Located in Soi Ban Bat in Pomprap Sattruphai district of inner Bangkok, this small alley lined with wooden houses roofed with metal sheets is the only place in the Kingdom where you can closely watch artisans make alms bowls, an art passed from generation to generation for more than two centuries.
Nirawit Srisai, 30, is the youngest artisan in the small community.
"All I can say is that making a monk's bowl is a hard job which needs a lot of strength and patience," he said.
"Although I have been learning how to make the bowl for a couple of years, I cannot say that I have succeeded in doing one because there are some parts which I can't truly make. That is the challenge I have to overcome." Nirawit was once a technician specialising in glass and furniture. His wife's family has been producing the monk's bowl since the times of her great-grandfather.
"I wanted to learn how to make bowls because I wanted to look for a new skill and making the bowls is a skill which does not exist elsewhere, but only in my community," he said.
Ban Bat was founded during the reign of King Rama I when a group of craftsmen from Ayutthaya settled there in 1783. It was said that almost every house in the community made alms bowls for a living.
Although these days there are only a handful of craftsmen left, they still manage to preserve the 18th-century heritage and also welcome visitors who wish to observe them at work. They even allow you to try making one if you want.
Sunee Saengthongkham, 74, an artisan for more than 50 years, remembers when the bowls' main material was metal plates taken from old asphalt barrels.
"I remembered when we burnt the barrels to get rid of leftover asphalt, it created dark fumes high up in the sky. It immediately alerted firemen who rushed in to put out a fire," he said.
"Today we use a steel plate which is much cleaner and very convenient to use. It can also shorten the preparation process."
There are 21 steps to turn a plain metal sheet to be an alms bowl. Once he has the material, Sunee, who is also known as Lung Mee, measures the size of the plate and draws two long lines to mark the bowl's edge. The sizes of alms bowls vary from 8cm to 30cm in diameter. The smallest bowls are souvenirs while a general bowl used by monks is about 20cm in diameter. The bigger bowls are often used for storing holy water.
They also come in various designs. The traditional style is a little higher than the more modern design and has a pointed bottom, while the most popular bowl has a round shape with a flat bottom. They also come in shapes such as lime (manao), ebony (tako) and nutmeg (lookchan).
After working out the shape and size, Lung Mee cuts an iron sheet into a cross and attaches each side to the circled edge. Then he cuts four metal sheets into bodhi leaf to fill the gaps. Each plate is then pounded to the bowl.
Another artisan will seal the joints by adding white, water-soluble borax crystals, fused by burning a copper wire. This step is a substitute for the traditional bowl burning process.
"We stopped burning the bowls a decade ago because it produced fumes, which was not good for our community," said Amorn Kuldiloksampan, a welder who has made the bowls for more than 50 years.
Nearby, a man is pounding the insides of a bowl with a metal hammer. He will ensure each bowl has the right shape before it is sent to another artisan, who in turn will smooth the outside surface with another type of metal hammer.
The repeated clanking is quite loud and may hurt your ears, but the locals are not bothered. They work along the small alley and chit-chat at the same time. The pounding process may last a couple of hours for each bowl before it is sent to another artisan to smooth the surface with a rasp.
The second-last step is to put the finished bowl over a burning stove for five minutes to protect the metal from rust. Finally, it is washed and coated inside and out with varnish mixed with black colouring. When it is dry it is ready for sale.
"One of the benefits of a handmade bowl is that it's durable," said Nirawit. "Each bowl can last for at least 50 years."
Although the glory years of handmade bowls ended after 1970 when the Religious Affairs Department allowed Buddhist monks to use much cheaper, machine-made alms bowls, Ban Bat still has regular orders.
"We are not as busy as yesteryear, but the work is enough for us to earn our living," Sunee said.
Amorn said it was a point of remarkable pride that the bowl used by HM the King during his time in the monkhood was made in Ban Bat.
"I still keep the picture of the King in my house. The picture also shows our alms bowl at the right of the King. This is more than a reward to us, the craftsman community," he noted.
The strike of steel hammers on metal continues. It will stop only when the sun sets. And next morning, the sound will once more return to the small community.