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In Hanoi, autumn is a transcendent season

It is a time when the soul turns poetic, mesmerized and spellbound by the charisma that autumn bestows on Hanoi.

The scent of milk flowers in the wind

Green rice scent in your little hands

Leave a fragrance in your footsteps.

Trinh Cong Son’s song, Nho Mua Thu Ha Noi (Missing Hanoi’s Autumn), would play on my neighborhood’s old loudspeaker when I was a little kid.

The indelible memory that evokes extraordinary beauty is refreshed anew every October as I wake up, open the window and a calm and gentle breeze ruffles my hair.

The sun seems mellowed, too.

There are fragrances and hints of fragrances in the air, lingering like a pleasant aftertaste.

When it all seems like a beautiful dream, I know autumn is here, here in Hanoi.

Autumn in Hanoi is a transcendent season. It becomes the muse for poets, musicians and artists, and it becomes the muse that makes everyone’s heart sing.

It casts a spell on everything – the air, the space, the food, the drinks, the fruits.

I was born in Hanoi, and have lived here all my life. Yet, I fall in love every year, at this time of the year.

The weather

The spring brings in warmth after a biting cold winter, and the a scorching summer follows. It rains. Then, autumn steps in gracefully, bringing cool, gentle breezes and sunlight that sprinkles just the right amount of warmth all around. The sky smiles a brilliant smile. The leaves of huge trees turn red, reddish brown, yellow and other hues that adorn Hanoi in this season.

Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake) and West Lake cast peaceful yet stunning sceneries. Cycling or riding a motorbike slowly through the streets of Hanoi at this time is a lovely experience, watching fallen and falling leaves, feeling the soft breeze and soft warmth of the sunlight.

The flowers

In the evening and the night, the famous hoa sua or the milk flower exudes its bewitching fragrance. Along some sections of the West Lake promenade, on streets like Phan Dinh Phung, Quan Thanh, Quang Trung and many other places, the scent is so strong that some people, especially women, said they feel faint.

Autumn also seems to be the season of daisies and lotuses that are carried on many vendors on bicycles and sold on pavements. The sight of women holding bouquets of daisies on a breezy autumn day adds to the beauty of the capital city during his season.

The fruits

Autumn leaves its mark on the capital city with fruits that are particular to this time of the year, that seemed made particularly for this time of the year.

In summer, young dracontomelons are used to make a syrup for a thirst quenching drink. But in the autumn, when they are ripe, these are peeled and sugared or salted to make a snack people love. Dracontonmelon is a fruit that reminds people of Hanoi.

From September to October is also the time of ripe persimmons, when the fruit’s skin turns a glossy yellow or orange, and the pulp is crispy and sweet.

Grown in urban areas and usually close to temples, thi is a fruit is similar in shape and color as the persimmon, because they belong to the same plant species. But the thi is not meant to be eaten, because the taste can be quite harsh and bitter if not prepared correctly. Instead, people buy the fruit for its pleasant and fruity smell to place in the house as a natural deodorant.

The eats

Apart from the fruits, autumn in Hanoi bring to mind eagerly awaited delicacies like beaten green rice and noodle that are packed with memories for both old timers and the young.

Com (Green rice flakes)

Com, immature rice kernel roasted over very low heat and pounded into flakes is an essential of autumn here. Its special sweetness and nutty flavor gets further enhanced by the lotus leaf in which it is typically packed. Having this with ripe bananas is a popular combination that is a must-try dish for all newcomers to the capital city.






Today this simple dish has spawned many other popular dishes like com cake with mung bean filling, com sweet soup and com ice cream.

Com is not for hasty people. You have to take it really slow, like a food for thought.
Thach Lam, Author

Ragworm

Ragworms can either be fried with meat or eggs with tangerine peels, crunchy and fragrant, with a rich taste. Fried ragworm has always been a favorite of gourmets in autumn for two reasons. First, they can only be harvested during high tides, so they are very rare and expensive (VND500,000 or $23 for a kilo). Second, not many places serve great ragworm dishes in Hanoi. The best places are on Hang Chieu Street in the Old Quarter or on Lo Duc Street.

The late author Vu Bang, a Hanoian at heart, wrote: “An autumn without ragworms feels as tragic as a woman who has wasted her youth”.

Snail dishes

Boiled snails are another favored autumn food in Hanoi, maybe because these are at their freshest during this season. A bowl of boiled snails can be an appetizer before going on to other dishes made with the molluscs. The steamed snails are taken out of the shell by using a small and flat metal pick, and dipped in a chili-garlic sauce.

On colder autumn days, a sweet, sour and savory snail vermicelli soup is great body warmer. An original Hanoi dish, bun oc is a vermicelli soup with a tomato-based broth made by slowly simmering pork or chicken bones, topped with fried tofu, prawns, fish cakes or beef and Vietnamese herbs like perilla and cilantro. Of course bun oc will not be bun oc without the famous escargots – as the French refer to snails. To add even more flavor to this dish, you can either use fermented shrimp paste or chili oil. One of the oldest bun oc spots in Hanoi is on Hang Chai Street, where it is always busy and crowded. A bowl of bun oc costs around VND30,000 ($1.28) a bowl.

