Buy local, support local – this is one of the basic principles that every traveller should embrace whenever visiting foreign countries.
The purchases made do not only support the economy of home-grown artisans and businesses, but also help to maintain local traditions and craftsmanship. Below are Gaya Travel’s picks as wonderful souvenirs – fashion pieces to be exact – that travellers can hunt when being in the ASEAN region.
1. Woven sedge bag in Malaysia
Since weaving is one of Malaysia’s important heritage, travellers can discover arrays of highly crafted hand woven products across the nation, including songket in Peninsular Malaysia’s East Coast, pua kumbu in Malaysian Borneo, and those made from local plant fibres such as mengkuang leaves and rattan.
But our current obsessions are ‘Berkela Bakul’ and ‘Teman Tote’ by Mowgli (mowglistore.com) that make perfect beach holiday accessories. They are practical, minimal but oh so stylish and they are even waterproof!
2. Batik in Indonesia
Being the country’s most highly developed art form, it would be hard to find a person who will not be captivated by exquisite and intricate designs of the Indonesian batik, perfect as gifts for loved ones or for yourself. Java is where batik is at its zenith, but you can also find a variety of designs elsewhere throughout Indonesia. Bateeq (www.bateeqshop.com) and Parang Kencana (www.parangkencana.com) are among our favourite brands.
3. Silkscreen craft in Singapore
Being a global fashion capital on the rise, Singapore is home to fabulous outlets, offering plenty of trendy items that make the county a shopping haven. You can buy a traditional costume like a nyonya kebaya or opt for experimental modern pieces like silkscreen crafts made from traditional stencilling. Fictive Fingers (www.fictivefingers.com) creates beautiful collections, ranging from apparel to stationery.
4. Jong Sarat in Brunei
Similar to the songket, jong sarat is an intricate hand-woven textile made from gold and silver thread using the finest cotton or silk fabric. It is mostly worn during royal and formal occasions, including weddings.
These days, jong sarat has been given a modern twist by having it applied onto various casual wear that can be worn on daily basis, which Koleksi Husna (IG: koleksi.husnaa) specialises in.
5. Lanna-inspired craft in Thailand
Lanna refers to an ancient kingdom that once covered Northern Thailand. It gave birth to a wonderful artistic and cultural style specific to the region. Lanna-inspired crafts can be found abundantly in Northern Thailand especially at community schools in local hill tribe villages; however, if you’re looking for collections that excel in both aesthetics and function, opt for Pancharee Brand (IG: pancharee_brand) or Upcycled Styles (upcycledstyles.com), which strive to bridge the gap between the hill tribes and fashionistas through fair trade.
6. Piña fabric in Philippines
Piña is a natural fibre made from the leaves of pineapples, commonly hand loomed by skilled weavers to become a sheer, lustrous textile often used to make traditional Filipino clothing such as the Barong Tagalog. But these days, it has become fashionably mainstream as more brands like Kultura (www.kulturafilipino.com) ready to experiment with this fine fabric in creating timeless and elegant pieces. In Aklan, there’s even a festival dedicated to Piña alone.
7. Ao Dai in Vietnam
The ao dai is a Vietnamese traditional long gown with slits on the sides that is worn with pants. Travellers can purchase it at Ben Thanh Market at arguably low prices. But you can also go to the tailors to have it custom-made at an extra cost. The Vietnamese tailors work fast, taking between one to two days to complete each order. We suggest Heaven Ao Dai (heavenaodai.com) on To Hien Thanh Street in Ho Chi Minh City for affordable stylish designs.
8. Lotus silk scarf in Myanmar
Myanmar has a tradition of weaving lotus silk scarves and shawls from lotus fibres. The fabric is associated with a traditional legend a hundred years ago when a girl at Inle Lake wove a robe out of lotus fibres for her favourite monk. The tradition of weaving from lotus silk is still alive in the area, which also happens to be the place to buy the fabric.
9. Woven Silk in Laos
Lao Silk is another highly valued craft due to its breathability and comfortable linen-like texture, making it suitable to turn it into practical pieces like skirts, wraps and scarves. The motifs and feels are deeply symbolic and dependent on the provinces where they are made: Sam Neua’s silk is thick and extremely solid while the silk from Xieng Kouang is finer, lighter and softer.
Consider visiting Ock Pop Tok (ockpoptok.com), a fair trade and weaving centre in Luang Prabang, where travellers can participate in half-day courses and shop for genuine artisanal products at competitive prices.
9. Krama scarf in Cambodia
Krama is a national symbol of the Khmer people that is multi-functional because it can be turned into turbans, wraps, bandanas, belts, hammocks and more. It is also hugely popular among youths who see it as an appealing fashion statement. Get your own krama from Give Krama (kramascarf.com) or Krama Krama (www.kramakrama.com) since they donate part of the proceeds to various charities that help Cambodians in need.