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Season of Gift Giving

8 December 2015

With Christmas knocking on our doors, and New Year just around the bend, this is a time of the year that many are searching far and wide for something special to give to those close to them. While popping into your local department store is always an option, and with the ease of online shopping at its peak, holiday shopping has never been easier. But for all of those who do participate in the yearly games, you know that lines are already growing long and stocks running low. To combat the battlefield that is the holiday rush, we have compiled a list of regional pieces that you can pick up around the globe while on holiday that are sure to leave lasting impressions this holiday season.

BATIK FABRICS AND ART – INDONESIA

One of the cultural centrepieces of this island-nation, the batik process has been a mainstay of Indonesian heritage for centuries. Manifesting in fabrics such as scarves, shirts, and sarongs, and art fixtures that range from massive wall pieces to smaller designs like coasters, table runners and placemats, batik-made gifts are something that one can easily find in Indonesia, but will have trouble running into elsewhere. Typically handmade through a painstaking waxing and dyeing process, these gifts are as personal as you can get, and represent an island of vibrant colour, deep tradition, and varied cultures. The most traditional batik work is found on the island of Java in the small town of Pekalongan on the northern coast, but is also a large draw for those trekking through Yogyakarta – often referred to as the cultural hub of Java, if not Indonesia – on the island’s southern coast. Batik, though, can be found on each island, and for those making their way to Bali, don’t fear as the batik scene has caught on quite fervently in the past few decades on the Island of the Gods. For your best bet, try Kampung Batik Pesindon (a collection of 30 batik sellers) in Pekalongan, Mirota Batik in Yogyakarta, and Widya Batik in Ubud, Bali.

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Batik Balinese beach sarongs have become one of the most popular pieces of batik clothing found on the Island of the Gods. Typically brightly coloured with more modern designs, Bali has combined modern influence to a centuries-old art form.

SILKS AND SUITS – CENTRAL VIETNAM

Step into old quarter Hoi An in central Vietnam and you will find one thing abundantly clear, this enclave of central Vietnamese culture in history is booming yet again, but this time not with the traffic of far-flung traders, but in the textile department. Old quarter is littered with tailors and silk shops that are sure to leave fashionistas busy for days on end, and not just because of the selection, but because of prices that make western outlets look like 5th Avenue in Manhattan by comparison.

Tailor Storefront in Hoi An

Ao Dai (Long Dress) tailor’s storefront on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street is just one of many that populate Hoi An’s lantern-adorned old quarter. With tailors in abundance, shopping around is a task that one may find daunting, but there are several tailors in Hoi An that are fixtures with old quarter regulars. (Photograph courtesy of Giang Nguyen)

Three piece suit? Easy. Wedding gown? Why not. Sweaters, slacks, socks? Yes, yes and yes. Hoi An has got a shop for any wear you could fathom and any silk you could want, but don’t be fooled by the quantity of shops, because the handiwork done here is top-notch, and is sure to impress anyone whom Santa delivers it to. But beware, there are notorious sharks in Hoi An that are sure to prey on those who don’t do their homework. To steer clear and get some of the best work in town, check out A Dong Silk Tailor on Tran Hung Dao street, or Yaly Couture on Nguyen Duy Hieu street.

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Silk is a common purchase for travellers making their way through Hoi An as prices here are reasonably cheaper than those of Western competition. Authentic, high-quality, reasonably-priced, and with a variety of motifs, colours and designs, silk shopping in Hoi An has become a must-do when you visit this central Vietnamese hideaway. (Photograph courtesy of Thanh Ha Nguyen)

FRANKINCENSE – OMAN

The aromatic icon of Oman, and perhaps, the world, frankincense which was once worth more than gold and the cause of much early international trade, has been a scent which has long been ingrained in Middle Eastern culture and can be traced back over 5,000 years. This resin, which is extracted from tree bark and then hardened and sold either in chunks or as oils and perfumes, is best sought after in either Dhofar or Salalah in Oman’s southern region, but is easily obtainable all across the jewel of Arabia (in Muscat, you can’t miss the bevy of shops at the Muttrah Souq) in any number of markets. While it doesn’t carry the same price tag it once did, the aromatic euphoria it delivers hasn’t devalued in the least bit, and it’s something that even the Pope makes sure he keeps stocked on hand in the Vatican. For the best brands, keep an eye open for Al Haramain and Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, which can range in price anywhere from OMR 20 (Omani Rials) up into the prices that once made it the internationally traded prize it was. Additionally, pick up a silver frankincense burner as a nice accompanying piece.

UNESCO Sites | GHM Journeys

A jar of Omani frankincense sits next to a traditional khanjar (dagger). Frankincense is everywhere in Oman, and for good reason, this ancient aromatic was once priced higher than gold, and while the prices have dropped significantly over the years, the aromas that come from this Middle Eastern treasure are still divinely enticing. (Photograph courtesy of Liza Latif-Grosskinsky)

WINE – SWITZERLAND

Traditionally, one would think that chocolates and watches would be the go-to gifts from this small central European country, and they might be right. But this year we want to look at something different that you can bring home from Switzerland that is sure to impress – a bottle of Swiss wine. Not known for its internationally acclaimed wines, we took a wine tour with Adam Graham last month across Switzerland and were introduced to the locally enjoyed burgeoning wine scene in this Alpine wonderland. While very few Swiss wines are exported, those that have found their ways into international competitions and onto international palates have been very favourably received. But in a land where wine receives little recognition, and even less publicity, where is one to seek out the best? Easy. Canton Valais, where whites like Amigne and Dôle Blanche, and reds like Humagne Rouge, Dôle Carminoir, Durize and Eyholzer Roter are sure to caress the palate of any connoisseur.  

Switzerland Hidden Wines | GHM Journeys

Vineyards in Martigny in the Canton Valais are home to some of the best vines in Switzerland. With a low number of wines exported, be sure to pick up a bottle of local Swiss wine when you visit this central European country, preferably from Canton Valais where a range of palates is sure to leave any connoisseur pleased. (Photograph courtesy of Switzerland Tourism)

Note: For enquiries as to where and how to purchase any of these global gifts, please don’t hesitate in contacting respective GHM hotels‘ concierge services for further assistance.

(Featured image: A spread of Batik fabrics show the wide variety of design motifs that are used in this traditional art. Batik, which is a process of waxing and dyeing, is used on a number of products from hanging wall art to the festive shirts that can be seen quite regularly while in Indonesia – Photograph courtesy of Liza Latif-Grosskinsky)

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Season of Gift Giving
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With Christmas knocking on our doors, and New Year just around the bend, this is a time of the year that many are searching far and wide for something special to give to those close to them. While popping into your local department store is always an option, and with the ease of online shopping at its peak, holiday shopping has never been easier.
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