Have you ever gone on a nice vacation in a great travel destination, and found out later on that you had no idea what special or unique souvenirs to buy that would please your family and friends? You’d think that after years of traveling, you could find other things to take home with you aside from the “I love (insert name of country here)” shirts that you buy in bulk. If you go to Singapore, you’ll find out that you won’t run out of options from the many interesting souvenirs that you can buy in this country.
There are two kinds of souvenirs. The first kind are the budget souvenirs, which are sold widely at most travel destinations for reasonable prices. Examples of these are key chains, t-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, and other knick knacks with the Singapore icons. The other type is made up of premium souvenirs, which can only be found in specific places in the country. These things are priced on the higher side. But whatever you choose to buy, these things are easy to carry, and you won’t have a problem getting them through customs.
Here are some souvenirs that you might consider bringing home from Singapore:
1. A bottle of Singapore Sling
Best given to: your party-loving friends, or your sophisticated aunt
Cost: $42.90 for a pack of six 50 ml bottles
Where to get it: Changi airport, local bars or stores, Raffles Hotel shops
This drink has been around since the early 1900’s, and it was created by Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender from Raffles Hotel, as an answer to a British colonial’s challenge to make a cocktail for the lovely ladies of Singapore. Since, then, the recipe has underwent a lot of modification, but nowadays, a lot of bartenders are trying to stay true to the original version, which is what you’ll find in each bottle of Singapore Sling.
If you enjoyed this national drink of Singapore, then you’ll be happy to know that you can take home bottled versions of this delightful cocktail. The ingredients in a traditional Singapore Sling include pineapple juice, grenadine syrup, angostura bitters, cointreau, lime, gin, and cherry brandy. Sure, you can try to make this drink at home, but you’ll have to guess the required amount of each ingredient. The bottled versions though are great for an instant party with your friends. All you have to do is to chill them in the fridge for a few hours for a refreshing cocktail.
2. A jar of Kaya, or Singapore Jam
Will be most appreciated by: your friends who have little kids, your grandparents
Cost: $6.00 for two 75 gram jars of kaya
Where to get it: Changi Airport, Yakun Kaya Toast
Kaya is a must-have breakfast food for most Singaporeans. It’s a kind of jam made from eggs, sugar, and coconut milk. This jam is truly unique and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It’s usually eaten on toast with a bit of butter, and maybe an egg or two on the side, with a cup of coffee. For Singaporeans, this is the breakfast of champions!
To recreate an authentic Singaporean breakfast, simply toast brown bread until crisp. You might want to flatten the bread a bit before toasting to make a thin sandwich. Then, spread some butter on one piece of toast, then spread another piece with some kaya. Put the two pieces together like a sandwich, and viola! Make sure to fry two eggs until just slightly cooked—you want them to be runny. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Then, eat like the Singaporeans do, by dipping your sandwich into the runny egg before taking a bite.
3. A miniature Merlion statue
Best given to: your buddy who collects travel souvenirs, a co-worker, your kid’s teacher
Cost: $7.00 to $15.00 per piece, depends on what kind you get
Get them at: Any souvenir shop, the basement of Raffles City Mall, Mustafa Center
The Merlion is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, and this is used as a mascot and a national personification of Singapore. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name—Singapura—meaning lion city. The fish body represents the country’s origin as a fishing village.
All over the country, the Merlion statue can be found everywhere, from the 37-meter tall replica at Sentosa Island, to the 8.6-meter original statue at Merlion Park. You can take home your very own Merlion in the form of a plush toy, paperweight, key chain, mobile phone charm, picture frame, or refrigerator magnet.
4. A plated orchid
Best for: your mom, your wife, your best friend, your favorite sister
Cost: $50 to $500
Get it at: Suntec City Mall, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Changi Airport Departure, Tangs Orchard
Now this souvenir is very special and will be greatly appreciated by women. This is a real orchid plated in 24 karat gold, and this is used to make jewelry such as earrings, brooches, rings, bracelets, and pendants.
The orchid that is preferred by artists for plating is the Vanda “Miss Joaquim” variant, which is the national flower of Singapore. Though it’s rather expensive, it’s highly collectible and there are lots of women who aim to get a complete jewelry set made of plated orchids.
5. Singapore pressed pennies
Will be appreciated by: your uncle, your grandpa, your friend who collects coins
Cost: $2.00 per penny
Get it at: Suntec City Mall
Pressed pennies are also called elongated coins or squished pennies. These are actual pennies that are compressed by two rollers, and once the coins are flattened, designs are engraved on them. In the past, people used to leave their coins on train tracks so that the pennies would be flattened by passing trains. Some of the pennies don’t get flattened though—either they get bent or they get seriously mangled.
Luckily, the locals have found a better and safer way to do this. Nowadays, there are hand-cranked and automatic penny flattening machines all over the country, and tourists may choose from among four designs that they want engraved on the coins.
6. Frozen Laksa
Best given to: your foodie neighbor, your best buddy, anyone who loves to eat
Cost: $4.00 for a bowl of frozen laksa
Get it at: Changi Airport, Geylang Street
Foodies everywhere will go gaga over laksa. This is a Peranakan noodle soup. There are two kinds of laksa: one has a coconut curry base, while the other has a sour fish soup base called asam laksa. There is nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of laksa on a rainy day, and for you to be able to bring it home, some enterprising locals found a way to flash freeze the stuff. Some even came up with ready-to-cook pastes that are very suitcase friendly.
Frozen laksa will last for about two weeks when kept in the freezer, while the pastes have a shelf life of six months. You can also enhance the flavor of the coconut curry laksa by adding half a cup of coconut cream to it while heating it up.
There you have it, finally, some unique ideas on what to give your loved ones at home. Other things you might consider getting are herbal medicines from the countless apothecary shops you’ll find in the city (perfect for your hippie friend), handicraft items such as beaded slippers or paper umbrellas, or colorful batik sarongs and porcelain.
It doesn’t take much of an effort to bring back gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones, so make sure to take this list with you the next time you go souvenir shopping in Singapore!