souvenir cliché

We are beach creatures. We prefer bumming on a sandy shore than climbing a mountain, rappelling down a cliff, storming down the river on a raft or playing rape-the-pond-fairies in god knows what other body of fresh water there is. We crave for the sticky feel of the evaporating salt on our skins and the attenuating sound of waves crashing the shore. We lie down the hammock under the shades of coconut trees and forget about time for a change…

then “PooF!”

Someone softly but rudely interrupts your heavenly time in paradise to sell souvenir key chains. Let’s just call this anticlimactic moment–The Paradisus Interruptus!

We understand that selling crafts and goods to tourist helps the local industry of towns and it has a significant impact to a local economy. But sometimes they can really go a little too creative and in terms of marketing that they come few pushes away to becoming an insurance sales agents. Let’s say you are just starting your well planned summer holidays to Aruba, then the vendors will start stalking you and clinging like a desperate fungal infection. I bet you will try restrain your self from wringing their necks for ruining your ultimate getaway. I personally will uncontrollably go berserk, Hello it’s Aruba, for crying out loud!

Travelers may forget about time but we will never forget one thing–Buying souvenirs! And we noticed that there is a trend and souvenirs items are becoming more and more staple than relevant, they are starting to be generic and cliché. So we listed down the Top Cliché Souvenir Items travelers buy on a beach trip.

Key Chains. Which we recently noticed that it became a cheap pick. Cheap not in a good way. That is because in the recent years, the local vendors started resorting to materials they can purchase by bulk, which apparently all made in (where else?) China. They import them for 10 dollars a sack, paint it with letters spelling Kokomo or Bohol on its surface and VOILA! Key chains costing a dollar each!

Flip Alternative: Instead of Key chains, why not collect something more meaningful? (Monette will kill me because she collects key chains) Bring a vial and scoop a small amount of sand from the beach, I know someone who collected a whole shelf of sands from beaches that he have been to and it looks really good when displayed side by side. 

Beer Shirts. This is the same as buying those “I <3 ______ ” city shirts to display and quietly tell everyone back home that you have been to that place or that you downed a whole case of beer when in fact you only bought one bottle and not even consumed everything. Shirt prices varies and ranges between USD 5 to USD 10 depending on the ripping power of the seller.

Flip Alternative: Why not try going artsy fartsy? Grab a plain tank top or shirt and ask a local friend or those kids playing in the beach to vandalize your tops with colored marker. It would be more creative, fun and I can bet to go commando for a day if you will not have a meaningful time working on this little immersion project. Or if you really want the beer souvenir, score an empty bottle or bottle crown to take home.

Sarong or beach towels. These generic batik sarong are being sold everywhere, from Bali Indonesia all the way across the world to the Cayman Islands. And they all claim to be an authentic local craft. Who are they kidding?  I wouldn’t buy a piece of Sarong in Jamaica unless it has a weave of Bob Marley’s locks in it, or unless I really needed one because I’m stupid enough to go to a beach without any form of mat (Yes, I’m guilty) they were all made in China anyway.

Flip Alternative: A sarong usually costs around USD 10 each. Instead of spending your money for another piece of tasseled cloth, you can go to the local sunday market right outside the touristy town and grab something with cultural significance: like a wayang kulit from Bali, a pair of fisherman’s pants from Koh Phi Phi or a small Aruban painting made by the local artists. You will be surprised that there are places where you can buy these items at unbelievably low prices.   

I’m not saying that something is wrong when one collects key chains, beer shirts or Sarongs. Most, if not all collectors continue-on with their own little tradition because that was what they already started, because it means something to them (because we collect those too. LOL!) But we just noticed that when we started searching for a more meaningful alternatives, we experienced the local culture in a more profound manner. We talked to the locals, we played with the kids on the beach and we understood the places more.

Now as for me, instead of buying those magnets, I’d rather spend it getting a traditional beach massage–the scents of the local extracts and oil, the feel of human touch and techniques, all are unique to a place and it is something that I will remember forever.

PS. After posting this article, a good friend sent me an SMS: “Thank you for bursting my bubble!” and I replied “You sent this to the wrong number girl friend! This is Ron… Not KC Concepcion!”

Do you collect souvenir items?

