Baan Bart is an old community in Bangkok hidden in a small alley outside city moat. The residents here have been known to be very good at making alms bowls used by Buddhist monks since the beginning of the founding of Bangkok in 1782. They still keep their craft by using the same method practised more than two hundreds ago.
Since the community is hidden in a small alley, in telling people of its location, I always refer to the ‘Golden Mount’ or ‘Wat Sra Ket’ as a starting point. In the past, this area was considered ‘out of town’ and also the main cemetery and cremation site of the city. Dead bodies of people who died inside the city would be taken to the cremation site near the moat around a bridge known as ‘Sapaan Rong Hai’ or the weeping bridge.
The Golden Mount was built in the reign of King Rama III (1787 – 1851) and expected to be a huge main Chedi (monument) of a Buddhist monastery. During the construction, the structure collapsed and the construction was suspended. It had been abandoned for a few decades until the site was covered with trees and incidentally formed the shape of a hill. In the reign of King Rama IV, the construction had resumed. A smaller Chedi was constructed on the top of this artificial hill. The Buddha Relic has been kept in the gilded Chedi on a hill top. That is why the locals call it ‘Phu Khao Thong’ which means ‘the Golden Mount’.
You can conveniently climb up to the top of the Golden Mount by stairways for a 360 degree view of Bangkok. And from here you can see the ‘Baan Bart’ community, which is located near Bumrung Muang intersection, only walking distance from the Golden Mount. It used to be a good business for the people living here until the introduction of new technology in moulding the bowl with a single metal sheet that shortens the production time, and costs less than traditional method. However, the alms bowls here are still in demand for its value of handmade product.
There are about 5 families that still make alms bowl in traditional way. A bowl is made from 8 pieces of steel sheets cut into specific shapes and welded together in a bowl shape. Actually, there are over twenty steps of processing before the bowl is ready to use. If you visit this place at the right time, you will be able to see all the bowl making process from the beginning. It takes about a week or two to get a finished bowl that ready for sale. Nowadays, the bowl makers here make different sizes of the bowls with elaborate decoration. It’s quite a piece of art.
The locals in the community are friendly and happy to tell you a long story of their well preserved profession that has been passed on for more than two centuries.