Spring rolls into our lives naturally and effortlessly like a wakeup call. Hanoi’s spring comes with its signature drizzles along with the ubiquitous presence of peach blossom and kumquat trees, signaling the arrival of Tet – the Vietnamese Lunar New year. The whole city is adorned with its most beautiful attire of first spring flowers shyly looming their flowery heads, from the streets and flower markets to every festive home.

Hanoi girl clad in ao dai

Hanoi girl clad in ao dai

How is spring in Hanoi different from that of other cities? Let’s build your own Hanoi group tour and go ‘flower hunting’ to find out. Why do you need a companion? A photographer is bound to come in handy!

February - Watching nature burst into life

February is the busiest month of the year when many festivals take place: ‘Tháng giêng là tháng ăn chơi’ – Lunar January is the month of partying. Hanoians have mastered the art of ‘appreciating flowers’, or ‘playing flowers’, as they prefer to put it (chơi hoa). In early February, when spring is in full swing and Tet is just around the corner, it’s an unwritten tradition for generations of Hanoi people to head to local flower markets and gardens to witness nature at its busiest.

Nhat Tan Peach Garden

Nhat Tan Peach Garden

They come here with their loved ones, enjoy one another’s company, embrace the incredible display of color, and feel love manifest itself everywhere. Given that every passing day is something we can never get back, many youngsters and families come to these places to take pictures and immortalize the moments. A customized tour package around Hanoi right before Tet Holiday promises an experience filled with scent and color.

1. Peach blossom

Peach blossom is an indispensable ornamental plant during Tet across Northern Vietnam and is traditionally used for deterring evil spirits. Considered as a quintessence of the five elements of the universe, peach blossom also symbolizes vitality.

Nhat Tan Peach Blossom Garden

Nhat Tan Peach Blossom Garden

Nhat Tan Peach Blossom Garden: Residing 7km northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake, the garden is the number one spot for taking photos in Hanoi. The Nhat Tan Peach Blossom is a specialty of Hanoi, it has 16 petals instead of 5, and is several shades darker compared to the typical ‘Phai’ peach blossom (pale pink with a deep magenta center) that is grown across Vietnam. The admission fee to the garden fluctuates between 50,000 and 70,000 VND.

Phu Thuong Village: Another spot for appreciating peach blossoms is Phu Thuong, a village situated 4km west of Hanoi featuring many traditional crafts including cooking sticky rice, home-brewing rice wine, and most prominently – growing peach blossoms.

2. Kumquat trees

Kumquat is the ultimate ornamental tree for display along with peach blossom during Tet, and is symbolic of prosperity (golden fruits looking like golden coins).

Tu Lien Kumquat Garden

Tu Lien Kumquat Garden

Tu Lien Kumquat Garden: Tu Lien is a must-see destination with over forty thousand kumquat trees aesthetically styled in different shapes. Located only 1.5km southwest of Nhat Tan Peach Blossom Garden, it is super convenient to incorporate Tu Lien Garden into your itinerary.

Quang Ba Flower Market: Traditionally a night flower market held 9km northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake, Quang Ba goes in full force before Tet to accommodate the rapid demand. If you want to capture the festive atmosphere in its truest form, Quang Ba should definitely be first on your list.

March – The unpredictable teenage girl

Hanoi in March wakes up all your senses in its very own way! The weather is unpredictable like a teenage girl. Sunshine, scents of flowers, and birds singing might fill the air one day, and the next day it could be grey, wet, and sticky. The trademark spring drizzles have a funny way of sneaking up on you; they come quickly and go just as fast.

Perhaps March has the most favorable temperature for sightseeing with an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. March arrives and brings with it a plethora of blooming flowers and an incredible display of color. Forget about the drizzles, join a Hanoi small group tour or spend a weekend wandering around the streets and you are guaranteed an enlivening floral presentation.

3. Grapefruit flowers

Kick start your day with a leisurely stroll around the old streets and feel the last wintry breezes infused with the scent of grapefruit flowers caress your skin. Even from a mile away, the refreshing and revitalizing aroma still, somehow, manages to fill up your nose. Grapefruit flowers give off a rustic vibe and stir up many childhood memories.

Grapefruit flowers

Grapefruit flowers

This fragrant delight follows florist couriers on their bicycles from the outskirts to the labyrinth of city streets. Pay closer attention and you can easily spot a woman in her 70s maneuvering her bike through crowded streets like it’s effortless.

Tea with grapefruit flowers

Tea with grapefruit flowers

Freshly cut branches of grapefruit with creamy white flowers and glossy dark green leaves are stacked up together on a flat, round, bamboo basket. Grapefruit flowers are not solely for display; they were also that extra touch Mom used to add to her scorching hot tea, black agar, and black-eyed pea porridge. The nostalgic aroma of Gleditsia caspica fruits, lemongrass, and grapefruit leaves that moms and sisters used to wash their hair with is still etched in the memory of generations of Vietnamese people till this day.

4. Sưa flowers

The sight of dangling Sưa flowers (white Dalbergia tonkinensis) fluttering under the pale sunlight of winter is such a sight to behold. One slight breeze sweeps over and the tiny, delicate petals fall to the ground like snowflakes, weaving a magnificent carpet of white under your feet.

