Before I left for Thailand I asked Google how do I avoid buying souvenirs?
It’s a question as foolish to ask as how do I avoid getting pregnant? because there are so many choices and Google shares some pretty hazardous answers.
Really, it all comes down to personal choice.
But souvenirs are SO ADDICTIVE.
They line the tourist destinations and travel routes and overwhelm you with desire if you let them.
As a student on a budget and one without a bottomless Mary Poppins bag (I have to drag all of this stuff to the UK in May after all) I can’t answer the siren call of vacation novelties.
A few blogs gave me this simple advice: save your money for a single expensive gift instead of buying a bunch of small cheap souvenirs. These blogs suggested things like soap stone or jade necklaces.
Until I sit down with an expert and learn what to look for in genuine precious items I doubt I’ll buy something that expensive because there are a lot of fakes out here.
Over the seven and a half months I’ve been in Thailand I’ve tagged on two additional personal rules
1) the object must be local/at least seem specific to the region
2) it should have a function other than reminding me of my adventures (so for example, I like collecting things I can wear/will continue to wear in the UK)
So this is the result.
1) Trip to Kanchanaburi and Erawan Park: My first harem pants. I suggest either getting a ton of these or none because they are dirt cheap but easy to wreck. The patterns are diverse and intricate which is their most attractive trait at first glance, but it’s really the breezy material that makes these astonishingly appealing. The light fabric and flowing cut is a boon in the heat of conservative Thailand.
2) The Defection of Bidhishna (Khon performance): A book with images and the script in English. If you want to understand the play this is really, really useful.
3) Yeepeng International (floating lantern event in Chang Mai): A string bracelet from a temple shop and a dress which I attended the event in. I had my usual rucksack of travel clothes but I wanted to bring some class to my presentation for the Yeepeng event. When I saw this subtle dress I knew it would be dynamic as a backdrop for my intricately woven vest.
4) Ayutthaya: A small fish paper charm from the floating market. I found its delicate, flowing form absolutely charming the moment I laid eyes on it. I haven’t seen it before or since so I know it was a neat, little purchase!
5) Bangkok: With this hand-painted dress from the JJ or the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok I find myself ready to rock and roll! The vibrant colour bursting from the sleek star at centre brings a high energy to the outfit that you’ll find yourself absorbing!
This silk-mimicking shirt from Bangkok’s China town tone’s down the scene for a more laid-back-but-you-can’t-miss-me look. The vines and little pink flowers adorning the blue fabric bring to mind reminiscence of deep summer days.
This shirt from Platinum Mall was a fabulous find in my mind. The cut is daring and allows for pockets (which makes it an excellent match for those darn pocket-less skirts) and the image at front and centre is a treat for the eyes. The balance of skin tone blending into the splashing colours makes you feel like a walking gallery!
I also picked up two scarves from the Asiatique Market. The deep midnight blue of my first choice invokes a sense of mystical wonder and late night cocktails while my second choice is a saucy sunrise number.
6) Chinese New Year in Bangkok’s China Town: A dragon staff which I noticed I can fold up and fit into my suitcase. It was my one relapse into buying a useless, cheaply made souvenir.
After that I found a shirt that stops people in their tracks! This hypnotic knit shirt is an explosive addition to my closet. Wearing it is certainly not for the faint of heart!
My next selection had me giggling the moment it’s cute little stubby ears settled on my head. I saw this hat all over Bangkok and it finally got me! This one was made of a malleable material which can be squished without being deformed so I could stuff it into my suitcase.
7) Khao Sok: Fresh air. Essential. Free. And did I mention essential!?
8) Koh Lanta: An orange canvas bag which I used to cart my books around the beach! Plus I found the best harem pants I’ve ever seen! The patch-work design found in most holistic social circles had me at the first square. There’s something astonishingly alluring about this organized randomness. A notch higher in fabric thickness, these pants are meant to last. I was excited to find a pair I could wear in the United Kingdom without freezing my poor little legs!
I also came upon a darling dress with cute little roaming elephants. Their glittering shapes dance in the sunlight and the flowing cut of the dress makes you want to twirl all the way to your destination!
9) Nan: Nan in northern Thailand is famous for its textile industry. At the time I was visiting I bumped into a textile festival filled with booths featuring all manner of fabrics and clothes. It was there that I discovered and fell in love with a hand-woven checkered scarf displaying a bold contrast between orange and black. What really sold the scarf though was the pink embroidered elephants marching up each end. The thick material proved to be helpful as a light blanket in my frigidly air-conditioned university classes too.
The scarf wasn’t my only lucky find though. I also came across this finely embroidered vest. The complex details of the patterns are inspired by local culture so I knew I had a unique find!
10) Nakhonpathom and Sanam Chandra Palace: A blessed bracelet from a monk at the world’s tallest stupa and a traditional skirt. Though the skirt is inspired by a traditional form it’s not very difficult to bring the skirt up to modern fashion. A simple black tank-top coupled with a wide belt allowed me to hide my legs but reveal my delicious curves instead!
1) Angkor Wat Complex: A scarf with Angkor Wat on it seemed like a great way to remember the visit. The shimmering stitching atop a deep blue really highlights the temple outline and makes sure everyone knows where I’ve been.
2) Phnom Phen: While this oil painting offers a marvelous depiction of quiet Cambodian life it doesn’t make for a very practical souvenir. Still, I think the concept could provide the base for a fashion revolution!
3) Otres Beach: An exchanged book. What else do you get at a beach?
1) Cameron Highlands: I bought Mango tea, which I first tried at the tea plantation itself (along with a scrumptious strawberry cake and a savory mushroom soup).
2) Kuala Lumpur: An India-style bracelet from a Hindu temple called the Batu Caves. I love the sound of my movements and this little addition to my jewelry collection brings music to my ears.
3) Kota Bharu: Two hand stitched scarves. There were so many fine scarves to choose from since the markets cater to the mostly Muslim population! I don’t wear them as they were intended but that doesn’t stop them from dazzling my friends and family! As with most moments when I can’t decide which item to select I settled on these two opposing pieces.
The dark scarf on the right looks heavy, but it’s black material is light and soft. The tightly woven flowers imitate dried pressed-flowers, as though reminiscent of attempts to preserve the past. On the other side though, the bright sunset pink and orange of my other choice speaks of nothing but budding moments. The tiny sequin flowers blossom out in a blanket of life in full bloom.
And of course I collected photos from all around!!!! Lots and lots of photos! Photos are memorable, free and can be beautiful additions to your home.
Oh, one last thing. You know all those straws they give you?
Make a belt!
I’m still working on an outfit to wear with this slightly cumbersome design though! If you have any suggestions then post below!