Shopping Around the World

Shopping in Malaysia

By Anonymous

East meets West on the South Asian Peninsula where we find the best of both worlds while shopping in Malaysia.

The Shopping experience in Malaysia is as diverse as her people. Chinese, Indian, and Malay ethnic groups shop in Megamalls with fixed price Luxury name brand items as well as in Street Markets and Night markets bargaining for the cheapest price possible. Before you start shopping in Malaysia be sure to get your money changed over to the local currency of Malaysian Ringgit. The currency symbol is RM for these colorful bills and the coins are referred to as sen and based on 100 sen to one Ringgit. This is similar to the US hundred system of 100 cents to one US$ dollar. Ringgit are easily converted from any currency at money changers near to all shopping locations, so one can shop away to your heart’s content.

Some unique items you may want to keep an eye open for as you explore the distinctive shops and markets in Malaysia are : Batik, Wau Kites, Pewter, Saris, sarongs, Chinese Herbs, and Boh Tea.

Batik Boutiques are a great place to buy authentic Batik, but you can also find it in the local markets. Malaysian Batik is a traditional colorful fabric used to create art and make clothing. While shopping you can find some beautiful sarongs, a piece of clothing that is a tubular length of fabric wrapped around the waists and worn by both men and women. You may even be able to create your own Batik. It is basically painting on fabric using wax to draw the design before dying the fabric in repeated waxing and layering of colorful dyes.

An interesting traditional souvenir you want to look for is a miniature Wau Bulan, the Malaysian crescent moon kite. You’ll need to find a miniature one to fit in your suitcase. It is one of Malaysia’s national symbols. It is a handmade kite of bamboo and paper with intricate and ornate designs on the wings. The wingspan on a normal kite is about 2.5 meters with a height of 3.5 meters. These kites are used in competitions and make for a colorful sky if you ever have the opportunity to be on the east coast of Malaysia while they are flying. Be sure to look up!

Malaysia is known for her Royal Selangor pewter. Beautifully crafted pewter goods, from vases and tea canisters to picture frames and various other bric-a-brac. They can all be found in both the official Royal Selangor stores located in Luxury malls, or from vendors at the local street markets where you can bargain for your goods.

Tea is enjoyed by everyone in Malaysia, and the hills of Cameron Highlands is the perfect place to go to enjoy a cup of Boh tea, the Best of the highlands. Tea Plantations have factories that offer tours where you can walk through and see the various stages in the process from tea leaves gathered off the bushes to drying, cutting, and boxing up ready to sell on site. This tea is well known and can be purchased throughout Malaysia in any supermarkets.

Tea drinking is embedded in Chinese culture. China Town has many specialty shops where the art of preparing tea making is performed before your eyes. Harmonious music using the pentatonic scale is played while you sip your tea and shop for your perfect tea. You can also shop for Chinese medicinal herbs in a Traditional Chinese medicine hall and there is usually a Chinese doctor available for consultations.

As you walk through the streets of Little India, your senses are elevated as never before. You see the vibrant colors all around you with saris and Punjabis swaying on doorposts of shops full of curiosities. You hear the blaring of Hindi and Punjabi music coming from all directions, and you may even feel like you are in Bollywood. The fragrant smells of curries and wonderful delicacies cooking will whet your appetite, while the smells of incense burning will remind you of where you are shopping on the South Asian Peninsula Malaysia.

Shopping in Thailand

By Whitney

What is something you can get while shopping in your country that you can’t in the U.S.A?
The best thing we can get in Thailand that you can’t get in the USA is fresh locally grown tropical fruit. Some of our favorites include bananas, mango, jackfruit, starfruit, rambutan, lychee, papaya, and dragonfruit…I could go on and on, there are so many incredible fruits! Also, you can get durian…I’m not exactly a fan… but if you get a chance, google it!

What is the local currency?
Our currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht. About 30 baht is equivalent to 1 USD.

Where is the best place to shop?
The best place to shop really depends on what you are shopping for. If you are looking for items for Thai dishes, just a local street-side market is the cheapest place to go. If you’re shopping for Western foods an import store is where you’d need to go. In our part of Thailand, we don’t have a lot of choices for import grocery stores like bigger cities (i.e. Chiang Mai, Bangkok). Actually, we just have one and it’s called TOPS. It’s my favorite because it’s the most familiar to America! Another great store for food is a place called Makro. We call it the Asian Sam’s Club. You can find several western import foods in bulk, as well as imported fruits/veggies.

Can you negotiate prices?
In the street market, you can definitely negotiate prices, and it would be welcomed! You just say “lot dai mai?” which means “can you discount?” They will respond with yes and how much or say no. Simple as that! In the import/bulk stores prices are set just like the US.

Tips & tricks for people who may be traveling to your country
Most people don’t have kitchens as we know them, a lot of cooking is done outdoors! Some houses and apartments don’t even have kitchens. Eating out is relatively cheap and easy, and for the average person street carts or stalls are a good option for meals! Street food is probably one of the best parts of Thailand!

Shopping in Kenya

By Cheri Thompson

What is something you can get while shopping in your country that you can’t in the U.S.A?
Something we can get while shopping in Kenya that you usually don’t get in the USA are these clay rocks that are sold near the vegetable section.

Pregnant women often have unusual cravings and in Kenya it’s not unusual to crave, and eat soft stones known as “odowa”.

What is the local currency?
The local currency is Shillings. One hundred shillings is equal to around 1 US dollar. I used to shop at open air markets because it was different- but after living in Kitale for so long I prefer to shop at Megacentre.

Where is the best place to shop?
This is a shopping center which is surrounded by a fence. Having lived in Kitale since 1999, most street people and beggars know me. When I go to town I get overwhelmed with the begging. Also, street “hawkers”, people selling fruits and vegetables, will follow me all over town until I buy from them. Therefore, when the Megacentre opened a few years ago, I prefer to shop there. Beggars and hawkers are not allowed to come into the gated shopping area. Megacentre has a grocery store, a drug store, the bank which I use and a very nice restaurant where I can get a coffee.

Can you negotiate prices?
When I buy from the hawkers or from an open air market, I do bargain. But in the modern shopping centre the prices are fixed.

Tips & tricks for people who may be traveling to your country
People traveling to Kenya need to know that you can get wonderful fruits, vegetables, and other great food in Kenya. In Nairobi it is like shopping in the USA. The choices are wonderful and you can get most things. In Kitale, which is in western Kenya we do not get cheeses, meats, and other specialty items which you might be used to. In Nairobi which is very international you can now buy clothes reasonably priced and other items. Prices can be high and most missionaries shop for electronics and clothing in the USA. But, you get most other things here in Kenya.