Souvenirs are a must for travelers. We spent time haggling with street vendors from neighbouring countries, or picked one off from tourists’ shops hoping to give away or keep for own use. Yes, these are clutter I have no use of (unless they are food) and I have received my fair share from friends and also returned the favours by buying just as many useless stuff that they probably throw aside, like bookmarks and key chains. One friend PF from KL loves the fridge magnets I bought her so much I try to oblige every time I travel. With close friends, I buy them t-shirts depicting the countries, shawls and sarongs. But for myself, I try to buy books by local authors, pictorial books of sights or art pieces. I still buy handicraft key chains and bookmarks, just to support the tribes in the villages I visit.
The Sunday Times asked 10 personalities to describe the souvenirs they love or hate and I wanted to share mine as well. Here are some of my treasures:
This little craft piece together with its blue twin were bought at a flea market in Santa Cruz in 1989 when I visited Mike while he was stationed there for three months. I love shells and tried to replicate unsuccessfully. The pieces hang in the toilets now.
These posters were bought at Zhou Zhuang 周庄in 1998 during a business trip to Guangzhou when my ICI colleagues and I took a side trip to tour Shanghai. The colleague pointed out that two of the posters were marketing posters of fertilizers manufactured by ICI before the war. The company’s name was translated from the name of ICI China’s boss at that time. The posters cost me S$2 and I bought 5 different copies. They were a talking point for new visitors.
This painting caught my eyes when we visited an art street in Beijing in 2004 as I was flipping through the piles absently, with no intention of buying anything. I have no knowledge of the value of art and I didn’t know the artist. I think I paid Yuan480 but the framing in Singapore costs much more. I love looking at the painting as I sit in my living room.
This cute pottery depicting the Kejia Tulou 客家土楼, now chucked into my souvenir cupboard was so cute I couldn’t resist it. I was not satisfied with the postcards and CD and wanted this 3D sculpture, if you can call it that.
These are the fridge magnets from my travel that now grace my fridge. Since I have stopped meeting my KL friend regularly, I hasn’t stopped buying the magnets. I like the 3D magnets, especially the mosque from Turkey as well as the house I stayed in at Shiragawago.
When I was younger, I used to lug home huge souvenirs like rugs and jugs from Mexico, pots and plant holders from US flea markets, back when airlines were more lenient with luggage, like this one below with the door broken off. I am more restrained now as the clutter piles up.
I can’t bear to throw any away as if throwing them away will wipe off the memory of the travel as well. So now I restrict myself to key chains and bookmarks, be they treasure or trash.