Shopping in Asia: Hidden Gems & Unique Souvenirs to Buy Home

Shopping in Asia: Best Hidden Gems & Unique Souvenirs to Bring Home

Find a one-of-a-kind treasure that sparks memories of your travels!

For many travellers, a trip is not complete without taking home a piece of that destination. Souvenirs, beyond being gifts, are tangible reminders of the meaningful connections and wonderful memories of a trip. When shopping in Asia, choosing the perfect souvenir to bring home can be a challenge. Dive into our guide to discovering unique souvenirs and hidden gems while shopping in these Asian countries, ensuring you return home with something that will remind you of the good times! 

Also read: 14 Night Markets in Asia for Street Food and Neon-Lit Views

Shopping in Asia: Unique souvenirs to bring home

1. Japan

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Japan is definitely one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia. Though mostly known for its stunning sceneries and culture, the Land of the Rising Sun might surprise you with its treasure trove of unique souvenirs! Japanese snacks, such as cookies, chocolates, and various confectionery items, are particularly popular among tourists. Hokkaido, renowned for its high-quality dairy products, is especially famous for these treats. Not to mention Japan’s sake and plum wine, which are popular around the world.

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For fans of anime and manga, Japan isn’t just the homeland of your favourite characters, but literally a shopping paradise for your collections! While there are abundance of shops scattered throughout Japan, one of the most prominent place to get your hands on some of exclusive merchandise and rare collectibles is none other than Akihabara, the heart of anime and otaku culture in Tokyo.

However, if you’re looking for a souvenir that embodies Japanese culture as a whole, consider a Kokeshi doll. These traditional dolls, originating from Japan’s Tohoku (Northeastern) region, are characterised by their lack of arms and legs. They have been cherished as children’s toys for over a century and symbolise good fortune and luck!

2. South Korea

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When you think of South Korea, what comes to mind first? Is it the catchy K-pop songs or scenes from your favourite K-dramas? There’s no better place than here for shopping in Asia if you’re looking to get merchandise from your favourite Korean idols. Myeongdong in Seoul is the one of the best spots to score some of these memorable souvenirs, from the latest albums and posters to exclusive brand collaboration goods.

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But did you know that you can also get ginseng, one of the most unique souvenirs from South Korea? Korean ginseng is a world renowned Asian souvenir. The country’s mountainous terrains, soils, and climate make it an ideal place to grow this medicinal treasure that’s been well-loved by locals since ancient times. 

Other than that, South Korean skincare products, known for their high quality and innovative ingredients, are a must-buy for tourists.  From sheet masks to serums, you’ll find a vast array of skincare options at surprisingly affordable prices. Some products even incorporate the benefits of ginseng! 

3. Taiwan

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Ask any locals about recommendations on Taiwanese souvenirs, they would probably recommend sun biscuits, also known as tai yang bing, a sweet, round shaped dessert with flaky crust and maltose filling originated from Taichung. Another famous souvenir is the Dong Ding oolong tea, a classic Taiwanese tea with a grassy and roasted flavour. 

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But having visited Taiwan myself, one thing I was glad that I bought home was none other than the Taiwanese pineapple cakes. These cakes filled with pineapple jam are sweet, fragrant, and soft, with a touch of tang. Like the sun biscuits, they usually come in a beautifully packaged box, making them a perfect souvenir for your loved ones.

And if you’re looking for something even more unique, consider bringing home an automatic umbrella from Taiwan! These umbrellas, with their great quality and convenience, make a special yet practical souvenir!

4. Hong Kong

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When you search for the top souvenirs to buy from Hong Kong, you’ll likely find jade jewellery and mahjong sets at the top of the list. Mahjong, a traditional Chinese tile-based game developed in the 19th century, is still popular today. Another common Asian souvenir from Hong Kong is mooncakes, a type of sweet and savoury pastry with a thick crust, lotus paste filling, and salted egg yolk in the centre.

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While these timeless treasures make good mementoes for your trip in Hong Kong, one unique gem you shouldn’t miss out on is Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. This traditional herbal remedy has been used for decades to soothe coughs and sore throats. Bringing this home as a souvenir for your friends and family will surely surprise them!

Hong Kong is also a haven for photography enthusiasts shopping in Asia. In areas like Sham Shui Po, you’ll discover numerous shops selling CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) digital cameras. These point-and-shoot cameras, which were hugely popular in the 2000s, have made a comeback as a staple of the Y2K trend.

5. China

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What’s a journey shopping in Asia without a stop to China? For decades, China has been renowned as a shopping paradise for budget-friendly goods. Each province in China is known for its unique specialties. For instance, Guangzhou is famous for affordable yet high-quality clothes and handbags, while Chongqing and Chengdu are celebrated for their delicious mala hotpot paste and panda-themed items, respectively.

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But for those seeking a touch of timeless elegance, look no further than China’s traditional silk products. After all, the country is the birthplace of silk, as well as the largest silk producer in the world. Suzhou is the best place to shop for silk products, from colourful fabrics to comfy bedding and accessories. There’s even a Suzhou Silk Museum, where you can delve into the fascinating history of silk making!

6. Thailand

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If you ask for my opinion on the best place for shopping in Asia, Thailand definitely tops the list. The best part about shopping in the Land of Smiles is the combination affordability and excellent quality. This is especially true in its capital Bangkok, where you’ll be dazzled by the many shopping spots, from upscale malls like ICONSIAM and centralwOrld to vibrant night markets like Chatuchak and Jodd Fairs

In recent years, numerous local Thai brands have gained global recognition. For instance, female clothing and accessory brands like Gentlewoman and Mitr, as well as cosmetic brands such as Mistine and THANN have become especially popular within the Asian community.

