When the first heavy rain arrives and clear away the callous summer heat, you know that Autumn has arrived. When the leaves start to change into a golden shade, you know that Autumn has arrived. When children flock to bookstore to buy school supplies to get ready for a new semester, you know that Autumn has arrived. When the elegant and distinct milkwood flower scent suddenly catches you unguarded as you walk along an old street, you know that Autumn has arrived.
There’s no other season that encapsulates the essence of Hanoi like Autumn. Summer is too hot, Winter is too cold, and Spring is a tad drizzly and chirpy for the thousand year old capital. Hanoi is thoughtful and relaxed, pensive with a shade of romance, coated over by a subtle charm of time, just like Autumn.
Aside from the chaotic morning traffic, the winding alleys of the Old Quarters, the mash up of different architectural styles, and legendary Bún Chả, some of the things that makes Hanoi special to many only comes in Autumn, the milkwood scent that has been immortalized in the memories of Hanoians, the green rice made of immature wheat grain from Vong Village, the early northern wind breeze that signals winter is coming. Perhaps this is the reason why Hanoi Autumn is a theme that is most frequently visited by Vietnamese artists as well as musicians. Sai Gon has a dry season and a rainy season, Hue’s weather is similar all year round, but Hanoi has very four distinct seasons, and among those, Autumn is the prettiest.
While it is calm and has a wistful feeling, it does not mean that Hanoi Autumn is not fun. In Hanoi, there is a unspoken ritual, that you need to drop by Hàng Mã street for the Mid Autumn festival, because that is where Hanoi is at its brightest and most festive. Thousands of colourful lanterns hung in shops that are as old as 200 years, lion –dance held to the drum rhymth on the street, children wearing cute masks running around, and adults enjoy a brief moments to visit their childhood. Walking along any street in the Old Quarters during that time and you’re sure to be treated with a feast, the whole city suddenly seems to be bursting into life with colour, music, food, and laughters. Autumn in Hanoi has a side that only comes once in a while, but as equally charming as its usual quiet self.
And that is why Autumn is the season of Hanoi.