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6 Singapore souvenirs that'll fit in your carry-on
Take home a little piece of the Lion City with these easy-to-pack gifts
For those new to Singapore, it's hard to pinpoint the perfect souvenir. That's why, in the true spirit of Singaporean hospitality, we've taken the hassle of figuring out what to buy for your loved ones and rounded up some of the best suggestions for those who have to do the tourist thing and bring home a little memento of the Lion City.
The Coxford English Dictionary
The self-proclaimed "funniest and most complete guide to Singaporean vernacular English available," the "Coxford Singlish Dictionary" comes from the same folks behind the satirical TalkingCock.com. Get a grip on the slippery creature that is Singlish and impress fellow visitors with your new mastery of the all-powerful "lah." The second edition adds new entries, including plenty of worked examples for the linguistically initiated, such as "gone case" (a lost cause) and "goondu" (twit, moron). It's a hoot trying to use Singlish terms in everyday situations.
Available at all bookstores and most gift shops for S$11.90.
Bee Cheng Hiang barbequed pork slices
"Bah kwa," or dried meat, sounds so bland in its native translation, but for Singaporeans, it's an instant saliva-churning, nose-flaring treat. Not to be confused with the Western version of beef or meat jerky, bah kwa is carefully sliced pork (also available in chicken or beef, although the porcine version is still the best) that's spiced liberally and then barbequed over an open grill. The result is a moist piece of meat heaven, and Bee Cheng Hiang (BCH) is one of the pioneers of the dish. To overcome airport regulations, BCH has a line of pre-packed bah kwa that's vacuum-packed and nicely gift-boxed -- just pop it into hot water or microwave it for a few seconds. It's best warm. Or not. Either way, it's all good, especially with Singapore's food obsession.
Available at all Bee Cheng Hiang stores, including all Changi Airport Terminals. S$30 for a 480gm vacuum-packed gift box. www.bch.com.sg
'Singapore's a Fine City' T-shirt
Yes, Singaporeans have a sense of humor and we can laugh at ourselves. Just check out the massive range of "Singapore's a Fine City" and other funny T-shirts at the tourist haven of Bugis Village. The government might have some regulatory doozies -- the chewing gum ban being the most famous -- but that doesn't stop enterprising vendors from whipping up some catchy slogans. T-shirts are always hot gift and souvenir items -- we confirmed that with anecdotal chats with salespeople at Changi Airport's gift stations -- and "Fine City" is definitely a step up from the "My dumb sister went to Singapore and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" T-shirt.
Available at most gift shops. For the best bargains, head to Bugis Village at Victoria Street, opposite Bugis Junction (or Bugis Station on the MRT line). Prices from S$5 to $15.
Survivor Singapore magnetic bottle opener
Mark Burnett wouldn't be very happy with this blatant use of his "Suvivior" slogan, but "Outshop, Outplay, Outeat" seems pretty apt for what's close to the hearts of Singaporeans, what with food, shopping and late-night partying being national pasttimes. This handy bottle opener is practical yet cheesy, and doubles as a fridge magnet.
S$5.90 from any Singapore gift shop in Changi Airport.
Merlion snow globe paperweight
Snow globes might be incongruous in sunny Singapore, but there really are places you can find snow in Singapore. Besides, there's something just fun about the swirling ball of glitz surrounding the Merlion, the icon and symbol of all things Singapore. Choose from a variety of sizes or just go all-out with the biggest one you can find. You won't be alone -- there's a thriving community of snow globe collectors worldwide.
S$10 onwards at most gift shops.
Pressed orchid flower bookmarks
Born and bred in Singapore, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid flower isn't just the national flower, it's one of the most sought-after blooms among flower lovers. It's no wonder that the Garden City takes such pride in its orchids -- the National Orchid Garden in the Botanic Gardens showcases the largest display of tropical orchids in the world. Take a carefully pressed and preserved orchid flower back in the form of a bookmark, postcard or other display, sans scent, of course.
S$9 and up at most gift shops.