Whether you’re a frequent traveller or travelling for the first time- the dilemma is the same. What should you buy for your loved ones back home?
This can be such a difficult decision because the person you are on a gift hunt for isn’t experiencing what you are. Buying them a “I <3 Vietnam“ or “Angkor Wat Temple” shirt won’t make much sense, especially if they haven’t visited either (amazing) place. Our advice? Buy them something that relates or shares your experiences with each country, but isn’t an exact memoir of the country. Here are 8 ideal gift ideas for your friends & family back home.
1. Vietnamese Coffee Filter
Ahh… Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee). If you love coffee and you travelled to Vietnam, you must have tried this famous style of coffee. It’s not a common thing to find on menus of coffee shops back home, so a Vietnamese coffee filter is a great gift for your coffee-loving friends. You can show them how to make coffee the Vietnamese way, and enjoy a Cà phê sữa đá together – which you’re most likely craving now due to reading this post. It’s easy to use and will give your friend a new favourite way of brewing their morning cup o’ joe.
2. Stunning Cambodian Coconut Bowls
These brightly colored coconut bowls won’t fail to brighten up your friend’s kitchen! These are hand painted and can be found around markets in Siem Reap. We recommend buying a set and switching up the colors for an extra unique and fun gift set. They’re durable and easy to wash, and can even go in the dishwasher. These range from $3-$5 USD, and it’s likely that you will get a better price if buying a set. At such an awesome price, why not add a little Southeast Asian splash to your friend’s cabinets?
3. Vietnamese Jade
Who said diamonds are a girl’s only best friend? Jade in Vietnam is absolutely beautiful and comes in a wide range of colors including green (the most popular), white, yellow, lavender, and red. Good thing is- there is a giant variety in price ranges & quality. A pendant can range from $20 USD to over $300 USD. You are guaranteed to pass hundreds (yes…literally hundreds!) of jewelry stores, which have Jade as the main attraction in their window displays. Jade jewelry can be paired with silver, gold, or other typical metals. To make sure you’re choosing the perfect pendant, ring, or earrings, take a look at this guide on different quality factors.
4. Cambodian Handmade Beauty Products
Pampering oneself isn’t something to be ashamed of. Who doesn’t love a little relaxation and indulgence? Cambodia has been using their surrounding environment and natural resources for centuries and continues to do so (you can witness this firsthand in our day tour of Siem Reap). They’ve even mastered the art of cultivating local plants and minerals into impeccable natural beauty products. Items such as bath salts, body creams, and lip balms could be the perfect unique gift for your friend or family member back home. These gifts are usually already wrapped up in a cute box or reusable fabric bag as seen in the photo above. (Less wrapping for the holidays? Yes, please!)
5. Vietnamese Cinnamon Box
This gift is definitely one that will keep your loved one guessing until they get the chance to finally unwrap it. You may be thinking from the photo above that this is your typical cylindrical box or pencil holder… but wait ’til you smell it! It’s made from cinnamon bark, which is why your loved one is bound to put this on their desk or kitchen counter. If you ask someone at the market, they’ll say the box’s purpose is to hold toothpicks, which then get a light yet delicious cinnamon flavour. However, you can also use this aromatic gift to store sugar, flour, coffee, tea, or whatever you wish to smell like sweet cinnamon. The natural properties of the bark will give whatever is stored a light cinnamon fragrance and flavour, so if you like cinnamon & sugar in your coffee or tea this may easily become your favourite item. You can find a variety of basic to intricately carved cinnamon boxes, so the price typically ranges between $1 USD-$15 USD.
6. Hand-Painted Art from Cambodia
You can buy unique art for a bargain in Siem Reap. Although you may think they are all just paintings of Angkor Wat, if you delve further into the art shops and you’ll find hidden art gems ranging from $7-$100 USD. You may be thinking “Art is a hassle to take home!”, but you’d be surprised how good they are at wrapping up the artwork. You can even get a cool woven grass case to hold your wrapped up painting- for free! Only thing is, you usually have to get the art reframed once you’re back home.
7. Vietnamese Incense
Incense is very important in Vietnam for religious purposes. Now globally popular, incense can be found pretty much anywhere. However, once you see (and possibly try) how incense is made, you’ll have a newfound appreciation. It is a time consuming and tedious task to make each stick of incense. Bringing back a bundle from Vietnam will have a special spiritual meaning to those back home who love these aromatic sticks. You can also tell your story of attempting to make a stick of incense all by yourself!
8. Rice Wine
It’s dangerously delicious. We recommend getting a small bottle of rice wine in Cambodia and/or Vietnam. It’s different in both countries. You can visit family’s homes where they make rice wine in Ho Chi Minh City or Hoi An, Vietnam. It’s an amazing process where almost nothing is wasted, and it turns out so pure and strong you can burn it as seen above. In Cambodia, our favourite can be found on our After Dark Foodie Tour. It’s infused with interesting herbs and fruits, a sort of East meets West rice wine. It’s a unique gift, and you won’t find these rice wines at your local bottle shop!
*Extra Tip* Make sure to check your customs policies so you don’t accidentally get stopped at the airport!