Thursday 10 April 2014

A to Z 2014: Junk

{For the month of April I will be blogging alphabetically on the topic of travel tips.}

If you're going anywhere even remotely touristy, there will be hawkers trying to sell you junk. And it starts to look the same from one town to the next...

The old town of Hoi An is all tourist shops now.

My general rule of thumb when choosing souvenirs are to pick something useful or edible and local. Some people collect specific items and that's great! Don't get intimidated into buying a pile of crap you don't really want. And keep in mind how you'll carry it around for the rest of your trip and get it home.

For me, I happen to like wearing shirts so if I find a nice souvenir top, I'll get it. Pandan flavoured coconut cookies? Yes, please! Pack of ten elephant key chains? I'll pass. Unless of course you're into collecting elephants.

It all looks the same after a while...
Having travelled a bit around Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, I've found that they seem to share handicrafts. If you go to a bazaar in any of these places, you will see a lot of the same stuff. That's not to say it isn't genuine, but if you want local Filipino crafts, don't buy the Indonesian batik. If you ask, some shop keepers will be honest but it helps if you've done your research ahead of time.

Some hawkers can be super aggressive but you have every right to just say no and walk away. Or in some cases, "No... no, thank you... really, I'm not interested... no... I don't want it... I said no... stop touching me... PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!!!" as you run a couple of blocks down the street.

It's a trap! A beautiful tourist trap!
If you are bringing gifts back for people, keep a list and know what they like. Don't come back with a suitcase full of stuff you're not sure what to do with.

Like I talked about yesterday, be prepared to purchase some souvenirs. Have a budget for them. Don't feel like you can't get that amazing item you fell in love with. But also don't over-spend just because something looks cool. Be rational but you will have to make a quick decision. You might not get another chance.

How many bottles of liquor with cobras and scorpions am I allowed to bring back?
Many places have local specialties so find out what that is and if it's something you're into get it. Some places are know for coffee, tea or even herbs... maybe it is a certain kind of handicraft or animal symbol... wood carving, marble, paintings... The world has a lot to offer!