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 has a pretty magical feel. It’s situated on a river, which can be very picturesque, especially for sunsets.
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.
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.
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.
Every corner you turn provides a surprise: from martial arts to group Chinese checkers, there’s plenty of action to see in this city.
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.
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.
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.
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!