The scent of memory

Tuesday, 2021-12-07 10:37:46
 Font Size:     |        Print

Bui Bang Giang and basket flower arrangement made by Comida Ngon (Photo credit: Bui Bang Giang)
 Font Size:     |  

NDO – In the olden days, people in the northern region, particularly Hanoians, used to offer fragrant flowers to their ancestors or place them in their living rooms. The blissfully scented flowers have been in the memories of several generations of Hanoians. These days, there are quite a few young people who have worked to refresh the scent of these memories and turn the fragrant flowers into elegant floral arrangement in order to revive the charm of an old practice.

Bui Bang Giang was the co-founder of Asia Exotica, which was initially established as a travel business targeting Spanish and Portuguese-speaking travellers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic came and it hit the business so hard that it left Giang and her colleagues unemployed.

Without being discouraged, Giang opened Comida Ngon, a food store on Bach Dang street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi. The first products for sale at Comina Ngon were traditional moon cakes. To make her products more attractive to customers, Giang placed the cakes on bamboo-made trays and used ylang-ylang, magnolia flowers and fruits as decoration for the photoshoot of the products.

After the photos were posted on the store’s Facebook page, they quickly received several comments. However, only a few of the users actually placed orders to buy the cakes, while most of them asked where to buy the flowers!

Born in the northern province of Hoa Binh, Giang has 16 years of working in Hanoi, during which she held that people in the northern region, including Hanoians in particular develop a strong attachment to fragrant flowers.

Most of those who are aged 40 and older have affectionate memories of the scents of incense sticks and aromatic flowers, such as ‘ngau’ (aglaia duperreana), ‘soi’(chloranthaceae), ylang-ylang and magnolia.

That was how Bang Giang decided to turn Comida Ngon into a completely new business venture.

Giang had to learn more in depth, about the customs and habits of choosing and arranging the mix of flowers, in the same way northern people did in the past when they prepared a tray of flowers as offerings to the ancestors and gods. She also has to learn about the typical features, such as the blooming season and the longevity of each flower.

Her efforts have been rewarded. One month after its launch, Comida Ngon consumed more than 2,000 trays, baskets and boxes of flowers, featuring all kinds, during the Vu Lan festival 2020, which is celebrated annually on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month as an occasion for Vietnamese people to express their gratitude toward their parents. The store has received many positive feedback comments and numerous orders from new customers.

Several designs of floral arrangement for worship at Comida Ngon (Photo credit: Comida Ngon)

Starting work on a floral arrangement for worship, Giang placed a bunch of areca flowers on the damp sponge in the centre of the bamboo tray and then set up five lotus flowers around, in order to create a fulcrum for other flowers to lean on. Next, she arranged several ylang-ylang and magnolia flowers at the foot of the areca flowers. The tray was finally decorated with a ring of ylang-ylang running around.

Giang said that since this kind of floral tray is used as an offering to the Buddha, the gods or the buyers’ ancestors, she wanted to made the floral arrangement with all of her heart and carefulness. She believes that the way she treats flowers can add value to her products.

Through Giang’s skilled hands, assorted flowers are cleverly and harmoniously combined into assorted designs. Sometimes, the floral arrangements are added with areca nut, betel leaf, fruits, persimmon, and Buddha's hands.

She also made reference to the flower arrangements styles for worship of people in other Asian countries, which helps her create hundreds of designs for her products.

After receiving a floral tray from Comida Ngon, a customer sent feedback to Giang, during which she said that the flowers and their scent woke up sweet childhood memories about her mother and grandmother.

As the tourism sector is making a recovery plan to welcome back international visitors, with COVID-19 safety taken into account, Giang is preparing new tours for Asia Exotica with a focus on introducing Vietnamese traditional cultures. The highlight of the tours is that visitors can try their hands at making floral arrangements for worship under the instruction of Comida Ngon’s staff, during which they can also learn about the meaningful stories behind each type of flowers.

“Since foreign visitors are always interested in exploring the indigenous culture of the countries they visit, I believe that the tours will help to lift Vietnam’s cultural tourism,” Giang stated.