Another “cooler” version of this dish is called bun oc nguoi (cold snail vermicelli). This is another traditional Hanoian dish. The broth is made of snails, rice vinegar, special herbs and some fried scallion sprinkled on top. A great bun oc nguoi spot can be found on Tay Son Street.

Lotus seed sweet soup

The lotus seeds are used in traditional medicine but can also be turned into a sweet and elagant dessert, cooked in syrup that has a light taste and a fragrant, heavenly smell.

Banh troi tau (Sweet rice soup)

This is another autumn-geared dessert made with sticky rice and mung beans cooked in a sweet soup made with water, sugar and grated ginger, garnished with toasted sesame, peanuts and coconut milk. The dish adds to the enjoyment of rare rainy days of autumn.

The drinks

After all the walking around and the eating, it’s time for another treat that is part of Hanoi’s autumn charms, thirst quenching drinks that also soothe the soul.

Lotus tea

The lotus is Vietnam’s national flower and found in many parts of the country, but connoisseurs will tell you that the most fragrant ones, which are used to make the famous lotus-scented tea, is to be found on Hanoi’s West Lake.

It is said that it takes about 1,500 lotus flowers to make one kilogram of lotus tea, so the price of high grade lotus tea can go up to hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

A sip of this tea will make you feel the price is worth it. The fragrance and a sweet aftertaste linger long after you have finished your up. This tea is sold on Nghi Tam Street, and among other places, a lovely café called Huong Mai on Ma May Street in the Old Quarter serves a great cup of lotus tea.

Egg coffee

Much has been written about Hanoi’s egg coffee, and it has now reached places as far as Chicago, but the ultimate place to have it is at its birthplace.

One of the best places to get a cup of egg coffee is at Giang, a humble café on Nguyen Huu Huan Street, where Hanoians get together on chilly days and enjoy the feeling of warm coffee running through their veins.

Tra da (Vietnamese green iced tea)

Arguably the most popular thirst quencher in Vietnam, tra da is a very simple drink, but an awesome one, nevertheless. Refreshing and affordable, this drink also has a special flavor in Hanoi, compared to other parts of the country. It is more bitter and therefore has great sweet aftertaste. Those who are used to the tra da in Hanoi will tell you that you can get it anywhere else in the country.

In sum, every aspect of life in Hanoi is toughed by the autumn magic, and if you spend a weekend experiencing it, chances are you will extend your stay or play your return even before you leave.

More lovely and stunning photos of Hanoi’s autumn

Story by Tuan Hoang
Photos by Giang Trinh, Kieu Duong, Nguyen Chi
Source: VNEXPRESS

Central Highlands

November, the best time to visit these awesome Vietnamese destinations

As chilly November arrives it is the best time to pay a visit to these places.Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Ha Giang Province nestles in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It is home to ethnic minorities like the H’Mong, Thai and others. Visitors to the province can witness exotic local lifestyles.

The wildness of its nature is the captivating feature of Ha Giang. The province attracts many motorbike riders and trekkers every year. Mother Nature has gifted Ha Giang with diverse scenery with mighty rocky mountains, golden rice terraces and, in November, magnificent white and magenta fields of buckwheat flowers.

Buckwheat is among the staple grains of the locals, and is usually cultivated after the summer-fall rice crop every year. Now buckwheat flowers have bloomed all over mountain slopes in Dong Van District.

This year the annual buckwheat flower festival starts on November 10 with cultural activities, traditional games and a buckwheat flower competition.

1,000-year-old capital, Hanoi

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

November may mark the start of winter in many places, but in Hanoi autumn lingers. This is arguably the best time of the year to visit the city, when it wears a whole new façade with the renowned hoa sua (milk flower) and streets gilded with fallen golden leaves and cuisine specialties.

Photo by VnExpress

Photo by VnExpress

In November do not miss a walk through Hanoi’s most romantic streets, Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu and Tran Phu. The hoa sua (milk flower) have bloomed all over these streets, giving off a glorious aroma.

Visitors can also explore the maze of alleys in the old quarter to find autumn specialties like green rice, green rice cake and ragworm, or sit by an open-air café in the cool wind and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese egg coffee.

The ancient citadel of Hue

Photo by Quoc Viet

November heralds autumn in Hue in central Vietnam. Hue typically expects pleasant weather and less rain this month, perfect for tourists to take a trip around the royal citadel and mighty tombs of old kings.

The Hue citadel complex holds in itself the historical legacy of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last imperial rulers of Vietnam. The tombs of the Nguyen kings are situated around Hue’s suburbs, which can be reached by car or motorbike.

The Hue cuisine is not to be missed. Mussels with rice/noodles, Hue beef noodles, steamed rice cake and tapioca dumplings are among the must-try dishes in the city. In the cool weather of autumn, the spicy mussels with rice can warm your stomach, and a bowl of beef noodles can give you a nutritious fix for a whole day of exploration.

Tree marigold in Gia Lai

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai Province is in the Central Highlands and has a tropical highland climate. Tourists should visit the province in the dry season in November or December. This is when the rice terraces on the hill slopes are ripe and marigolds have painted the paths yellow.

