Autumn bliss

03/10/2017 14:48

Enjoy the beauty of Hanoi's autumn

It’s no exaggeration to say that autumn is the best-loved season of the year, when Hanoi is at its finest. Bidding farewell to the sweltering summer sun, and before the onset of the piercing chills of winter and the drizzles of springtime, Hanoi glows in the autumn, stirring people's hearts with joy in the transitions of the Creator.
Hanoi's autumns are unlike those found anyplace else. Autumn wraps the entire city in a brand new veil of splendor, gentleness and purity. That veil is woven from soft and silky golden sunbeams, which fall through dappled green leaves, form patches of silvery mist in the air, and shine upon long white clouds that drift across the autumn sky.

As chill breezes waft through the streets, all of a sudden we see piles of golden leaves that dye the city's alleys and narrow streets yellow, and trusses of heavy bàng fruit, sometimes called "Indian almonds" or "tropical almonds", hanging down over moss-stained roofs.

Just looking at the lake's surface that mirrors the deep azure sky overhead, our hearts know autumn has come. Rains are also less frequent in Hanoi in this season, and no longer pour incessantly like they did in the summer. The Red River flows softly and gracefully in the face of autumn's charm. In this blissful season, Hanoi can be perceived not only with our eyes, but also through familiar scents swirling through our nostrils.

The autumn nights grow deeper and calmer, when hoa sữa (milkwood tree flowers) soothe our soul. The most famous site is Nguyen Du Street, where rows of hoa sữa trees have inspired countless famous works about Hanoi, for instance the lyrics of the song "Hoa sữa flowers" by the composer Hong Dang: “Milkwood tree flowers are still sweet on the street every night…”

Big bunches of these tiny white flowers perfume life with their sweet, blissful scent. These little flowers have long been synonymous with autumn in Hanoi.
In the late summer and early autumn, street vendors carry baskets of thị fruit on their shoulders poles. The fleeting scent of this fruit reminds us of autumn, as it is only found in this season. Once a  familiar gift of Hanoian people, thị fruit evoke childhood memories and the dreamlike scent of fairy tales. The size of a child's fist, the yellow thị fruit looks so succulent, and its scent silently fills the entire house.

Autumn in Hanoi would not be the same without the special scent of hoàng lan blossoms (ylang-ylang). Thanks to its ephemeral gentle scent and the flower's superficial resemblance to Buddha’s fingers, ylang-ylang flowers are usually offered on altars to the deceased and the ancestors in Hanoi. Ylang-ylang trees in Hanoi are perennial, with the flowers blooming in bunches. When flowers are green, they mingle with the surrounding greenery, but turn yellow upon ripening. Whenever a breeze sweeps by, these flowers swing freely in the air, enticing admirers to stop and put some into their bags or bicycle baskets so as to wrap themselves in their sweet scent.

Autumn is also heralded by vendors carrying baskets of green baby rice from Vong Village. The rice's scent and flavor is linked to autumn in Hanoi. Just the thought of green baby rice leads to thoughts of heaven and earth, green fields and young paddy wrapped in big green lotus leaves. Nowadays, green baby rice is sold year round, but remains finest in the autumn when those god given grains are fed by summer rains. Green baby rice is not meant to be devoured but eaten slowly while contemplating its delicate flavor.

It seems that Hanoi and autumn are inseparable. In the green shade, stirred by the cheerful breezes, let your ears be entertained by the breaths of autumn upon every single moving leaf. Autumn is beautiful, and fragile, so slow down if your heart and mind still long for this season.
Story: Pham Duc Anh
Photos: Pham Duc Anh, Dan Toan, Ngo Dung

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