Chiang Mai, Monfai, and Ne’na. You’ll hear these alot in the next 30 days

Mawn Faai

 

Saturday I wrapped up in Bangkok and made my way north to Chiang Mai.  Upon arriving in Chiang Mai I grabbed my bags and was met by Khun Shukit.  He’s the curator at the Ne’Na Contemporary Artspace where I’ll be staying for the next month to produce this body of work.  After a brief ride from the airport to the artspace I was given an orientation of the place and left to go on about my business.  This month I’m the only artist living here in the house so it’s kinda like home, a big huge open space with me (usually) all by myself.

What’s unique about Ne’Na Artspace is that they work very closely with Monfai Cultural Center.  The culture center is basically a living museum which aims to preserve Lanna Culture.  Lanna was a kingdom which existed in Northern Thailand, Laos, Burma from the 13th to 18th century.  They have their own culture which is separate from the rest of Thailand and even their own dialect of which is distinctly different from the rest of the Thai language.  You can still get by on every day Thai language here but you WILL miss some things if you aren’t familiar with the northern style of speaking.  For what it’s worth, I’m not super familiar with it.  I just know there’s a bunch of gaps now where there used to be words I knew.

Monfai Culture Center is right next door to the home I’m staying in so I have access to this treasure trove of artifacts, costumes, and perhaps the most important part, PEOPLE who work there preserving the culture.  All this works very well for the theme of my project.  I’ll be able to make a good chunk of work here…I think. You never know how a project will go until you begin it.

Here’s a few snaps shortly after I arrived.  More to come soon.

 


No alcohol by law, now that’s a lent

Distinctive smells of Thailand

 

Today marks the beginning of what would be akin to Buddhist Lent.  For the next three months monks will reside at one temple and will not travel to others unless it is an emergency.  Traditionally, the purpose of this was so monks could avoid having to travel during the rainy season.  Nowadays it’s less of an issue since we have transportation.  Crowds of people flock to the local temples to make offerings and merit.  This is known here as “tham boon”.   It goes a little something like this.

Get to your local temple or temple of your choice and don’t forget to take your shoes off before you enter.  Most locals wear some sort of slip on shoes since Thai culture is big about taking shoes off before entering homes and temples.   As if I don’t stick out enough, there’s my bright white size 9 Pumas sitting in the middle of all the flip flops.  Make your way over to the offering table and grab a candle, 3 sticks of incense (thoop) and a flower.  Light the candle and the incense from the large cauldron sitting next to the shrine.  Place the candle in the offering tray, kneel down and put the three sticks of incense and flower between your palms in a prayer gesture.  Now say your devotions.  When you finish, place the flower at the foot of the Buddha and put your three sticks of incense in the bowl amongst the others.  Finally go strike a gong three times and you’re done.  Bonus points if you inconspicuously capture some photos for your travel blog.  Believe me when I say I’m trying to do everything I can to not look like a foreign jackass.

Headed back to my hotel to enjoy the rest of the day off from the toil of heat, crowds, and high emission vehicles.  Upon entering my room I came across a note which gave me a good chuckle.  Perhaps what I found most amusing wasn’t that today was a “no alcohol day”, rather the civil rights uproar a move like this would cause back at home.  As “The Most Interesting Man” would say….”Stay thirsty my friends”.

Be well and Buddha bless _/|\_

 


Getting inked Thai style

Finally getting around to posting up images from day 1 activities.  It’s been a long ride ride the past couple days.  I’ve been getting used to the weather, the congestion, sleeping weird hours and getting tired in the middle of the afternoon.  This is one of the many reason I planted myself in Bangkok for the first week.

Before I continue with this post there’s a few vocab words I should clarify so that the story makes sense to everyone.  I’ll keep it simple and in English

Sak Yant….it’s a tattoo performed in a traditional manner.  By hand with a long metal rod.  It’s blessed at the end and infused with magic powers.  Very popular in South East Asia.

Arjan…a person who is a senior level teacher and often a master in their craft

Rusei…A Sak Yant master.  Someone who has studied the art of Sak Yant for many years and has perfected the craft.  Most likely served as a monk at some point in their life while learning the craft.

Less than 24 hours after landing in Bangkok I met with my friend Paul and Gluay who took me for my first yant in 2014.  After a brief catch up on whats been going on in our lives we were in the car and off to see Arjan Fu who lives about an hour outside of Bangkok.  On the way we picked up Robb, a young guy from Texas, who was interested in receiving a yant as well.  Upon arriving at Arjan Fu’s home we were greeted at the door and offered cool bottles of water after our long ride.

We discussed the yants we’d be receiving.  I explained to Arjan Fu (as best I could in my broken Thai) that I was at the beginning of a new chapter in my life and that I was here in Thailand working on a special project that would help me to launch my art career.  I already had an idea of the yant I wanted which just so happened to compliment my existing one.  We agreed and began the work.

During the preliminary discussion I asked Arjan Fu if I could photograph some moments during the course of our day for my project. He kindly gave me his blessing a I proceeded to capture a few images (film and digital) of him before we began.  The image at the top of this post is one of them.

The images at the bottom of this post were captured by Paul and Robb who were wonderful to assist me with capturing moments for my project which I was physically unable to do.

In the images below, you’ll see my new yant with the gold leaf around it before the blessing ceremony.  Gold leaf is used to channel the energy and magic into the yant itself.  The image with the cords wrapped around Robb and I is the actual blessing ceremony.  It lasts about 15 minutes.

After receiving my yant I had prepared to give Arjan Fu a gift which I had made a few years ago.  The image  was created on my first trip to Thailand in 2012 while visiting Chiang Mai.  Ironically enough that’s where I’m headed after my week here in Bangkok.  It has now come full circle and now resides in the workspace of a master.  This is a true honor for me and one of the highlights of my day.

All in all, another great experience.  I really enjoyed seeing Paul, Gluay, and Arjan Fu again and meeting Robb.  I feel as though people come into your life at certain times for very specific reasons.  I was glad to be able to share this experience with him.

 


Dippin’ in the travel stash

I like stashes.  I like keeping stashes.  Sometimes I purposely stash shit in places I know I’ll forget about only so I can stumble upon it again one day and surprise myself.

So what DO I stash…ha…chocolate, pharms, clove cigarettes, mementos from special occasions.  Oh yeah…foreign currency.

Today’s capture of the day is just me diggin thru a bunch of left over money from places I’ve visited trying to scrape up enough Thai Baht for a taxi from the airport to my hotel when I land in Bangkok.  And maybe enough Korean Won for a Starbucks when I transfer in Seoul.  Since I’m considering a side trip over to Cambodia it wouldn’t hurt to grab some Riel outta the stash either, huh?  Although USD is always the preferred method of payment in Cambodia.

On to digging…


Great idea. Now how am I going to pull this off?

Endearing Yourself

One week out from leaving and I’m still wrapping up loose odds and ends related to work I’m doing here.  I haven’t had the time to actually sit down and formulate a plan on how I’m going to execute the project I’m heading overseas to do.  I mean, I have a very developed idea, it’s not that.  It’s the part where I actually pull it off.  The project in and of itself is loosely centered around the theme of being “untouched by the hands of time”.  That’s open enough where it allows me creative liberty to explore a variety of interpretations.   Yet also so wide that without a focus it could just get all A.D.D leaving no connecting line between images therefore making for a choppy story.

It’s going to require that I interact with people.  It’s going to require that I make myself understood and endear myself to the people I’m working with. Fortunately I’ll have access to the cultural center all day and night during my stay.  Hoping to maybe start around there and see what type of connections I can make with the locals.

I guess most important is going to be my need to communicate that I’m working on an art project.  Just brushing up on some pre-flight vocabs.  To any of my Thai friends out there reading this….I apologize in advance for my poor spelling.  I’ve probably written something offensive somewhere.  ขอโทษนะขรับ

 


2 weeks out from 6 weeks out. What would you bring?

Two weeks from today I leave for sabbatical.  There…I said it.  It’s real now and it’s getting more real as each day passes. I wanted to pickup on my travel blog in an effort to train myself to create at least one capture per day.  Since I’ll be working on a special project while I’m traveling this will ensure that I have a daily deadline to meet and that I stay focused on the project; or at least on photography.

I went and fished out my bags today and I’m here staring at them trying to figure out what to pack in which bags.  There’s necessities of course, and then there’s the valuables which you always wanna make sure are in your carry-on.

The current plan has me traveling for at least 6 weeks.  At the end of 6 weeks, I guess I’ll decide what comes next for me.  I’m keeping an open mind about this project and journey.  Inevitably, I’ll get lonely and miss the comforts of my home since I’ll be traveling alone.  So that being said, I’ll toss this question out in the open forum….