VietNamNet Bridge – It’s March and the orchid trees of the northern province of Dien Bien are in bloom.
A young woman in traditonal white blouse of Thái ethnic group poses for a photo by an orchid tree. VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tu
Hoa ban (orchid) flowers, the flowers of the northwest region, are in full bloom across mountainsides and along paths leading to villages in Dien Bien Dong, Muong Cha, Tuan Giao and Tua Chua.
The flower season is also the time for the Ban Flowers Festival 2019 (March 13-18, 2019) across the province. The festival also coincides with the anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu Victory in 1954, which ended French power in Indochina.
Orchid decorates mountains and forests.— VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tu
Luong Thi Dai, a researcher on the Thai ehtnic group’s culture, said the orchid tree has long been associated with Thai people.
“Each flower season, the whole community becomes excited and cheerful,” she said.
“The flower helps them relax and decorate their villages,” she said. “People erase all discontentment and become more united.”
Old and young people go to the forest together to pick orchids, which they use for cooking.
“The white shirt of Thái women represents two petals of orchids embracing the charming figures of the women,” she said.
Lo Thi Thuong, another local, said each orchid season brings her different feelings.
“Orchid flowers season is the season for young people to express their love,” she said.
The Orchid Flower Festival begins in March every year as a cultural activity to celebrate the historic Dien Bien Phu Victory over French invaders in 1954.
This year, the opening ceremony of the festival will be held on March 16 to confirm the flower season as a trademark of the province’s tourism.
According to Mai Huong, an official from Dien Bien’s Agriculture, Rural Development Department, localities have pulled out all the stops to ensure the flowers bloom en masse in time for the festival.
Orchid flowers or spring flowers of northwest region. — VNA/VNS Photo Phan Tuan Anh
Orchid trees stand high. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tu
Though the natural beauty of the orchids is enticing, tourists should not forget to visit the top destination in the province.
Dien Bien Phu Victory Relic Site includes a museum and Dien Bien Phu Victory Monument, a cemetery, the shelter of General De Castries, Muong Thanh Airport, Hong Cum, Him Lam bases and other destinations.
The site covers the whole Dien Bien valley, where battles between the Vietnamese army and French army took place in 1954.
Pa Khoang Lake is located in the middle of the spectacular natural landscape of Muong Phang Commune. In winter, fog covers the lake creating a fairytale landscape with high mountains hiding in clouds in the distance. In summer, the atmosphere is cool with wind from the south.
Orchid flowers lure also foreigners. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tu
Orchid in full bloom in mountain sides. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tu
The hot mineral stream Hua Pe in Thanh Luong Commune is another attraction for nature lovers. The stream runs from a mountain and flows into Nam Pe and Hua Pe streams.
Tourists should also visit A Pa Chai, the westernmost point in Vietnam, which borders China and Laos. The point is located in Sin Thau Commune, Muong Nhe District, dubbed the place that a rooster’s call can be heard by people in three countries.
The check point is located 1,864m above sea level, where the Ha Nhi ethnic group and some other ethnicities reside.
Symbol of love
With an innocent white colour and gentle fragrance, orchids start to bloom in mid February and are in full bloom in March. Each orchid flower has five petals. Its fragrance is strongest at sunrise, when the wind helps disperse the fragrance.
In the lore of Thai ethnic minority people, the flower is named after a beautiful woman named Ban, who is in love with a strong man named Khum.
As the tale goes, once upon a time, in the northwest region lived beautiful and gentle Ban. Many men in the village wanted to marry her. But she fell in love with a poor hard-working man named Khum.
However, Ban’s parents prohibited the lovers to meet and forced her to marry a rich man instead.
Ban snuck into Khum’s village to meet him but she could not find him at his house. She left her scarf at his staircase as a sign that she had been there and rushed to search for him. She wandered from mountain to mountain and called to him, before collapsing exhausted under some trees.
When Khum returned from working in the fields, he found Ban’s scarf at this house and sensed something bad had happened to her. He searched for her from forest to forest, before he perished of exhaustion and turned into a lonely bird, flying about looking for his lover.
Where Ban died a tree grew, which bloomed with white flowers in spring. People heard birds twittering like Khum calling for his girlfriend and named the tree after the woman to remember their beautiful but tragic love.
By An Dung & Hoang Nam