Out-of-season flower feast in Da Lat

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Unusual weather has been a blessing in disguise for the Central Highlands' resort town of Da Lat, where unseasonably cold rains forced the town's famous cherry blossoms to bloom during Tet (Lunar New Year).

A late blooming of Da Lat's unique Mai anh dao (Prunus Cerasoides) cherry blossoms - a hybrid of peach and ochna blossoms - made this year's Tet Lunar New Year celebration all the more special.

Heavy rain and prolonged cold spells brought them out late for the first time this year, horticultural experts said.

Hundreds of soft pink mai anh dao lining Da Lat's streets and the romantic Xuan Huong Lake in the center of town, both surprised and delighted Tet and after-Tet tourists as the plant usually blossoms only during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Tung and Thuy, a couple from the central city of Da Nang, said they felt lucky to have visited Da Lat at this time.

"It would have been a pity to miss this special event," Thuy said.

Not only tourists but also local residents have been wandering around Xuan Huong Lake, where the blossoms are most prominent, to catch a glimpse of the phenomena.

Both professional and amateur photographers have been having a field day trying to capture the unusual beauty from every angle and via every means, from high-end SLRs to cell-phone cameras.

Renowned photographer Nguyen Van Phuoc, who goes by the name MPK, said the experience was the first of his life.

"Although the Tet holidays have passed, I still feel the essence of spring all around," he said.

Though the spring season lasts several months, Vietnamese often refer to the Tet festival and the surrounding atmosphere as springtime.

"I don't know how many pictures of the flowers I have taken," said photographer Phan Van Em.

Nguyen Tao, head of the Lam Dong Province Investment, Trade and Tourism Promotion Center, said he would ask local businesses to donate funds to build a "cherry blossom park" around Xuan Huong Lake where an annual mai anh dao festival could be held.

"The flowers are a priceless Da Lat asset," Tao said.

Horticulturalists said they expected the flowers to bloom for another three or four days before they begin to wither.

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