Image by HuppyPie From Flickr’s Creative Commons
Kuala Lumpur isn’t just the capital of Malaysia; it might be the capital of shopping. Joking aside, it is a great place to pick up some wonderful souvenirs for your friends and family.
On the main streets, and wherever you find Kuala Lumpur hotels, you can locate shops selling myriad souvenirs of the city. T-shirts, coffee mugs and key chains depicting the city’s landmark Petronas Towers are easy to get, but might not convey the right message or sentiment to your family and friends back home. To let people know that you were thinking of them on your travels, consider getting something made in Malaysia. Read on for seven souvenir suggestions to purchase in K.L.
For example, Malaysian batiks are of high quality, are easily packed in your luggage and can be useful to the receiver. Batiked cloth is most often thought of as Indonesian, rather than Malaysian, but it is also traditionally made on the east coast of Malaysia. While Indonesian batiks feature deep colours and small, intricate designs, Malaysian batiks incorporate light colours and floral motifs. Geometrical designs and butterflies are also common themes on batik cloth from Malaysia. Historically, the cloth is hand-printed by impressing melted wax on the fabric with a block and then exposing the cloth to dye, but now you can also find factory-made batiks.
Pewter goods, such as condiment pots, salt-and-pepper shakers and collectible figurines are another hallmark Malaysian gift. The pewter industry in Malaysia began in the 1800s when tin mining became significant in the region. Pewter is made from combining tin and other metals, such as copper and antimony. The biggest producer of Malaysian pewter is located in Penang.
Your family members may be particular about their tea, but Malaysia has a few kinds that could be an interesting and thoughtful gift to someone back home. The country’s most famous tea is grown in the Cameron Highlands, and is similar in colour and taste to some Indian varieties. Other teas, grown in Sabah for example, are infused with spices and other plants to create healthful effects. For example, tongkat ali tea is said to contain an antioxidant that increases libido in men.
Malaysian coffee is another nice gift for a gourmand in your circles. Although it is not as lauded as Malaysian tea, and is seldom exported, coffee grown in Malaysia brews a satisfying cup. The most common type of coffee grown there is liberica. Even a small packet of this coffee can make a robust gift for a coffee lover.
Woodworking is a proud tradition in many parts of Malaysia, with craftsmanship techniques passed from generation to generation. Carvings are typically done with harder woods native to Malaysia and consist of two types: fine carvings and rougher carvings. The fine carvings will add intricate detail to smaller utensils, such as the handles of keris daggers or other decorations. The rougher carvings can create furniture, windows and roofs. Usually, carvings display balanced design and do not show figures of humans or animals, in keeping with Islamic teachings.
If your luggage is too heavy already to include some wood carvings, a lightweight but unusual gift for your loved ones might be something made from woven pandanus. Local artisans weave baskets, handbags, placemats, hats and other items out of the hardy leaves of the palm-like pandanus.
For a woman or girl who loves beautiful accessories, purchasing a pair of Nyonya-beaded slippers is a nice gesture from your trip abroad. The Nyonya are the female descendants of the Chinese who immigrated to Malaysia in the 15th century. The men of this ethnic group call themselves “Baba.” The Nyonya have an intricate traditional costume, part of which is beaded slippers. Although the slippers are no longer used for daily wear, Nyonya may still wear them for holidays and important events. Patterns on these peep-toe or closed-toe slippers can feature natural elements such as flowers or fruit. The shoes were traditionally cross-stitched first, and then beaded.
About the Author: Originally from Tamil Nadu, Sara Mehra studies international relations at a university in Singapore. She hopes to one day publish her blogs and observations about travel in a book.