Dalbergia tonkinensis flowers looking like snowflakes

Dalbergia tonkinensis flowers looking like snowflakes

Despite the fact that Dalbergia tonkinensis is a rare plant, every March you can admire its flowers almost everywhere in Hanoi, namely Thanh Nien Street (lodged between West Lake and Truc Bach Lake), Bac Son Street, Lenin Park, Hang Dau Street, Phan Chu Trinh Street, Bach Thao Lake, Giang Vo Lake, etc.

5. Mountain ebony flowers

‘Ban’ or mountain ebony flowers are a specialty of the mountainous Northwest, a revitalizing presence amid the daily grind of Hanoi. The fragile purple petals are as sweet and pure as a mountain girl’s smile, characterized with a deep sense of tenderness and femininity, yet striking enough to brighten up a whole corner. It’s a lovely sight to watch the sleeping buds burst into full bloom in the blink of an eye as soon as the first ray of sunlight peaks through.

Taking photos of mountain ebony flowers in Hanoi

Taking photos of mountain ebony flowers in Hanoi

The name ‘Ban’ originated from the star-crossed love story of Ban and Khum. Despite Ban’s plea, her father was against their relationship and wanted to marry her off to someone else. Ban tied a Pieu scarf to the end of their staircase to declare her love, and then ran away to find her lover. She crossed mountain range after mountain range but still couldn’t find Khum. Eventually, she ended up dying on a tall mountain. From where she died, a plant grew and bloomed into purple flowers. Upon the arrival of spring, the mountain is permeated with their fragrance.

Mountain ebony flowers

Mountain ebony flowers

When wandering around Hanoi in March, it’s hard not to notice the purple carpet of blooming flowers with hundreds of people trying to capture the best shot. Some popular spots for taking pictures of mountain ebony flowers are Bac Son Street, Thanh Nien Street, Hoang Dieu Street, Hoan Kiem Lake (at the junction of Hang Khay and Dinh Tien Hoang Street), Hanoi Opera House, Kim Ma Street (next to Hanoi International School), etc.

6. Red silk-cotton flowers

Seeing the red silk-cotton flowers in the middle of the busy city sends people back to their childhood, where they rode water buffalo on the dirt roads along lush green crops without a care. Red silk-cotton trees remind many people of home, or perhaps it is the idea of home – a place rife with memory that feels familiar and comforting.

Red silk-cotton flowers in the northern countryside

Red silk-cotton flowers in the northern countryside

Along with banyan trees and Bodhi trees, red silk-cotton trees have been the ultimate symbol of rural Northern Vietnam for thousands of years. These three trees have a direct connection to the spiritual life of the locals and are usually planted at the entrance of the village, in the middle of the rice field, or next to worshipping places. There is a Vietnamese saying that goes: “Thần cây đa, ma cây gạo, cú cáo cây đề”, meaning “saints live on banyan trees and spirits live on Bodhi and red silk-cotton trees”. If you have traveled Vietnam before, you probably have noticed small altars built under giant ancient trees.

There are various spots in Hanoi to appreciate this delightful view, including National Museum of Vietnamese History, Tram Pagoda (22km southwest of Hanoi), Huong Pagoda (50km south of Hanoi), The Red River Dike, etc.

April – Summer is around corner

In Hanoi, April is time to bid adieu to the soggy spring and embrace the warmth of summer. This time of the year is full of sunlight with occasional breezes, wafting the aroma of fresh flowers to every home. With the temperature ranging from 22 to 27 degrees Celsius, April is filled with warm sunshine.

7. Lily

Lily is also called the ‘flower of April’ because it blooms only once a year in this month. Symbolizing chastity and virtue, this classic beauty with white delicate petals boasts purity and elegance. When the time comes, the symbol of April can be found anywhere: on baskets suspended from street florists’ shoulder poles, on bicycles, on dinner tables, in bedrooms and guestrooms, etc.

Thieu nu ben Hoa Hue

Thiếu nữ bên hoa huệ

The masterpiece ‘Young Lady with Lily’, portraying a young lady clad in white ‘Ao Dai’ gracefully sitting by a pot of white lilies, has captured the hearts of millions of Vietnamese people since it came out in 1943. To Ngoc Van – the renowned painter, had successfully depicted the ultimate epitome of Hanoi girls - elegant, poised, and subtle; just like a lily flower.

The sweet fragrance starts to seep into every corner and gussy up the whole city of Hanoi starting in late March. Branches of lilies with milky white flowers and lush green leaves are displayed on the streets with so much care to make sure the flowers are showing their best side. This fragrant delight is such a rejuvenating existence in the middle of a diligent pace setter like Hanoi.

You can get yourself a bouquet of lilies for 40,000 – 60,000 VND when wandering around Yen Phu Street, Thuy Khue Street, Phan Dinh Phung Street, Trang Tieng Street, Giang Vo Street, etc. Another way to embrace the extraordinary display of lilies is to embark on a Hanoi group tour to the sprawling flower gardens of Tay Tuu (20km from Hanoi), Quang Ba, and Nhat Tan Villages.

Yến Thương

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PostDate: 01/02/2018

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