Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Moustache Brothers

Drunk on one beer in the heat of the evening, Ed and I are wobbling though the bumpy and dark streets of Mandalay on a Tri-shaw. A wonderful bicycle taxi like a rickshaw except that instead of sitting behind the bike the two passengers sit beside the rider like a side car - one facing forward one back. Lara and Chom were in another, Lek and Jeff in another again as we raced through the streets chatting as Lek yelled out "Moustache Brothers! Moustache Brothers!".

The Moustache Brothers perform a nightly show for tourists in the front room of their house. the two brothers and their cousin have always been vaudeville performers and quite famous across the country until they made the mistake of taking the piss out of the Military Junta that run this country - for that small crime one of the brothers was packed off to prison for 7 years hard labour, breaking rocks in the jungle and the other two put under surveillance and forbidden to perform again.

Wriggling around the rules the brothers perform in their own home, only to foreigners (locals could be arrested) and now that Par Par Law is out of prison they delight in sticking it up the government. According to them tourists are vital to the protection of Myanmar - without them we would have no eyes and ears, you are like our umbrella says one of the brothers.

The show is silly, cheesy but inspiring. The brothers pose for photos and we are all encouraged to spread the word of their situation to the world. When I mention to one of them I am a journalist (also banned in Myanmar...I had to say I was an "Executive" on my visa) he springs to life filling my hands with other articles and photos of them with Aung Sung Suu Kyi - "take them but don't show anyone" he says. "If you write an article send it to me with another traveller - you cannot post it" he whispers before breaking into a cheeky grin and shouting out "See you round like a rissole!"

On the way back our trishaw driver Tony holds a long discussion with me in almost perfect english on literature, the arts, business and finally his hatred of the oppressive government. After having a rant he suddenly checks himself and says "I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about the government anymore - there are too many ears on these streets." He asks me what I do for a living and when I tell him a white lie, marketing I say, he then gives me a very astute speech on how important the role of marketing is in business. At the end he sighs and says "you are very lucky, you can do something important. I have nothing to sell here except my energy, peddalling this bike."

After disembarking - giving Tony a large tip he shakes my hand and Eds. "You are most welcome in my country" he says bowing. "Please come back again."


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