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Blossoming Hanoi 18 April 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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A couple of weeks ago, when it was still quite cold in Hanoi, I caught a whiff of a wonderful smell. It was not the typical smell of Hanoi in summer (urine, dust, sweat) nor the smells that sometimes bubble up to the surface when the autumn and winter rain causes flooding (sewage, garbage, filth).

It smelt like flowers; sweet, slightly syrupy. It smelt like spring.

It certainly did not feel like spring at this stage, but it smelt like it.

Looking around I saw no flowers anywhere, and as it had been a passing whiff, I started to wonder whether it had been a scent memory. You know, the ones you have when you all of a sudden think you smell your grandmother’s house, but when you try to smell harder, the smell vanishes into thin air.

Perhaps it wasn’t an actual smell at all. After all, this was my third spring in Hanoi, and I had never smelt anything quite so wonderful before. I drove past the same spot some days later, and did not smell it again. I must have had a little hallucination or something, I thought. Maybe it was someone’s perfume.

Then, it happened again. This wonderful, sweet scent of pure happy thoughts floated by me on my motorbike. This time, I slowed down, and sniffed, and the smell stayed with me: it was certainly not an illusion. But how could I possibly smell it when I could see no flowers? Why had I never smelt it before? How come I could not locate it’s source?

It was an identical smell to the first time, and I stopped the bike, just to smell the air around me for a while. It was so titillating, so contagious, it instantly lifted my mood. My heart skipped a beat. I felt seventeen again. Memories of stopping next to a flowering tree, pulling the branches towards me to smell the flowers were floating through my mind.

And this weekend I have finally also seen the trees starting to bloom. Orange blossoms are the first ones out of the starting blocks, and the other trees will not be far behind. I still cannot figure out why Hanoi smells so wonderful this time around, but I sure love it. Keep it up, Hanoi, and I will be all the more sad to leave you.

In the words of Tom Lehrer: Spring again… 10 April 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, Travelling.
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Spring is a many splendored thing. And I tend to forget the amazing coming to life of the North European countries during this time.

I arrived two weeks ago, when bitterly cold winds were gushing around corners, when I thanked the foresight that I had had in bringing my winter coat as I was standing at the ferry terminal, teeth nearly chattering.

It is worth noting here, of course, that I have been extremely spoilt of late – I have not been around for any truely cold winters for a while. Vietnam seldom has minus degrees, at least in Hanoi, and we left Australia just before winter took hold before that.

So any cold is a shock to my system. Yet there were little signs of hope already on those first days: the crocuses were about to wither and the daffodils were in full, yellow glory in the fields. The ones around the house were also getting along fast, and were just about to burst open when we left last week. Before leaving, though, I witnessed many avian courtships in the garden, and I even spotted the year’s first rabbit happily chomping away on the grass.

The fields were quickly filling with lambs, little fuzzy looking things on short, stocky legs, fluttering their long tails as they drank their fill from their mothers.

Britain seemed just those few steps further along, though, with leaves bursting out of their buds, bushes flowering, and birds on nests tending their eggs. We could cycle along the Thames in the sunshine today, and we lunched outside.

If you have never really lived in a cold climate, where the world seems to die over winter, you will never truely understand the magnificence of nature coming to life again. Perhaps it is similar in extremely dry areas after rains. It is magnificent.

Yesterday, we drank tea on the back porch and saw the first butterfly. Today we saw countless more. It feels as if it is a change from one day to the next – everything bursts with energy, and it is no wonder how spring brings around love and hormones. I mean, in the words of Cole Porter: let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

That is spring to me.

It is best described by the yearly occurance all through the Netherlands when the cattle that has been held inside for months on end over winter is first released back into the fields: they leap and jump, and are said to dance for joy of being outside again. I hope you will get to see that, too, one day.