July is the month of the summer exodus for the expats around the world. One common item on the to-do-list is presents from Malaysia to take back home. Many of us would love to take back something Malaysian but struggle every year for affordable, nice and unique presents. We’ve listed a few favourites:
1. Everyday essentials
Think small. Your local supermarket stocks a lot of items that are perfect for inexpensive, useful gifts that may seem silly in Malaysia but are rare and different in other countries. I often take:
- Tiger balm in different forms (the muscle pain relief plasters and balm are particularly good) and other traditional medicine (in the picture below Ban Kah Chai oil for itchy skin and muscle pain and Poon Goor Soe oil for cough and sore throat).
- dried mangoes
- the fancier Boh teas
- handmade soaps
- muruku, Bombay mix and other local snacks
- porcelain cups and sushi plates from Daiso or the other 5 RM shops
Central Market is the obvious starting point for the baskets, woven boxes and carvings, and Peter Hoe for pillow cases, other textiles and all things beautiful. Worth checking out are also Craft Complex and the Basket Shop on Jalan Panggung in China Town.
One of my 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.
Publika is a good place for presents generally, be sure to check out Locus and Kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscope and Batik Boutique (see below) also stock lovely jewellery by Pocos:
The quintessentially Malaysian present is made of batik, however the traditional styles may be too bold for many abroad. Luckily there are a few companies that have a slightly more modern take on batik. Batik Boutique does a range of great products, here are a few of the recent additions. Batik Boutique’s products are sourced on the East Coast and provide a fair livelihood for local craftspeople.
Batik Boutique products (and Pocos jewellery) can be purchased on line through their Facebook page and in PopMyShop in Jaya One. Also check them out on Instagram: batikamy.
Photos: Batik Boutique
4. For kids
Batik painting kits, sand art sets and kites are great – cheap and light.
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.
Please share your tips for best Malaysian presents in the comments! Also see this post on Malaysian presents.