Forget the T-Shirts and key chains – these souvenirs are much more useful, practical or beautiful and are a joy to indulge in
Planning a trip to Malaysia some time soon? These are some of the iconic souvenirs to fill up your suitcase with, to take home as mementos or as gifts. They’re either functional, lightweight, or a work of art, so there’s something for everyone regardless of age or gender.
Batik and songket
Traditional Malaysian textiles, batik and songket are uniquely printed and designed pieces that are used to beautify anything from costumes to table clothes, and even as a statement art piece. Batik incorporates colourful and floral motifs, are conventionally hand-printed, and impressed with melted wax. Songket, on the other hand, is a brocade of hand-woven gold and silk thread work traditionally worn by royalty, its intricate designs are known to create stunning evening wear that also make great ornamental pieces.
Malaysians are obsessed with the notorious durian, and if you’ve taken to its taste and scent, or if you’re feeling adventurous, bring back a box of durian chocolates. Not only does this downplay the scent for the convenience of travel, it might also be a great way to introduce taste buds to the king of fruits, masked by a coating of delicious local chocolate. Durian chocolate is carried by most local chocolate brands, but we recommend Beryl’s, Alfredo, Hemelzs or Harriston.
Although booming, café culture has been around in Malaysia for quite some time now, starting some generations ago when both young and old enjoyed cups of freshly brewed coffee with roti bakar (toasted bread with butter and coconut jam) while reading the newspaper and socialising. But Malaysian coffee is quite unlike other coffees from around the world – the instant white coffee from Ipoh and Georgetown in West Malaysia and Tenom in East Malaysia is special for its roasting technique using margarine. The creamy coffee can easily be taken home with you with the instant packets offered by brands like Old Town, Ah Huat and Aik Cheong.
Thanks to the boom in mining since the 1800s, pewter souvenirs are prized collectibles and a true hallmark of Malaysian craftsmanship. Visitors who love finely crafted pewter goods and ornaments should not leave Malaysia without picking up a pewter souvenir, which is made from a combination of tin with metals like copper and antimony. Coming in the shape of condiment pots, figurines and salt-and-pepper shakers, pewter make great gifts and memorabilia, notably the ones produced by Royal Slenagor, Mariwasa and Tumasek.
The native tribes of Malaysia are known for their skilfully woven pandanus goods, in the form of baskets, handbags, placemats, rugs, and hats. They’re lightweight, colourful, and make great statement accessories as much as home ornaments. They make great gifts for women, and are also affordable and hardy to last a lifetime, with extra care.
Besides coffee, Malaysians love their tea, too. No visit to Malaysia is complete until you’ve made a trip to Cameron Highlands, the famous tea plantation that’s also a lovely tourist attraction, with its rolling green hills, pleasant weather and clean fresh air. Known as BOH tea, the plantation produces black tea and unique flavoured ones such as tangerine, lemon mandarin, passionfruit, and mango, and can be purchased at any supermarket and almost any coffee shop or restaurant in Malaysia.