From KK with Love: Top Souvenir Picks

From KK with Love: Top Souvenir Picks

Choosing gifts to bring friends from KK can be complicated. You want something small, but not cheap; easy, but not boring; interesting, but not crazy. Maybe you even want to teach your recipient a bit about KK culture! With all these requirements, and all the choices available, making final decisions can be tricky.

So what’s an American girl to do when visiting her family and friends at home? Durians can’t clear customs, and neither can those adorable hamsters from KK’s Sunday market. In fact, sometimes I forget to buy souvenirs when I’m in KK – now that I live here, it’s easy to take things for granted! As a result, many of my loved ones have received gifts from China (silk robes and slippers) and the Philippines (ridiculously cheap sarongs and beachwear).

But no longer! Here is my list of my favorite gifts to give to friends abroad.


Batik fabrics – as beautiful as they are versatile, these colorful cloths can be used as wall hangings, couch covers, and tablecloths. (In my apartment, I use them for all three!) You can find a variety of colors and patterns in the Sunday Market, usually for around RM15-35, depending on your bargaining skills.

Local jewelry – I am a particularly huge fan of Rungus beaded jewelry. I bought two of these necklaces – one for my mom, and one for me – and we both wear them all the time! I love that this necklace combines traditional Rungus design with muted colors for a look that is original yet understated. But for your kookier friends, these necklaces (bracelets, anklets, etc) come in all kinds of neon shades! I bought these necklaces at Sabahfest for RM18 each (about 6 USD – don’t tell my mom!). More complex designs went for up to RM70.


Knockoff sunglasses – my friends in the US love the realism of the imitation Ray-Bans you can find in Asia (good copies are much harder to come by in the US), so I am often scanning stalls for a particular color or style. Wayfarers are a trendy bet for guys and gals, and you can snag a pair for RM15-20. (When I was in KL, a vendor tried to charge me RM55!! I told him I could get them for RM15 in KK, and he backed down quickly.)

Seashells – I am a sucker for anything nature-related, and seashells are no exception. We may be used to seeing giant pink conchs for sale for just a few ringgit, but Americans will pay a small fortune (20+ USD!) for a pretty shell to put on their bathroom counter. Shells range in price according to size and rarity, but most of mine cost between RM3-15 each at the Sunday Market, a far cry from the prices at home.


Local soaps – again, I am a nature fiend. These clever cleansers are a great way to bring your friends the flavors of Sabah without putting, say, a sea cucumber or a mangosteen in your suitcase. The ingredients aren’t just a gimmick – sea cucumber is supposedly great for your skin! RM15 for three at the Sunday Market.

Kuih cincin – this list wouldn’t be complete without a local snack! While these are a bit hard to avoid crushing in your suitcase, they keep for months and provide your friends with a cookie they won’t find outside of Sabah. This bag of yummy treats was RM5 at Sabahfest.

Domestic gods/goddesses, fashionistas, spa enthusiasts, and gluttons should all be well taken care of when you bring them treats from KK. What are your favorite gifts from KK?

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