Aug 09 2011
As a traveller I find myself on a neverending quest for something “real”, something that doesn’t involve being hoarded around by a leader holding an umbrella or scrambled in a sea of other lost tourists. If that seems to be your M.O. as well, then a visit to Baan Bat will surely not disappoint. Tucked down a twisting alley not far from Wat Saket and Golden Mount is Baan Bat, the only community left in Bangkok where monks’ alms bowls, otherwise known as bat, are still made by hand.
The bat are an essential monk accessory, and are carried every morning by monks as they go to collect alms. These days most bat are factory made, but at Baan Bat they are still hammering the steel by hand and throwing the bowls in a wood-fired oven. And did I mention that all of this is happening right on the street?
Baan Bat, literally meaning “House of Bat”, is the only remaining craft village established by Rama I during the initial settling of Bangkok. Back in the early days of the city, Rama I divided Bangkok into various craft villages or neighbourhoods, each responsible for the output of a good. I think we can guess what Baan Bat was in charge of, and alms bowls have been made in this area of Bangkok for more than 200 years.
It should be mentioned that these “real” experiences come with a few hiccups. On my first visit I was chased by a dog and a bat hammerer had to momentarily pause to rescue me. If that’s not enough charm for you, Baan Bat has plenty more. As bat making is somewhat of a dying art, the workers are very happy to show you the process and when I was there they led me down the twisting alleys of their small neighborhood, through tiny living rooms and baby play areas, to see their prized shrine, equipped with a bat making deity.
These bat are also for sale, and buying one is an excellent way to support this shrinking, historic community. Small bowls start around 600 baht, while the larger bowls are sold for upwards of 1,000 baht. Baan Bat is a remarkable stop and one of the most unique sites in the city.
Baan Bat is located on Soi Baan Bat off of Thanon Bamrung Meuang. The bat makers are there daily from 10:00 until 18:00. The 508 bus stops nearby as does the khlong taxi to Tha Phan Fah. Follow the sounds of the hammers and make sure to hit up this particular spot, not the more tourist-ready bat makers on the main road.
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.