Photo: Flag shop on the streets of Hanoi.

Lotus flowers

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When lotus flower season hits in June, the West Lake area becomes awash with the blooms, which hold particular significance in Vietnam, where they are considered one of four graceful plants, along with pine, bamboo and chrysanthemum. They are a symbol of purity, commitment, optimism for the future, beauty, majesty, grace, fertility, wealth, richness, knowledge, serenity… anything positive really. A famous Vietnamese song, “Doa hoa vo thuong”, is about the lotus flower — have a listen.

Spot the frog

Spot the frog.

Such is the Vietnamese love for the lotus that it was voted as the country’s national flower — for which one of the criteria was that it “must be found in many localities”, and inded it would be hard to travel through Vietnam during lotus season without coming across a pond or lake filled with them.

There are four large ponds around the banks of West Lake filled with lotus flowers. One is near the waterpark and the other three are along the northern bank. If you take a bike ride around the lake you can’t miss them.

Not a bad back garden

Not a bad back garden.

Early in the morning, elderly ladies push off in their boats to cut the flowers ready for selling later that day. Later in the day, young lovers and groups of girls dressed up in ao dai scoot along to the ponds for both professional and amateur photo shoots. Enterprising land — or pond — owners have put up bridges jutting out into the ponds and charge for the privilege of taking photos on the bridge or out on small boats among the flowers.

Pay up and get snapping

Pay up and get snapping.

The white and pink flowers are most commonly seen in the ponds and streets of Hanoi, with pink being considered the supreme of all lotuses.

Flower vendors can be found selling bunches, wrapped in a lotus leaf, from bicycles all around the city, particular at the western end of Pho Yen Phu, which makes for a wonderful photo opportunity. They’re not too expensive, at around 30,000 VND a bunch, but they die very soon after the bloom. You will also see the dried seed heads for sale; they resemble the spouts of watering cans and make a contemporary addition to flower displays.

A beautiful sight along Pho Yen Phu

A beautiful sight along Pho Yen Phu.

As well as being beautiful to look at, and having a wonderful fragrance, lotus flowers have other uses: the young stems are used in salads, the stamens can be dried and made into a herbal tea and the lotus seeds are eaten raw, dried or boiled. The sweet soup is particularly tasty.

Aliens or beautiful decoration... you decide

Aliens or beautiful decoration... you decide.

Lotus flowers are in bloom from around mid-May to mid-July.

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