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In addition to clothes and beauty products, Thailand also captivates tourists with its delectable snacks. From seaweed to roasted peanuts, there’s a plethora of treats to choose from and bring home. Big C Supermarket is one of the top destinations to shop for these scrumptious goodies. 

Another unique Asian souvenir from Thailand is yadom, a classic, refreshing Thai herbal inhaler that helps relieve stress, nasal congestion, and dizziness. Additionally, the iconic Snake Brand Cooling Powder is a must-buy; it eases skin irritation, prickly heat rash, and itching, especially in hot and humid weather.

Also read: Shop ‘Til You Drop in Bangkok: The Ultimate 4-Day Itinerary for Shopaholics

7. Vietnam

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Vietnam, a gorgeous travel destination in Asia, beckons with its rich cultural heritage and vibrant sights. I vividly recall my previous trip to Da Nang, Vietnam, where I didn’t have specific items in mind to purchase, but I returned home with several unique souvenirs that have since become cherished keepsakes. 

Among them, the elegant ao dai dress, a traditional Vietnamese costume for women, stands out. This exquisite attire not only serves as a special memento but also makes a thoughtful and practical gift for female friends or family members. Additionally, non la, the iconic Vietnamese conical hats, also make wonderful gifts to bring home.

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Besides, did you know that Vietnam is arguably the best place for shopping for coffee in Asia? Vietnamese coffee is world-renowned for its intense and rich flavour. If you’ve had the pleasure of trying coffee in Vietnam, it’s hard to resist the urge to bring some coffee beans home!

Also read: What to Buy at Dong Xuan Market: Your Guide to Hanoi’s Shopping Paradise

8. Philippines

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Make the most out of your shopping trip in Asia by visiting the Philippines! You can find tokens of memories, from dried mangos and barako coffee beans and Filipino handicrafts in markets, souvenir shops, and malls throughout the country. 

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If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to bring back some Filipino chocolates! The country’s cacao beans have a distinct earthy flavor, resulting in some of the best quality chocolates. What’s more, known for its scenic beaches and rich marine life, the Philippines is also one of the best places to find the finest South Sea pearls!

9. Malaysia

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As a Malaysian, it’s somewhat challenging for me to recommend the best souvenirs you can buy from here. Nevertheless, tourists typical love Malaysia’s durian and durian-flavoured products, such as freeze-dried durian, durian mochi, and durian dodol. Dodol, a type of sticky and thick candy made of coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour, is a staple Malaysian souvenir. 

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Apart from dodol, another great souvenir is kek lapis, also known as the Sarawak layer cake, originating from Sarawak, East Malaysia. These cakes are typically flavoured with fragrant pandan and come in dazzling colours, designs, and various jams, making them a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the taste buds! 

10. India

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For a truly unique and complete shopping experience in Asia, you can’t miss exploring India‘s vibrant markets. Here, you’ll discover a treasure trove of unique souvenirs, from exquisite handicrafts like brassware and jewellery to intricately designed traditional attire and fragrant essential oils. Explore the bustling local markets and artisan workshops to find timeless gems like the elegant saree dress, aromatic incense, and refreshing essential oils.

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But of course, speaking of souvenirs from India, Indian spices are the epitome of the country’s rich culinary heritage and vibrant culture. Bringing home a selection of aromatic spices not only allows you to recreate the flavours of India in your own kitchen, but also serves as a delightful reminder of your unforgettable journey here!

11. Saudi Arabia

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Located in West Asia and the Middle East, elevate your shopping adventure in Asia with a visit to Saudi Arabia. Here, you’ll find several things that reflect the country’s charm, such as the aromatic oud perfumes, and vibrant handcrafted carpets and textiles that showcase Saudian craftsmanship. If you’re a coffee lover, get your hands on an exquisite, traditional coffee set and make your very own Arabic coffee at home! 

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Other than that, don’t miss out on the ajwa dates and dates flavoured jam! Grown exclusively in Medina, these black dates are soft, chewy, and rich in nutrients, and hold a special place as the “Holy date” in Islamic tradition. Overall, dates is also a staple of the Saudi diet and a symbol of hospitality.

12. Kyrgyzstan

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Nestled at the core of the continent, Central Asia offers diverse and culturally vibrant travel experiences. Kyrgyzstan is among the best shopping spots in Central Asia. The country is best known for its local handmade felt and wool products and crafts, deeply rooted in the nomadic heritage of the Kyrgyz people. From charming dolls and pillowcases to stylish daily wears like bags and shoes, these items made with felt fabrics are distinctive souvenirs to bring back to your homeland. 

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Kyrgyz craftsmanship truly shines in their exquisite traditional rugs, famously called shyrdak. These rugs that boasts colourful hues and intricate patterns, exemplify Kyrgyz artistry. Alongside these rugs, the embroidered skull caps worn by Kyrgyz men, known as kalpaks, are equally unique and fashionable souvenirs to take home.

Also read: Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia: Top Slow Travel Destinations in Asia

So there you have it: a curated selection of hidden gems and mementoes to collect during your shopping escapades in Asia. Which of these Asia souvenirs fascinates you the most? Share with us your thoughts on our Facebook page and follow us for more travel guides worldwide!

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.