoi An. If I’d had the energy to explore, however, I bet we would’ve found much cheaper restaurants.


We did really enjoy our time in Hoi An, especially the diverse food options and the picturesque nature of the Old Town. We weren’t as impressed as we wanted to be, though, due to the prevalent and obvious tourism that has, for better or worse, shaped this city.

Do you agree with our assessment of Hoi An, or were you completely in love with the city? Let us know!

4 Comment

  1. Janice THOMPSON says: Reply

    Apple doesn’t fall far- I agree- finding places/people that are authentic “gems” (off the beeten path), or at lease until they change who they are to please others, is absolutely the best. Risk /reward for sure. I sure was glad to hear you are feeling better !! 🙂

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Absolutely 🙂 Gems are definitely difficult to find (you basically have to get lost and/or stumble upon them), but 100% worth it! And yes, I’m good as new 🙂

  2. vickie says: Reply

    hi there! i was reading your blog on Hoi An. I was very interested in checking it out. I was thinking about squeezing it in my very tight itinerary but I am not sure if it is worth it and wanted your opinion :).

    We are coming from Hong Kong and going to Ho Chi Minh City (dec 15-19 for HCMC) then off to Bangkok. Do you think it would be worth it to go fly /drive to Hoi An for 1 -1.5 days say Dec 15 and leave Dec 16 and head to HCMC. I too loved the lanterns and magical vibe. It reminds me of the movie Tangled. However, I am just worried Hoi An will be like Europe’s Venice. Venice we didn’t care for and could have skip to be honest. Felt that way about Colmar too (would have preferred to stay in Paris for longer). I would appreciate any insight you have as this is my first trip to Asia 🙂

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      Hi Vickie! So glad you stopped by to check out our blog 🙂

      That’s a hard one to answer – it really depends on what you’re into. What do you like to do on your vacations?
      I too wasn’t a big fan of Venice, but I really did like Hoi An. If it was up to me, I would spend more time in Hoi An than HCMC. HCMC definitely has a more “big city” feel, while Hoi An’s Old Town is an UNESCO World Heritage site and has a unique vibe to it. If you like the beach, nightlife, trying out different restaurants, or shopping, I think you’d enjoy Hoi An. That being said, I wouldn’t want you to feel to rushed on vacation; I always like spending 2 nights or more in a city to avoid that feeling.

      I hope that helps – feel free to respond!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge