In an obscure corner of Bangkok, alms bowls are still made by hand for Buddhist monks.
Ban Bat, or Monk’s Bowl Village, is believed to be the last community in Thailand where craftsmen still make alms bowls by hand. Travelers can visit the village, tucked away on Soi Baan Bat alley near Wat Saket.
Each bowl is assembled from eight strips of metal that represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Strips are fired for six hours, hammered into a curve, overlaid like spokes, and soldered together. The surface then gets polished and lacquered to a deep sheen.
The Ban Bat village produces around 50 bowls a month. They range from three-inch souvenir sizes sold for about $15 to nine-inch stainless steel bowls that cost more than $65. Three common shapes are jaan (a Thai fruit), manao (lime), and hua sara (tiger’s head). —Jeff Hull
This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue.