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We have all done it. Far in the back of a cupboard lies a box of corny oh-my-word-what-was-I-thinking souvenirs from past holidays. Some things feel so right in the heat of the moment and we end up buying useless junk that is not a true reminder of our adventures away. Here’s a suggested list to make the most of souvenir hunting on Ko Samui, to avoid adding to that growing pile of white elephant purchases.
Fisherman’s pants look great – in Thailand. But will you really wear them back home? Dare we mention poo pants (you know the ones) where the crotch hangs down past your knees? Where will you really wear them back in London, Sydney or New York? That ‘I heart Samui’ or ‘I survived Full Moon Party’ T-shirt will only end up as sleepwear or to wash the car. Then there are the old favourites: Singha or Chang Beer logo tees or the iconic ‘Same same’ and on the back… ‘but different’ shirts as well.
Avoid the mass produced ‘original handmade in Thailand’ stands that sell fridge magnets and other corny knick-knacks. Turn it over, look underneath and you’re sure to find a small ‘Made in China’ print. Will your work colleagues really want a key ring shaped like the phallic Grandfather rock, with the logo, ‘Samui Rocks!’?
If you want something handmade, go to the source. Avoid the endless rows of carved wooden Buddhas. There are many studios where one can watch the artists at work, be it carving or painting. Do note that by law, one requires a permit to take a Buddha statue out of Thailand. No retailer will tell you this as they want the sale and the paperwork is tedious and takes several weeks. Realistically, customs is unlikely to stop you unless it is an antique piece, but bear in mind that they have every right to. Keeping with what is ethically correct, please avoid framed giant insects. Really, people actually buy these, and do their part in reducing numbers of endangered species. Why would one want to hang super-sized bugs on their wall anyway? The same goes for shell and coral products.
Souvenirs that can actually be used when home are the best reminders of your holiday. Think lovely coconut wood salad servers (coconut is a sustainable wood), or a commissioned painting that can easily be rolled up and framed once home. Hand painted decorative rice caddies make interesting storage containers, too.
Unusual food and drink unique to Ko Samui or Thailand is always an interesting talking point and makes a great gift. Why not take home a bottle of Samui’s own rum from the Magic Alambic distillery in Taling Ngam? Thailand’s wines have improved over the last few years, and make a great gift for wine lovers.
Those with a sweet tooth would appreciate a packet of garameer – a gelatinous local coconut sweet sold at the ferry terminals and Hin Ta Hin Yai (Grandfather and Grandmother rocks). A bottle of multi-purpose cold-pressed pure coconut oil will also make a great gift and the smell of coconut will be sure to conjure up memories of your tropical holiday.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 9th March, 2015.