Jasmine: Buying travel souvenirs for a boyfriend or girlfriend can be rather nerve-wracking. Buy too inexpensively, and you’re labelled a cheapskate. Indulge, and that’s the only souvenir you’ll be coming home with. And then a whole new headache… To buy for his family, or not? What would his mother like? Would she be allergic to pearl cream? Ginseng tea? Sesame? Would it seem like "sucking up" if I came home with a basketful of snacks and foodstuff for his folks? Would the wild strawberries that seemed like such a good idea at that hilltop monastery in Chengde survive the humidity?
Andrew and I went on holidays with our families last December- Andrew to Bangkok, and I to Beijing. Some cool souvenirs that won’t break the bank or break her heart:
1. Children’s toys
Andrew bought me children’s toys from Bangkok and a slingshot for himself. The toy makes a loud rattling noise whenever I swing it- which is perfect whenever you want to cut a conversation short i.e. on his genius, or how I should cut back on my Ruffles habit. Also useful as an offensive weapon (think battering ram). I heart the toy, Mr Chong doesn’t!
Andrew: Unfortunately, I can’t find my own rattling toy (perhaps its a blessing in disguise) so I only have a picture of the slingshot to show here. We didn’t really spend much time in Bangkok City Centre itself during my trip there. Most of our time was spent in the non-touristy areas in the suburbs of Bangkok, hence the usual “souvenirs” were hard to come by. These toys were found in a market next to a temple that we went to. They were extremely cheap and reminiscent of times when toys were much simpler. Just for the record, I never owned a slingshot when I was young and never liked playing such “violent” toys. This slingshot is purely for collection sake. Of course, what you pay is what you get – the second day after playing with the slingshot, the rubber-band came loose and now it is effectively obsolete and harmless. 🙂 The rattling toy is – unfortunately – more resilient than the slingshot. Heh.
2. Cheesy memorabilia t-shirt
Jasmine: The fact that this shirt only cost $5 SGD after some intense haggling only amps up its coolness.
3. A Superkite
Andrew: Not just any ordinary kite, but one with seven kites and fluttery streamers! I thought this would be a neat replacement for our 5-cent kite made of tracing paper, which kept darting and swerving right into our faces the last time we went kite-flying at Marina Barrage. Mr Chong could not stop laughing when I kept ducking behind him. (I was afraid the glass-covered string would cut my face… come on ladies, I know you empathise.) But with this Superkite, I am ready to navigate the skies!
Andrew: Ok dearie, I’ll take you up on that. Let’s go to Marina Barrage soon and fly this super kite, provided I know how to fly a kite. I hope this kite flies better than the low quality kites ($1 a piece kite) that my PW groups provided me with last year. And yes, the strings were glass-coated because they were meant to be used for kite-fighting, not just kite-flying.
4. A panda bear
As with Mohawk (not so much Bunny- we just named her Bunny), we went through the gruelling exercise of choosing the perfect name for our panda bear. We eliminated all the obvious choices like Po (after the lead character in Kung Fu Panda), Kung Fu (I suggested Chong Fu), Bamboo, Black Eye, Colourblind and Aftermath (of a fight, hence its black eyes).
Andrew eventually decided to name our panda Fanon, after the psychoanalytic critic and theorist Franz Fanon, who wrote an (in)famous anti-colonial essay entitled Black Skin White Mask.
Andrew: That’s the best name we’ve given to our soft toys so far! Fanon was my faithful companion during my trip to Bangkok. Given that Dearie has Mohawk, Bunny and Ee-yore on her side, it’s good to have one of our soft toys on my side. 🙂
When all else fails, there’s always DUTY FREE!
5. Cosmetics that she’s been hunting high and low for
Jasmine: Buying cosmetics is a very tricky affair.
I had been searching for this much raved about eye cream at Changi DFS before and after returning from China, and both times it was out of stock, but it was my resourceful Mr Chong who found it while waiting to board his plane in Thailand!
Andrew: When I walked into the DFS at Bangkok airport, there was a huge poster above me advertising this Genifique eye cream. It was as if it was screaming out “Buy me, Jasmine wants me!”.
I would never buy cosmetics for Jasmine unless she specifically mentions the exact product she wants me to buy. There are just too many factors to consider that befuddles the simple male mind – for example, for moisturiser, my Dearie doesn’t just get any moisturiser – she looks at which active agents are inside, whether there is sun protection effect and how well it absorbs on her skin. At this point, I don’t think my knowledge of cosmestics is good enough to make a wise purchase of anything for her.