Finding a souvenir that sums up the Singapore experience can be a bit of a challenge because there aren’t many locally-made products (other than the hawker food you ate for lunch – burp!). Some may be quite cheesy, but these are the most popular souvenirs of Singapore.
Spice packages to make Singaporean food: The highlight of most visits to Singapore is the amazing food, so why not bring a taste of it home with you? There are spice packages to make hawker favourites like Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, bak kut teh, and even chilli crab, and the instructions are practically fool-proof. For the best selection and lower prices than souvenir stores, buy them at a a local supermarket like Fairprice.
“Fine City” T-shirts: In spite of Singapore’s attempts to nickname itself the Garden City or the Lion City, “The Fine City” is what perseveres. You’ll find this slogan on T-shirts, shot glasses and magnets at every souvenir shop on the island. Look for the ones that specify the amount of the fine for the forbidden act – how can the fine for littering be $1,000, but only $500 for peeing in an elevator?! Since the recipient probably is never going to wear it anyway, you might as well get one of the bargain T-shirts sold at the Bugis Street Market for S$5 or less.
“Traditional” Singapore clothing: Though your average Singaporean is more likely to be wearing Billabong boardshorts than batik, “traditional” clothing remains a big-seller at the Chinatown Street Market. Look for Chinese cheongsam (tight-fitting dresses), cotton shirts embroidered with Chinese characters, and replicas of the sarong kebaya worn by Singapore Airlines flight attendants. The quality is low but so are the prices, and children’s sizes are available.
Anything with the Merlion on it: I can’t fathom why, but tourists have a lot of love for Singapore’s bizarre half-lion, half-mermaid mascot. The Merlion comes in many take-home forms including fridge magnets, playing cards, statuettes, cigarette lighters, durian-flavoured cookies, and plush toys. My personal favourite is the Merlion tissue dispenser where the tissue is pulled out through his mouth, resembling the stream of water spewed by the statue at Merlion Park.
Raffles Hotel merch: Next to the Merlion, the symbol most associated with Singapore is likely Raffles Hotel. If you don’t mind spending a decent sum on a souvenir, their gift shop has some classy stuff like crested golf shirts, travel journals, silver tea spoons, spa products scented with tropical flowers, and prints of colonial-era Singapore. Of course, they also sell pre-mix to make the Singapore Sling cocktail that was invented at their very own Long Bar.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 15th November, 2014.