13 quirky souvenirs
Why buy an "I love Tokyo" T-shirt when you can scoop up a shining, gleaming golden poop statuette instead? Crass? Crazy? Incredible? Wait till you see the rest of the mementos we've dug up around Asia.
Katayaki ninja biscuits
These cookie-like biscuits hail from the Iga region, homeland of the ninja. They were developed in times of old as portable rations, but are now sold as local souvenirs.
The name literally means "hard baked," and they aren't kidding -- they're so hard they actually need to be cracked with a wooden mallet, which is sold for an extra fee.
And the flavor? Fitting for ninja rations, it's killer. Find them in Iga town, Mie prefecture, at the shop “Iga-kaan Yamamoto.” ¥630 (US$7.80) for six Ninja Biscuits. www.katayaki.open365.jp
As every schoolchild knows, there’s nothing funnier than a good poop gag, particularly if the scat in question is 12 centimeters high, gold-plated and capable of felling clouds of mosquitoes in a single blow.
That’s the M.O. of the Jumbo Golden Poop as Mosquito Extermination (really) from wacked-out paraphernalia specialist Strapya World, a ¥3,990 (US$49.50) gift that’s sure to sustain back-porch conversation on sweltering summer nights.
The base holds a standard light-and-sit-back mosquito coil, while its heathen luster means it can pull double duty as a false idol -- at least that's what the PR shots on Strapya’s site suggest.
Bonus fact: the insect-killer's kid brother is a golden poop keychain that has sold close to three million units over the last 10 years.
New age Ganesha idol
Hindu gods as souvenirs? So last century. But times have caught up with the deity designers in Mumbai’s Crawford Market.
The elephant-headed Ganesh is normally revered as a remover of obstacles, but we found this idol chilling out with his laptop, doing some magic, doing his thing.
Rs 750 at Arihant Gift Shop, 301 Abdul Rehman St., Shop 1, opposite Plastic Cottage, Crawford Market; +91 (0) 22 23473342
As a visual reminder of a bygone era, this sort of tin mug, often with a factory logo printed on it, used to be given by state-run Chinese factories to their employees during 1970s and 1980s.
Almost every Shanghainese family got one. Some would keep the mugs for decades and are still using them.
With the Communist-influenced logos replaced by creative illustrations, these contemporary tin mugs are tough, practical and easy to carry. Filled with Chinese tea, these mugs can make you the “reddest” kid on the block. RMB 10 per cup.
Xing Mu Handicraft 兴穆手工, No. 34, Lane 248 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu,+86 131 6219 8501
Duncan Maclennan, Sydney's 89-year-old boomerang guru, has been having a “Closing-down sale” for much of the last decade, but the half century-old Boomerang School isn’t going anywhere -- his daughters are taking over the business.
Which is great news if you're looking for a rare boomerang. One three century-old, kangaroo-hunting acacia boomerang from Yatala (maker unknown) is on sale for AU$5,000 (US$5,354).
It won't snap due to its “fiddle-back” -- the method of contouring a boomerang at the same place where the tree trunk meets the root.
At 70 centimeters, it could fit in most suitcases. If you want to start cheaper though, try the AU$10 beginner boomerang complete with instruction manual.
The Boomerang School, 224A William St., Kings Cross, +61 (0)2 9358 2370, www.boomerang-school.com or The Australian Boomerang School on Ebay for latest auctions.
Cheerharan toilet paper
Who’d have thought of toilet paper inspired by the mythical evil king Duryodhana, who ordered cheerharan, or stripping of the endless sari, in the 4th century B.C Indian epic Mahabharata?
That sari never came to an end, this toilet paper unfortunately will.
Set of two for Rs 270, by Design Temple, available at Good Earth, Raghuvanshi Mills, Lower Parel; +91 (0) 22 2495 1954; www.goodearthindia.com
Sichuan mask bottle opener
Tea spills and mugs gather dust, but bottle openers? Practicality wins when bringing back random gift from abroad.
