I thought I'd take a wee break from my travel tales before I tell you about Cambodia to talk about the bits and pieces that I bought when I was there.
When I travelled last year to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand I hadn't really considered shopping as one of the activities I'd be doing there (apart from the fact that I intended to pick up some jewellery in Thailand). However, others quickly informed me that the shopping opportunities were great and were much more prepared than I was, giving themselves an extra day in Bangkok to do just that.
This year, I was fully prepared to purchase a thing or two. Firstly I'd like to say I am never normally one for buying things on holiday - I have kicked myself many times in the past for not buying enough mementos of the trip and now try to make a conscious effort to bring back a souvenir. However this time I just couldn't help myself! Some of the things I bought were things I knew I would use at home, others were practically necessities for travelling...
Firstly: clothes! If any of you have travelled to southeast Asia, or even just stalked through photos of friends who have, I'm sure you will have seen these baggy traveller trousers before. I'm not sure of their name, but you can get them in every pattern you could think of, and various styles: quite fitted, semi-baggy, or full on "Ali Baba" style as one shop owner said to me, which is extremely baggy! I went for the middle option, and firstly bought this pair in Hoi An for approx. £4.
After buying these and wearing them A LOT I thought I might as well pick up another pair, which I got in Siem Reap for approx. £2. These trousers are honestly practically an essential for travelling in this part of the world - they are so light and comfortable, and perfect for whipping on when you go to a temple where you need to cover up.
I also picked up a couple of baggy vest tops which are again super comfy travel wear. The white one, which I bought in Hoi An, says "Good Morning Vietnam" in Vietnamese - it was fixed price (I couldn't barter!) and was around £5 and the turquoise one I bought in Bangkok for £2. This one, which has the cutest saying on it, one of my travelling companions bought last year and when I knew I was going back to Bangkok I really wanted to get myself one too! Although that being said, when I was in London briefly the other day I spotted one on a stall just off Oxford Street. I'm pretty sure it would cost more than £2 though!
Finally on the clothes front, I picked up two gorgeous scarfs in Hoi An - one silk (~£4) and one pashmina (~£6).I have worn the pashmina one so many times since I got home. It's a gorgeous mixture of colours, and most importantly so soft!
Another near necessity while in Asia was a fan - which I had neglected to bring with me. Luckily, there were plenty of beautifully decorated ones to buy, I got mine in Hoi An - I think for about £2-3.
I also picked up a purse I had been eyeing up in the Siem Reap night market. It is made from recycled cement bags, and there was other styles made from other such materials as well as handbags etc. These are made by Angkor Recycled, which is a really cool concept, and you can get more info here but unfortunately I don't think you can order over the internet. I paid the equivalent of £2 for mine.
Finally, I couldn't leave Asia without picking up some Tiger Balm and the less famous Cup Balm and (very cutely named) White Monkey Holding a Peach Balm. These are great for putting on mozzie bites to relieve the itch, and they also reduce the swelling a bit I find. My tour leader would have you believe that it was a cure for all ailments but I wouldn't go that far! The packaging for Tiger Balm even lists flatulence as something it helps...I don't even want to imagine how that is supposed to work.
They mainly consist of menthol and similar ingredients, with the active ingredient being Camphor which is used in Vicks VapoRub as well. I am not really one for herbal type medicines, but I love these balms and would highly recommend picking some up if you head to that side of the world (in addition to packing some Hydrocortisone cream for really nasty bites). And besides, look at the pretty packaging! You can also get Tiger Balm in Boots in the UK, but it is about £4 for a small tub as opposed to £1 in Thailand.
With the exception of the balms and the Good Morning Vietnam top that I got in more traditional shops, everything I bought I haggled for. I really enjoy bartering, although I wouldn't say I'm by any means an expert and I know it's always daunting when you just don't know what price to ask for.
My tips would be:
1) Decide how much you'd like to pay for something (while not being ridiculous!). I decided before I asked how much the purse would be that I wouldn't want to pay more than $3 for it, and that's what I got it for.
2) Compromise! In some places, like the markets I visited in Cambodia the sellers would do most of your haggling for you if you just walked away, but in Vietnam they were much more set with prices and seemed to have a base price which they would not go below. If it's something you want, meet them in the middle and remember you're probably haggling over pennies.
3) Don't just buy things because they're cheap - if you think you'd genuinely use it then go for it. I like to call this the Primark mentality.
There are two more tiny purchases I made...but I'm saving that for another time!
What do you think of my purchases? Have you got any favourites from your travels?