Story: Vo Hong Thu
Photos: Xuan Chinh, Minh Quan, Shutterstock

Autumn turns the roads in Northern Vietnam into vivid landscape paintings. People often speak of the golden season in Tay Bac, where early autumn is both magnificent and romantic. The Red River Delta is enchanting in the fall, and the capital, Hanoi, takes our breath away.

Blackboard flowers

Crops and flowers in Tay Bac

As the scenery turns gold, backpackers start to plan their trips along mountainous roads and the air is filled with the fragrance of ripe rice. Popular travel destinations include Mu Cang Chai, Khau Pha Pass, and Tu Le in Yen Bai. Vivid shades of gold carpet the hillsides of the “top ten most beautiful rice terraces in the world”, making for fine photographs. Travelers know the names La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha, and De Xu Phinh in Mu Cang Chai by heart. These three villages are famous for their picturesque terraced rice paddies, which have been recognized as national landmarks in Vietnam. The hunt for pretty terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai gives travelers a sense of triumph upon crossing Khau Pha Pass, one of the four great mountain passes in Vietnam

The harvest season in Hoang Su Phi is also not to be missed on your trip. Mesmerizing yellow colors blanket the rice terraces, painting a wondrous scene of nature to which no manmade creation could compare. The sweet fragrance of ripe rice lingers in the air, as if to invite travelers to stay.

Terraced rice fields at Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai Province

Autumn in Ha Giang is also the buckwheat flower season. The flowers usually start to blossom at the end of September. Throughout their one-month lifespan, the flowers turn four different shades. When budding, they wear pure white coats, and gradually turn pastel pink, purple, and finally dark red when the seeds are harvested by local farmers. Vast buckwheat fields stretch endlessly, ready for visiting photographers. But don’t spend the entire time taking photos. Be sure to stop by modest roadside stalls to take a sip of pungent buckwheat wine, or to feel the warmth of freshly charcoal-baked buckwheat bread clasped in your hands.

In late autumn, Moc Chau, the capital town of Son La province, will amaze you with its gentle atmosphere. In this season, Moc Chau is like a color palette of wild flora. Endless white cauliflower fields roll over the hillsides as cotton clouds pour down into the valleys, hemming in the distant, winding roads. Then there are the lush green shades of tea hills, the flaming red of poinsettias, and the bright yellow of wild sunflowers. All of these colors combine into a wonderful picture of autumn.

Green rice

Hanoi at the turn off the seasons

“Hanoi’s autumn Yellow celtis trees, red sea almond trees, side by side
Aged and quaint town-houses, deep brown roof tiles…”
Lyrics from “Missing Hanoi’s Autumn”, a song by the poet and songwriter Trinh Cong Son

Like the everlasting “Golden Autumn” in Isaac Levitan’s masterpiece, there is a golden autumn in Hanoi. The golden shades arrive in honeyed sunshine that caresses your skin, unlike the harsh rays of summer. More golden shades appear in ripe fruit – bananas, “thị” fruit (gold apples), pomelos, guavas… These are all special gifts of autumn.

There is the familiar sight of women carrying bamboo shoulder-poles with sheaves of young rice tucked into baskets, walking through the streets while calling: “Green rice, anyone?”, as if to welcome autumn into town. The intense fragrance of blackboard flowers fills the air, completing
Hanoi’s unique autumn sights, sounds and scents.

What other gifts does autumn bestow on Hanoi

Have you ever seen fields of reeds as white as a scene in a fairy tale, on the alluvial strip of land in the middle of the Red River, below Long Bien Bridge, at the end of October? Long ago, our ancestors looked to changes in living flora to forecast the weather. The reeds’ blooming indicates that the stormy season has passed, and a transcendent autumn is coming.

We long to travel along the country’s winding roads in the autumn, to thoroughly understand the true beauty of Vietnam. Our feelings of wonder will teach us to appreciate life’s precious values – a remedy in this peaceful season.