For travellers short on time, hotel gift shops provide a convenient place to pick up a few presents to take back for friends and family at home. But oftentimes things that you can find in these places aren't very inspiring. Happily though, a number of these outlets have made an effort to move away from the usual offerings and stock their shelves with specially selected items ranging from designer dresses to local crafts.
W Hotel Taipei
Name: W The Store
Concept: Keeping with the hotel’s focus on hip design, the store aims to provide a platform for trendy local designers
Special items: The store sells items by Gallery Chuan, a group of Taiwanese artists producing distinctive modern Asian artwork. At the moment they have small shiny metal sculptures of animals with angular shapes like origami. Also on sale is a selection of the ultra-chic dresses created by the Taiwanese fashion designer Alexander King Chen. Then there are quirky necklaces by Taiwanese brand Library Brass, which use scrunched black cloth instead of chains and have heavy gold blocks as pendants.
Highlight: Small animal sculptures by Taiwanese artist – a set of two costs NT$1,040 to NT$1,080 (US$35-US$36)
Why it’s exceptional: It introduces you to some of the leading lights of the local design scene you probably would not have known otherwise.
Langham Place Hong Kong
Concept: The shop sells merchandise that evokes the hotel’s style-conscious character and the distinctive Hong Kong urban culture of the Mongkok district it’s located in.
Special items: Clothing and household accessories by the fashionable Hong Kong lifestyle brand G.O.D (Goods of Desire) which draws inspiration from the city’s heritage and gives it a modern, cheeky twist. Their T-shirts have slogans in Chinese characters and bold prints drawn from old Hong Kong posters and graphics. Also capturing Hong Kong’s character are scale models of the MTR trains, an icon of urban life in the city. Then there are books about the Hong Kong life, such as Hong Kong Inside/Outside by photographer Michael Wolf, and about designers and artists with Hong Kong connections such as Vivienne Tam.
Highlight: The bold Hong Kong styled G.O.D T-shirts HK$350 (adults) and HK$ 225 (kids)
Why it’s exceptional: This shop is a great place to learn about Hong Kong culture in a nutshell.
Banyan Tree Bangkok
Name: Banyan Tree Gallery
Concept: The gallery sell items evoking the atmosphere of the resort and its locale, with emphasis on showcasing ethnic Thai arts and crafts.
Special items: There are beautiful handbags woven using a traditional technique by members of the ethnic Thai Yuan community, who are part of the Na-Nong Hand-Woven Community Group in the country’s Ratchburi province. Or there is silver jewelry made in the Sukhothai-style, a traditional Thai form. More contemporary are photo frames and magnets handmade by unemployed women living in Bangkok’s slums. Alternatively, there are toiletries infused with the subtle fresh floral fragrance of the Chamanard flower, an exotic indigenous Thai bloom.
Highlight: The hand woven handbags – varying prices depending on the decorative stones used, with one at THB3900 (US$126) and another THB6900 (US$222)
Why it’s exceptional: Shopping here offers a feel-good factor as you are supporting local communities.
Name: Pick N Pay
Concept: The shop sells items made by skilled craftsmen that show aspects of traditional Chinese culture
Special items: For decorating wine bottles, there are small hand-made jackets in brilliantly coloured golden silk embroidered with traditional pictures of swirling dragons and clouds. There are also small bags made from soft silk in rich reds and golds and also finely embroidered. Meanwhile the tea sets feature delicate cups in gleaming white porcelain with beautiful coloured patterns on them, and small elegantly crafted teapots for tea ceremonies.
Highlight: The finely made tea sets
Why it’s exceptional: Rather than mass-produced souvenirs, many products found here are quite pleasing to the eye.
The Westin Beijing Chaoyang
Name: Westin Store
Concept: The store lets you buy the luxurious amenities and furniture that you experience in a Westin hotel room, so you can enjoy them at home
Special items: The store’s superstar product is the Heavenly Bed, which has a specially designed mattress and boasts 10 separate layers to ensure extra comfort. At the hotel’s showroom you can look at the different options for the bed and then order every element of it, including the frame, mattress, quilt, pillows and linen. Available to take away immediately is the luxurious Heavenly Bath Robe, which is made of plush velours with shawl collar and deep side pockets.
Highlight: The Heavenly Bed – A king-size bed including base, mattress and all linen is RMB15,000 (US$2,378)
Why its exceptional: There are not many hotel shops where you can even buy a bed.