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  • Micamyx|Senyorita

    December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I collect keychains and ref magnets. I also collect boys. Char lang :))

    I buy and collect Sarongs from time to time (especially when I’m in Mindanao) so I can give it as a present to my mom in the UK 😀

    Wanna go to Aruba too. Parang si Serafina sa Temptation Island lang :))

  • nie

    December 7, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I always try to find a souvenir depicting something that is unique to the place. Napansin ko kasing ang daming binebentang souvenirs na makikita mo din sa ibang places, hehe. Pero kung wala akong mahanap, hindi nalang ako bumbili o di kaya’y ref magnet/tshirt nalang para pasalubong sa pamilya ko. 😀

    And yeah, interacting with the locals leaves a more meaningful and memorable impression about the place compared to any other souvenirs. 😀

  • Jan Ross

    December 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Guilty – I collect fridge magnets and Xmas ornaments but I LOVE them! My tree is really a conversation item. But I absolutely hate people bugging me and trying to sell me something. The worst time was when we went to Isla Mujeres with our snorkeling equipment in net bags – people would just not leave us alone and kept trying to sell us snorkeling tours. We finally had to buy a canvas bag and hide our equipment so we could shop and get lunch. Crazy!

  • Michael Figueiredo

    December 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I always try to bring a little something back with me to remember my trips. Also, since I became an uncle a couple years ago I started bringing back mini snow globes for my nephew too. He has about twelve so far and I can’t wait for him to be old enough to realize that places like Dubrovnik or Venice or Istanbul are REALLY far away!

    Like what Jan wrote above, I like Christmas ornaments from my travels too. Last year I wrote about how to make ornaments out of souvenir keychains. Here’s the link 🙂

  • Eileen/ Possibly Pinay

    December 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I collect fridge magnets too – though as much as possible I have my “magnet buying guide.” My mom’s only guilty of keychains and magnets though, but so much more not included sa list mo. At least our China souvenirs,we’re pretty damn sure they’re made in CHINA!

    Eto na… but I have to say, the vendors in Aruba aren’t *that* aggressive. But they do have crummy generic keychains and magnets – more so in Boracay and Puerto Galera — oh and Pagudpud.

  • gayE @ pinaytraveljunkie

    December 8, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I started collecting spoons. Sometimes, uhm, bruises too.

  • John in France

    December 8, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Selling key chains on the beach – got to make your keep somehow – better than some other options you may have come across over the years!! But as for snow globes – Michael!!!!

  • jenjenk

    December 8, 2011 at 4:12 am

    NO SARONGS??? what am I supposed to wear?? 😉

    i actually buy more food/houseware related stuff nowadays. otherwise, I just rely on my camera to take pictures since my memory is so terrible!!!

  • Angge

    December 8, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I love massages as well. And I had massages in each and every country I’ve been to the past two months. Even in Singapore (haha) while waiting for the bus going to Kuala Lumpur.

    And puwedeng matawa sa KC Concepcion ‘bursting my bubble’ line. hahaha Ang ate mo kasi inignore ang katotohanan tungkol kay Piolo. haha

  • Christian | Lakad Pilipinas

    December 9, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Guilty din ako jan. Pero ref magnet, shirts and Starbucks City Mugs lang hehe. Yoko ng keychain, isa lang susi ko eh (susi lang ng bahay namin hehe).

  • flip'n travels

    December 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

    @Mica… ok fine ikaw na tume-temptation island
    @Nie… hahaha we know what you’re talking about, the surfboard keychains and wood carved fishes. LOL
    @Jan Ross… the xmas tree ornament is a great idea, we might steel that idea from you for next christmas
    @Michael… can you be our uncle too… hahaha i guess you’re too young to be our uncle
    @Eileen… yeah babe, i guess the souvenirs from china are legit china-made. LOL
    @Gay… winner ang spoon collection! pwede rin kiss marks
    @John… yeah key chains i guess is the universal souvenir
    @Jenjenk… (whispering) sometimes not wearing one can lead you to a more exciting souvenir options. *wink
    @Angge… aminin mo, winner si papa piolo na naitago nya ng one year kay are KC
    @Christian… why not, you got a point. hindi rin naman advisable na mag palit ng key chain everyday. no?

  • Karla

    February 16, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Oh dear. Guilty as charged! Hahahaha Our fridge is running out of space from collecting fridge magnets. We are collecting Starbucks mugs (capital cities) however it sucks when you go to a place where Starbucks doesn’t exist like Saigon. And Bangkok is always out of stock! I have also recently re-instated collecting post-cards from places we’ve been to and boarding passes! Hoping one day I can turn it into a srapbook. Though I doubt it will be anytime soon, so for now it’s just a pile of crap in the house.

    I only buy key chains as “pasalubong” since it doesn’t take too much space but not for personal use since I don’t even carry keys!

    As for Ate KC, winner ang Rogue cover nya so I forgive her for being “bulag” sa katotohanan na si kuya ay ate rin pala!

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