Photographer Kimberly Bryant documents a few of the holistic practices and cultural festivities of Chiang Mai.
CHIANG MAI’S STORIED MOAT was what initially drew me to the city when I was looking for a place to live and work abroad. It seemed romantic to live in a place that had so much of its past visible in its present: crumbling city walls literally sinking into the moat. Temples and traditions. I flew out several years ago to see it for myself and haven’t been back to Canada since.
CM is a warm city — the expat community is incredibly kind and openhearted, as is the local population. Many healing practices, including Dance Mandala and medical qi gong, are held at yoga studios in the old city. Participating in these practices enabled me to grow, express myself, and meet amazing people. Dance meditation is so conducive to other forms of creative expression that photographing the experience was a natural extension. My qi gong teacher, a talented photographer herself, gave me the opportunity to document her in action and quickly became one of my favourite models to work with because of her unique energy and talent.
Chiang Mai also hosts many festivals throughout the year, from flower parades and balloon festivals to Loi Krathong and the Thai New Year water celebration, Songkran.
I have a good friend in CM, Sachie, who teaches medical qi gong through a center called Thai Qi Holistics. I've shot her several times doing her practice, and also do it myself.
Another friend and I are making a film about feminine health practices (not exclusively for women though) and Sachie is one of our subjects.
These images were taken before the filming of Sachie's interview. We were at Chiang Mai University, a beautiful campus, and there just happened to be an intriguing art installation of white strings hanging from the trees.
These shots were taken at the Yoga Tree, located in the Old City in Chiang Mai. I started attending Dance Mandala classes there.
These are meditative dance classes led by Areerat Kaewkla and involve amazing music, soft lighting, and going deep into meditation through your own free movement. I met so many wonderful people through these classes.
Dance Mandala takes some of the ideas behind Five Rhythms (founded by Gabrielle Roth) and combines it with Eastern philosophies and other practices. It changed the way I express myself, and I continue to practice it alone even though I'm no longer in CM.
I started photographing DM classes and also Biodanza classes for Yoga Tree. The shadow dance shoot took place after a DM class. I was trying to show the feeling that we (the dancers) have during the dance, of community and also of inner-space.
In Chiang Mai and other places in northern Thailand, the Yee Peng ceremony coincides with Loi Krathong, the nationwide lantern lighting festival. Last year it was held at Maejo University.
In order to find out about the dates of the ceremony, it helps to know people living in Chiang Mai, since the information is not widely publicized. In 2012, the festival will fall on November 24th.
Hundreds of people gather in the evening to listen to the monks chant, and there is a time for silent meditation. After, everyone lights their khom loi and then simultaneously releases them into the air. It is one of the most magical experiences I've had.
The feeling of seeing so many lanterns float up to the sky at once, in silence except for everyone's cheering and gasps, is totally awe-inducing.
These fireworks over the historical Thapae Gate celebrate Loi Krathong, held every November in Chiang Mai. The colourful festival is filled with parades, lantern lighting, and lots of street food.
There were people everywhere, eating, holding hands, facing the sky to see the myriad floating lanterns flying up. The bold display of fireworks provided a bright fluorescent backdrop.
Travelers Stoked on this Gallery
Get more stuff like this in your inbox!
Sign up for our newsletter and get emails of great stories like this.
Kimberly Bryant is a visual artist exploring the myriad colours, sights & sounds on offer in South East Asia. Originally from Canada, she holds a major in Studio Arts from the University of British Columbia. With interests in travel and visual anthropology, her passion for creative expression shapes who she is and how she interacts with the world.