Shopping is an important part of the traveller’s experience in Asia – it offers a window into each locale’s culture. From the small quaint collectible to the edible, from the large and functional to the downright impractical – those with a penchant for this somewhat indulgent activity will be thrilled at the options the region has to offer.
Where you choose to go determines what you end up buying. Whether in the swanky mall, museum shops, innovative retail concept shops, vintage shops, junk store, or the local markets, you’ll be sure to not return home empty handed.
1. BAK CHANG FIVE STONES, Singapore – A fun interpretation of Five Stones, an old local game, by taking on the design of the bak chang, a traditional Chinese dumpling. Available at the National Museum of Singapore and the Asian Civilisations Museum.
2. PANDAN CHIFFON CAKE, Singapore – Light, cottony and fragrant, these cakes made with the essence of pandan leaves are sold in bakeries around the island with Bengawan Solo being a popular choice.
3. RATTAN FURNITURE, Penang, Malaysia – Made from the stem of various climbing palms, rattan is unique for their lightweigh and sturdy structures that are weaved in a way that enhances airiness.
4. HARD ROCK MERCHANDISE, The Rock Shop, Pattaya, Penang and Bali – At this ubiquitous gift shop in the Hard Rock Hotels, you can pick up the iconic logo-emblazoned T-shirts, sweaters, mugs, collectible pins and other artist-inspired music souvenirs.
5. Royal Selangor Pewter, Malaysia – The largest pewter manufacturer and retailer in Malaysia, Royal Selangor has a variety of souvenirs made from this malleable alloy of tin and copper.
6. BALINESE WOODCARVINGS, Bali, Indonesia – Be it sculptures or furniture, these exquisite and intricately made woodcarvings will add an exotic touch to any home.
7. HEDGEHOG BRUSH, Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives – This wood-carved decorative hedgehog placed all around Gili Lankanfushi doubles up as a useful brush for sandy and dirty feet and can be purchased from the gift shop on the island.
8. BEADED SHOES AND KEBAYA, Melaka, Malaysia – Melaka is famous for their beautifully made traditional kebayas and beaded shoes. Although from different shops, no look is complete without having both the matching two-piece and footwear.
9. SILK AND OTHER FABRICS, Pattaya, Thailand – Thai silk is hand-weaved from the cocoons of silkworms, resulting in a smooth and shimmery texture that glides along your skin. Silk scarves and handkerchiefs are wildly popular among foreigners.
10. BATIK CLOTH, Bali, Indonesia – ‘Batik’ is a traditional Indonesian method of dyeing using wax and complex patterns, resulting in a delicate, ethereal design that can be woven into clothing or accessories.
11. CERAMICS, Bali, Indonesia – A well-known ceramic maker, Jenggala has a factory and retail store that offers an array of elegant ornamental ceramic products that are being used in luxury hotels and restaurants worldwide.
12. ORGANIC VEGETABLES AND HIGHLAND SWEET CORN, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – Bring back a part of the Cameron Highlands freshness in the form of its locally grown produce, which can be bought from the many vegetable farms and markets.