We have a guide to meet us at Yangon airport and show us around the city. We have arranged for him through a company we found on the Internet. The company is run by an Englishman who has lived in Asia and Burma for forty years, and who advertises his company as gay friendly. Perhaps this should have prepared us for our guide.
The International airport is only a year old and a sleek modern building, but it is almost deserted. Our guide is there with a sign with our names on it. He makes a dashing figure at 27 years old, tall, slim and remarkably handsome in a full length green longyi (similar to a sarong) and a white silk jacket. We catch his attention from across the arrival lounge and he immediately throws a beautifully manicured hand above his head and waves at us. He flows across the lounge, flashing a well practiced smile, and puts his arms around us both, as if we are long lost friends. He gushes profusely about his delight in being able to meet us. The few people in the airport all stop and stare. One passenger actually comes up to us later and asks who we are, and if we are famous, which I presume is a nice way of asking why we are being met by a flamboyant queen.
He tells us that his name is Paris. It has been his life’s ambition to be a tour guide, because it makes him feel like a movie star. Honestly, I am not making this up. We soon come to know that his entire life is built on this fantasy, but when we see how the majority of his countrymen live we can understand why he might feel this way. He gets to travel, go to fancy hotels and restaurants and rub shoulders with well to do people from all over the world. Who are we to say that this is not like being a movie star. He tells us that he can sing well and dance. He tells us all of this within minutes of meeting him and we are getting a terrible feeling that he has named himself after Paris Hilton. But he goes on to say that when he was in University he played the part of Count Paris in Romeo and Juliet, and that he was so good in the part everyone has called him Paris ever since. We are thoughtful enough not to point out Paris is a rather small part of an aged suitor for Juliet. He was certainly not suffering from being typecast. His hands are in constant motion while he talks. He has the ability to bend his fingers backwards, at exotic angles, the way Asian women are trained to do in their dances. We ask him how he learned to do that and he replies that he was taught to do those dances in school. When we ask if all the boys are taught those dances, he smiles at us and replies somewhat coyly, “well, no, just a special few”.
Unfortunately, his talent for being a tour guide is overshadowed by his love of the Hollywood life style. He tells us little of the city and instead talks endlessly of J Lo, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and frequently breaks into one of their songs. But he most decidedly does not like Brittany! He also knows all of Marlon Brando’s early movies, and of James Dean. But he gets most excited when he talks of his all time favourite, Oprah!! We ask if they get her show on TV. He says they don’t, but he once saw a one hour tape of it and he just can’t forget her. We are surprised at how universal gay icons are!