These colorful, over-sized bottle openers won’t fit on a keychain, but they can be easily shoved into a carry on. And, when paired with a video taken at a real Sichuan mask show, there’s a good story to go with them.
Grab these and just about anything else you could ever possibly need at the Fuyou Lu Small Commodities Market for RMB 5-10 each.
As for seeing a Sichuan mask show in person, check out one of Shanghai’s only Sichuan mask-changing shows (it sounds lame but it’s five minutes that will leave you astounded) at Ba Guo Bu Yi.
Make sure to call ahead to book a table. Small Commodities Market, 427 Fuyou Lu, near Henan Lu 福佑路427号 近河南路, Ba Guo Bu Yi ( 巴国布衣), 1018 Dingxi Lu 定西路1018号; +86 21 5239 7779
Shanghai and environs: The 1934-35 Standard Guide Book
While your friends and loved ones might know all that is current in Shanghai, this guidebook (RMB 140) will take them on a tour of the city as it was in its 1930s heyday.
Give the gift of a unique perspective of the Strumpet of the Orient as told in firsthand accounts by guides who truly loved the old city in all its gilded glory.
Buy online at www.earnshawbooks.com or at Chaterhouse, Shop 104, Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Tongren Lu 南京西路1376号上海商城104号店, 近铜仁路, +86 21 6279 7633
Korean idol socks
If you want to make a fashion statement and still show you have that eye for young and hip stars, you need to buy a pair of idol socks. Now.
Idol celebrities have been in the forefront of the South Korean wave, the ripple of trends that brought South Korean music, fashion and entertainment to the hearts and homes of Asia. Now fans can keep their stars close … to their feet.
Seoul's fashion districts Myeongdong and Hongdae have great varieties to choose from, while street vendors near Ewha University and Shinsa-dong offer various faces as well.
Price range: ₩1,000-10,000 (US$0.90-9).
Intolerable wooden birdie noise maker
It looks like a sweet little cuckoo has been impaled on a splintery wooden stick -- and when you shake it, the noise it makes sounds like that might just be what happened.
No doubt going for the same kind of appeal that gave the vuvuzela such worldwide success, this rather tame looking instrument found in Hanoi is made for one thing only -- to annoy the hell out of anyone standing nearby when you put it to use.
The noise created by the wooden ball rattling around the hollow cuckoo is something like the sound of a screaming baby mixed with traffic noises. Enjoy. From almost any street stall in the Vietnamese capital. VND 25,000 (US$1.25).
Scary baby doll
The weirdly horrific look of this doll is only half the story -- flick the switch and this fair-skinned blue-eyed toddler dressed up Vietnam-style starts swaying and tottering as if he's just had five shots of vodka pumped into his bloodstream.
He does however maintain enough composure to play the erhu, whereupon the toy transforms into a psychological test -- how long can you listen to the noise of seven kittens being strangled before kicking the thing across the room?
From most Hanoi street stalls -- VND 120,000 (US$5.90).
Singapore is a Fine City mug
You've got the T-shirt but nothing beats drinking your morning cuppa out of mug that lists Singapore's many petty regulations.
Commit an act of vandalism and you'll be fined S$5,000 (US$4,036), skateboarding in a non-zoned area will lighten your wallet by S$500 and littering will cost you S$1,000.
While it's not a souvenir that will inspire warm, cozy feelings of your time in the Lion City, it will remind you of what a unique city it is; quirks and all.
S$8.90. Lim's Arts and Craft, 211 Holland Ave #02-01 Holland Rd Shopping Centre, +65 6467 1300
Osama Bin Laden T-shirt
In a capitalistic act of patriotism, a British company zazzle.com.uk has created hundreds of "Osama's Bin Caught" mementos including T-shirts, key chains, buttons, iPad cases, mugs and even baby clothes.
Some would call it insensitive, others call it entrepreneurial, we neutrally declare it quirky.
Basic Tee made from pre-shrunk 100% cotton, £12.50 (US$20.64) per shirt, order online at www.zazzle.co.uk