Souvenirs from Malaysia
The farewell season is upon us. The expat community’s changeover period means people will have to say good-bye to friends, colleagues and teachers. International schools’ long holidays mean suitcases are packed and families trek to see their relatives and friends across the globe like migratory birds.
All the farewells and trips abroad also bring on the headache of presents that are somehow Malaysian. After pouring a fortune into Royal Selangor‘s coffers (and while obviously they have some cool stuff) I can’t bear to see another set of pewter salad spoons. These are our tips for buying presents from Malaysia:
Presents from the supermarket
Boh Tea, White Coffee and Teh Tarik sachets, jars of kaya and dried fruit all make great Malaysian presents to take abroad. My family loves fresh mangos and other tropical fruit that are not so tasty in Europe. If you are traveling in pomelo season and have the luggage space who wouldn’t welcome a juicy pomelo! If you have friends with an open mind, take dried durian or durian chocolates. At least Ben’s has some nicely packaged dried fruit and local preserves. This year I may be taking some of the nuts and granolas from Amazin’ Graze in local flavours or the beautifully packaged Ramadan specials.
Tiger balm in different forms (the muscle pain relief plasters and balm are particularly good) and other traditional oils and ointments have always been quite popular.
Crafts from Malaysia
Central Market is the obvious starting point for the baskets, woven boxes and carvings. Upstairs shops have batik by the metre as well as sarongs. Worth checking out are also Craft Complex and the Basket Shop on Jalan Panggung in China Town. Karyaneka now also has an online store. One of our favourites is Gerai OA: a volunteer-run, nomadic stall selling crafts by the Orang Asli of Malaysia. The crafts are collected from villages by volunteers and 100% of sales is paid to the named artisan. Check their Facebook page to see where to find them. In Publika you can check out Gadis Manis and Kaleidoscope. The Museum of Islamic Arts has a lovely gift shop, too!
Presents for kids
Batik painting kits, sand art sets and kites are great – cheap and light. All kinds of craft materials are generally cheaper in Malaysia than in Europe, and I generally stock up on these at Daiso and Mr. DIY.
Noox Designs makes cool playmats and cushions that will remind the kids of the everyday sights on the streets of KL. They are available at the Kaleidoscope stores in Publika and Ampang or can be ordered by email: email@example.com.
This memory game by Bazouq looks fantastic. At the moment they have a summer promotion: 3 games for RM150 (price for a single game is RM60). For orders send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.
Bags and scarves from Malaysia
Batik Boutique is our favourite social enterprise that employs a growing number of local women and supports local charities – for once by shopping gorgeous accessories you can help! The new designs and colours are contemporary and fresh.
Photo: Batik Boutique
Frankitas clutches and travel bags combine traditional materials and funky design make great presents (although actually mostly made in Indonesia the gist is there). Available through Facebook and Instagram, as well as the pretty showroom in Damansara Heights – read about our visit here.
Earth Heir has luxurious products, and 10% of the selling price will go towards charity.
KitaKita in Damansara Heights has a selection of upmarket products, like beautiful batik and songket.
A photo book
A photo book is a great gift for those leaving! If you are the organised type, you have already thought about this and have collected photos from friends and classmates – if not, you may well end up with a nervous breakdown if you attempt this with a tight deadline.
One of the nicest books I’ve been asked to contribute was book filled with friends’ go-to dinner recipes. I’ve made a small photo book for my kids’ best friends (I also got a duplicate copy for my own kids, which they love!). For lot less effort, you can order a photo collage.
Books from Malaysia
If there is one thing Malaysia is known for, it’s food, right? I got given the Makansutra Malaysia book as a present some time ago, and it’s my go-to reference guide for the secrets of street food in this country. But for someone leaving a cook book might be more suitable – this one is a bit of a modern take on the usual Malaysian favourite dishes:
For friends that like to read, I have given novels from Malaysia. A good book can double as plane reading and present! I liked The Garden of Evening Mists and The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng and Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory. His latest one, Five Star Billionaire, is not so much about Malaysia but immigrants in Shanghai – interesting nevertheless. At least Kinokunya, Silverfish and MPH offer on-line shopping in Malaysia.
Books by Malaysian cartoonist Lat are fantastic, and his Kampung Boy may appeal to kids, too. Silverfish in Bangsar Village II has the best selection of Malaysian children’s books in town. We have reviewed some here.
Who doesn’t need a notebook? These ones by Notbook-Notbuk are lovely and made in Malaysia:
KL on the wall
A photo shoot with family or friends is a fantastic way to capture those familiar surroundings – and a present that is equally friendly for the environment and the suitcase. Read about our family shoot with Becs Viveash and be sure to check out our own Photomama’s Blue Cicada Photography.
Another great idea are these nostalgic Momage pieces, that I’ve been admiring at various bazaars for some time now (hint, hint!). Prices range from 100-600 RM, depending on size and material. Momage stands for Moment + Image, this is how they describe themselves:
“A fleeting moment, a story behind an image. Marry the two and a new friendship is forged. A new chemistry, an interaction between the frame with the “framee”.”
I hope this helps with the headache of getting special presents for your special people. We would love to hear your favourites!
Saying goodbye is always painful, but remember this:
“How lucky I am, to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” (Winnie the Pooh)
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