I was born in Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – which has been a paradise from my earliest childhood. Here the weather makes you feel like being in a land of peace and gentleness, where you can feel the lovely touch of four seasons.
Summer, to some extent, is the most glamorous season in Hanoi. You can hear cicadas repeating the same sound for hours. Many people who first come to Hanoi hate this annoying sound. But for people living in Hanoi, they will miss it if summer comes without what they call “the orchestra of Hanoi”.
More than once during my childhood I had searched high and low for a cicada to keep in my bedroom as a pet. This was one of my unforgettable experiences.
At this time of year you can see the gorgeous flamboyant flowers everywhere. These flowers are a sign of summer – time for students to have a short break and for people to travel to the sea or the mountains to escape the heat of the city. There are many songs written about summer that make reference to cicadas. Famboyant flowers and students on summer vacation remind me of my childhood.
The mix of red flowers, the old streets, French architecture and the lakes make Hanoi a very special place. Ice-cream and sugarcane juice are the delicious, cooling flavours of summer time. You can find them on every streetcorner in Hanoi and try them. They will give an instant chill indeed!
Usually during summer, Hanoians walk around the lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake or Truc Bach Lake to avoid the heat. Wandering around the lakes you can see people sitting around, eating and drinking till late at night. Finding a cool breeze is a priority and the lakeside is a good bet. Sometimes though, the traffic police come and most of the street vendors disappear, leaving behind customers with plates or glasses in hand. But everything will be back to square one when the police are gone. It’s quite a funny scene!
Most people have an image of Hanoi in a hot climate country, but I have to say that the weather in winter is damn cold. 12oC in Vietnam sounds like nothing compared with 5oC or even minus 5oC degrees like in some other countries, but it’s really different here in Hanoi. The cold honestly gets in your bones. When winter comes, everything is bleak, more quiet and slow. However, it offers a chance for young people to dress up in a few extra fashionable clothes. I usually wear two shirts, a pair of long pants, a jacket, scarf, gloves and a winter hat, but I bet others are more overdressed! In winter, people seem to be less active and like to stay at home instead of going out. No wonder most streets appear less crowded.
A special feature of winter in Hanoi is the food and drink. It is a good experience to sit on the pavement, drink a hot cup of coffee and look at what people are doing around you. Simply put, you can feel calm in the fast-paced city. There are many seasonal dishes but Khuc cake is one of the city’s specialties you can easily find in the Dong Xuan market area. At the end of Hang Duong Street the vendors sit right on the pavement with a huge pot full of Khuc cake sticky rice; you pay only about VND8,000 for one serving, and that’s your dinner! Cheap and delicious, I suppose. You’d rather try it sometimes and I strongly believe you’ll be very impressed by the taste of this cake.
Personally, I love Hanoi because it is the place where I was born and has spent most of my time living and working since childhood. Hanoi is always in my heart and my heart is in Hanoi.