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Someone Please Silence the Kem Man

VIETNAM | Sunday, 29 July 2007 | Views [1080]

Hanoi is full of sounds, the streets are humming at a very early hour of the morning.  Communist propaganda blares from the megaphones strapped atop telephone poles.  It starts with singing and changing at 6:00 a.m.  The megaphone is prominently placed right outside the window of our guesthouse room, so it's what we awake to each morning.  The food-wallahs are out in force, we hear their musical voices ringing through the streets, telling of the goods for sale in their heavy bins they cary.  The sounds of motorbikes and horns are now white noise, it's there wherever we travel in Asia.  I am reminded of it, however, whole speaking with my parents this morning over our skype computer connection.  They ask about the horrible background noise... and I reply, "it's just the street sounds."  We're staying on a fairly busy street, Ma May and many bikes, cars and touts are out in force all day, every day.  The sound that's the most annoying and difficult for us to drone out, however, is the musical jingle played over and over again by the Kem Man (ice cream man).  There must be thousands of Kem Men out on the streets here.  They have a megaphone strapped to their bicycle carts that blares out the very short jingle, and it repeats over and over again, from early morning until late in the evening, and is really annoying.  Like one of those jingles you then can't get out of your head... yep, they're the Hanoi Kem Men, and we wish they would give it a rest for awhile.
As we walk out of our guest house, we're overwhelmed by Vietnamese ladies calling out in high little voices, "hello banana, hello mango, hello pineapple."  We joke with them, as by now, they see us all the time, and know who we are, and when we come and go... leaning over close to their baskets, right next to the piece of fruit, and say hello to each piece by name.  They laugh along with us, all in good fun.  They know eventually we will buy fruit from then when we're hungry.  As we leave them, we yell out, "goodbye banana, goodbye mango, goodbye pineapple," and leave the ladies laughing.  The streets of Hanoi do not sleep, and we learn to fall to sleep to the usual sounds, despite dreaming about how to silence the Kem Man.

Tags: Sightseeing

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