Tourists can stay in Pleiku City, the center of Gia Lai. One place to visit is the Gia Lai Museum where cultural and historical relics of the local ethnic groups are preserved.

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

The Chu Dang Ya volcano is a must-visit place for flower lovers since it has the best scenes of blooming tree marigold. The volcano is situated in Chu Dang Ya Commune, Chu Pah District, 30 kilometers to the northeast of Pleiku. Locals can give you directions, so if you are lost do not worry.

Da Lat, the city of dreams

Da Lat City is among the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Vietnam. The rainy season has ended in early November, so it is a good time to visit this city.

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

In Da Lat, you can visit the Valley of Love, Da Lat train station, Golden Valley, and Langbiang Mountain.

Da Lat is also in the Central Highlands, so tourists can expect to see tree marigold here.

The best floral scenes can be found at Da Lat University, Pham Hong Thai Street and the Minh Hoa seminary.

Source: By Minh Quan (VNEXPRESS)

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An Giang

The palm that sweetens life in Mekong Delta province

An Giang residents love the palmyra palm for the sustained supply of toddy, juice and raw sugar that it provides.

Known locally as the thot not, Borassus flabellifer, commonly known as doub palm, palmyra palm, tala palm, toddy palm and even wine palm, this species can be found everywhere in An Giang. The local name is derived from th’not in the Khmer language.

They provide a thirst-quenching drink, toddy, made by collecting the sap of its flowers. The palm sugar made from this also carries a special sweetness. The tall palms also beautifully break the monotony of rice fields in the Mekong Delta province.

A thirst-quencher

The thot not juice is often misunderstood as juice from its fruit. But this is actually sap tapped from its flowers. The juice has a light sweet taste and is often served with some slices of succulent thot not fruit. The drink is said to contain many minerals and vitamins that are good for health. It tastes best served with ice.

The tastiest sap is the one harvested early in the morning. If harvested in the evening the sap will get sour and have a fermented taste, which is turned into toddy, an alcoholic drink. Thot not juice is sold in many sidewalk stalls and markets in An Giang.

Sweetmeats

Thot not plays an important role in An Giang’s dessert scene. It is used as the sweetener in most dishes. The thot not pie, rich and sweet, is a steal at VND15,000 ($0.6) a pack.

To make the pies, the pulp of ripened thot not fruit is ground and the juice extracted. The flesh is then mixed with rice flour and thot not sugar and steamed.

Other snacks made here include sweet soups and jelly.

A sweet gift

Thot not sugar is one of the most famous delicacies of An Giang. It’s extracted from the thot not sap then cooked and hardened into round brown clots. The brown sugar is recommended because it retains the natural and original taste. The whiter version is refined. The sugar is not just used in daily cooking, it is also a popular gift item. Some sugar makers even let you make the sugar yourself.

A photo cover

Photographs taken in An Giang never fail to feature the palms against the rising and setting suns. If you show a Vietnamese person a photograph with these palms, she or he will know that you have been to An Giang.

Source: By Linh Sea, Tuan Hoang (VNEXPRESS)

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Destination

Pristine Nam Du islands offer a quiet getaway

The Nam Du Archipelago in southern Kien Giang Province takes some getting to, but that adds to its quiet, clean charms.

The 21 islands that form the Nam Du Archipelago offer visitors a real break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

It takes a seven-hour drive on a bus from Ho Chi Minh City and a two hour boat ride from Rach Gia City in Kien Giang Province.

The islands can be visited anytime of the year, but it’s best to go between November and May when the sea is quiet (and clean) and tourists can avoid getting seasick.

The archipelago only gets power from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day, so charging devices like phones, computers and flashlights should be done at this time.

Taking a walk along the beaches where there is no power enhances the experience of the island’s beauty.

The lack of many activities in the evening, for instance, makes a fire camp or beach barbecue far more enjoyable.

Cool and windy throughout the year, Nam Du is an ideal holiday destination.

A few resorts and homestays have set up bird stations where pigeons congregate, and watching their comings and goings is a pleasant way to while away the time.

The untouched sandy beaches and crystal blue waters of the sea are the greatest attractions on this archipelago, and one cannot get enough of gazing at this wonder.

And given the number of islands, there is a lot of gazing that can get done. For boat rides of just VND150,000 ($7), people can discover islands like Hon Ngang, Bai Nom and Da Den.

Bungalows by the beach.

At the Ngu beach, most of the people are fishermen, but they can tell you one interesting royal fact. Gia Long (1762-1820), the first Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty – the last Vietnamese dynasty – came here for a vacation.

For those who want to do more than walk on the beach, swimming and diving to see corals under the sea are favored options.

Another activity to engage in apart from long walks on the beach is to rent a bike and cycle/drive around each island. Motorbike rentals cost VND150,000 to 200,000 ($6.5 to 8.5).

Nguyen Oanh, a first time visitor, had no such interest: “Nam Du is so beautiful and pristine. I love the feeling of walking by the beach and listening to the waves.”

Source: Hong Ha(VNEXPRESS)

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