Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thailand to Taiwan

Tracey Burke

Dissatisfied with our teaching jobs in South Korea in 1997, my partner and I took a midnight train from the town we were in to the airport in Seoul to catch a plane to Bangkok, Thailand. As Canadians in our thirties, we hoped to experience living in Asia, supporting ourselves by teaching English as a second language.

While in line to check in, I was struck by the fur hat of a gentleman in front of me. I began speaking with him after commenting on his hat, and it transpired that he lived in Canada, although he was born in Malaysia and had business interests in Taiwan. I told him of our plan to teach in Thailand and travel. He gave us his business card (this is before the internet explosion) and said to call him if things didn’t work out in Thailand.

My partner did not get work in Thailand, so after I had worked for a number of months with still no prospect of a job for my partner, we telephoned the man with the fur hat and arranged for ourselves two jobs in Taiwan.

Before leaving Thailand, we took in a Loy Katong festival on an island in southern Thailand. Floats made of coconut, incense, flowers, and candles are launched by people with some of their nail clippings or hair. The floats are meant to take away the old energy of a person for a fresh and luminous start.

After the ceremony we had to catch a ferry to the mainland to catch a train, then a plane to Taiwan. As I was telling the story of our Loy Katong to a British couple we met on the ferry, a wind picked up the hat off my head and it floated away on the water. The British guy quipped, “You forgot the incense and nail clippings!”

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