The farewell season is upon us, and many of us are looking for souvenirs from Malaysia. A direct consequence of the expat community’s changeover period is that 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. Enter souvenirs and presents.
All the farewells and trips abroad also 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 shopping in KL for Malaysian presents:
Malaysian 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, and Amazin’ Graze does granolas and snacks with local flavours like gula melaka and coconut. Ramadhan bazaars are also great for stocking up on local snacks that are often packed nicely. Also do check out the artisan bean-to-bar chocolates by Chocolate Concierge.
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. 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. Similarly, Helping Hands Penan sells baskets woven by the Penan weavers in Sarawak. The Museum of Islamic Arts has a lovely gift shop, too!
Accessories, home ware and batik from Malaysia
The most typical gift to take back home is of course batik 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.
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.
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.
We know how hard it is to find Malaysian presents for kids, hence we created our own! Games on the Go is a deck of cards, whereas Lizards and Ladders is a simple but fun board game for kids aged 3 and up. Read more about the games and find full list of stockists here – they are available at least at the Hive, TriBeCa and Batik Boutique, as well as at the ILHAM Gallery gift shop, one of the best places to get your presents in one place. If you want to get them online, head over here.
Noox Designs makes cool playmats and cushions that will remind the kids of the everyday sights on the streets of KL, great souvenirs from Malaysia for those that are moving on. They are available at the Kaleidoscope stores in Publika and Ampang.
Books are some of our favourite presents. Silverfish bookstore in Bangsar Village has a good selection of Malaysian books. Anak Rimba books with Malaysian animals are some of our favourites!
This memory game by Bazouq is also a nice idea, available at least in TriBeCa and Kaleidoscope.
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 – Malaysian Tapas 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.
Another pretty option is the Colourful Malaysia – Malaysia Through the Lens of Expat Women, available at Ambiance stores.
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. Get inspired by our family shoot with Becs Viveash here.
Buah Tangan has nice little things, like posters and fridge magnets with KL landmarks. They also stock our games in their shop at KL City Walk. Some items are also available online.
Also have a look at the beautiful prints and postcards by another photographer, Päivi Maria Wells here.
I hope this helps with the headache of getting special presents for your special people. We would love to hear your favourites!