Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five exotic gift ideas for everyone on your list!

For the spa addict: Pure Fiji bath, body, and home products

These locally and sustainably produced goodies come beautifully packaged and in 12 splendid natural scents (I especially love the coconut and frangipani), so you're sure to find one that appeals to any nose! With products ranging from candles and aromatic seashells to sugar scrubs and body butter to facial toners and cleansers, and quite a bit in between (including wonderful gift sets) the hardest choice you'll have to make is which ones NOT to buy! Go ahead and treat yourself to a few presents as well - after all, with all of the good works Pure Fiji does in the local communities (see more on that here), every purchase you make helps make a positive difference in the lives of many lovely Fijian people!
Where to buy: PureFiji.com, plus various boutiques and resorts in Fiji (some of the higher-end resorts even have these as their bathroom amenities!)

For the foodie: Tahitian vanilla beans
There are a ton uses for these gourmet pods, from cooking sweet or savory dishes to flavoring sugar or vodka to scenting body lotions or scrubs, and more! You can buy vanilla beans in the US, but they're often skinny and dried out, not to mention lacking the rich flavor of those grown in the Polynesian soil. For those who prefer their ingredients to be locally sourced, these make a perfect gift!

Where to buy: You'll find the freshest and best choices when purchasing these are Le Marche (daily market) in Papeete, Tahiti or direct from harvesters on the islands of Huahine, Tahaa, and Raiatea. Don't have a trip planned to French Polynesia before Christmas? You can also purchase great quality beans (as well as wonderful vanilla extract, paste and other edible and non-edible products) online through Vanilla From Tahiti. But you really should plan a trip to buy these locally in time for the 2013 holidays; leave a few for Santa (or better yet, bake him some cookies with these flavor-packed beans) and you'll definitely be placed on his lifetime "Nice" list!

For the fashionista - or anyone who loves beautiful things: Thai silk from Jim Thompson
Silk scarves, ties, clothing, bags and accessories, and wonderful children's items are all available in the most gorgeous prints from Jim Thompson (the legendary "Silk King" of Thailand, whose disappearance in 1967 remains a mystery to this day). His legacy still produces some of the highest-quality examples of Thai silk work available. My personal favorites are the proud and handsome silk elephants; 3 of them sit on my bedside table for luck!
Where to buy: The full range is available only at Jim Thompson boutiques and a few other stores in Thailand. You can find some pieces at Asia Store in Manhattan or online, though (Ebay also usually has new pieces). But really, think of this as yet another excuse to plan a trip to Thailand - the amazing shopping is just the tip of the iceberg in this incredible, exotic country!

For the hostess: Ornaments from European Christmas markets
Scattered in towns throughout Europe (especially in Germany and Austria), these fun and festive markets featuring every bit of Christmas decor you can imagine pop up in late November or early December ever year. The stalls sell everything from cheap toys to pricey but beautiful handmade tree decorations, in endless colors, shapes, and materials.

Where to buy: The bad news is, you can really only purchase European Christmas market ornaments from, well, European Christmas markets. The good news is, you can buy many almost identical ornaments just about anywhere else in the world!

For the little ones: Delightful animal stories with an evocative Caribbean flair
Local author Jo-Anne Mason's 3 books (Trixy the Monkey Who Ate Nevis, The Perfect Shell, and Paddy the Goat who Saved Anguilla) are all perfect for the youngsters in your life; charmingly written and illustrated, they capture children's imaginations and even impart some wisdom about the cultures and customs of these beautiful islands! In general, I would recommend them for children age 3 and up, though my 2-year-old godson absolutely adores his copy of "Trixy", and has started saying "don't touch the fruit!" (will make sense once you read the book) in between asking to have it read to him again!
Where to buy: Boutiques on the islands of Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts, and Nevis, as well as Amazon.com

I'd love to hear about your favorite gifts to bring back from travel destinations! Drop me a note in the comments section!

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