Have you ever been searched at the airport and lost valuable items due to an innocent lack of knowledge? Here are a few tips on ‘What Not to Pack’ when you’re filling your suitcase with knick-knacks and thingamajigs from Asia, to make your airport experience run smoothly and save you the heartbreak of losing that super new whatnot you haggled hard for!
A fruit that divides opinion, Durian is a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ snack. The majority of ‘hates’ come from those who cannot accept its pungent smell, often compared to the smell of rotten eggs or fermenting milk. As a result of its offensive aroma, Durian is actually banned on many airlines around Asia, so if you find yourself addicted to the ‘King of Fruits’ while visiting on holiday, don’t be tempted to smuggle it aboard your flight home…small, confined spaces and the smell of Durian don’t mix!
Vietnam’s famous fish sauce ‘nuoc mam’ has also fallen victim to the same fate as Durian, and although it’s a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, you’d better not try taking it out of the country by plane. The incident that sparked the ban occurred back in August 2000 when a bottle of the fermented fish condiment broke during a flight, causing significant distress for travelers aboard the plane. Since then, customs officers have had the sauce on their ‘no-fly’ list, alongside other notable weapons of terrorism, such as guns, explosives, nail clippers and Durian.
Although while visiting certain Buddhist countries you may see the common site of shops and street vendors selling effigies of the Buddhist deity, what they don’t tell you is that while you think such a statue would make a nice souvenir, Buddha images are not meant for décor. Even if your intentions are pure, some take a stern view of tourists taking away these effigies, especially when merely packed away in suitcases next to dirty laundry and sweaty socks, and see this as a fairly big insult to their deity.
If you’re intent on taking a statue home, ensure you follow a few simple rules. Never let the statue drop below your waist while carrying it, don’t cover the statue or put it in a bag, try not to touch its head and don’t place it on the floor.
A no-brainer this one, but we thought we’d add it in just in case you’re planning on making a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun anytime soon and have a penchant for pointy steel. Although many swords are sold purely for decorative purposes, it’s definitely an item you should check-in rather than carry-on – if you can’t take tweezers then deadly swords are surely a no-no. Best to also avoid the novelty umbrellas that look like swords…there have been numerous incidents around the world involving police being called to deal with the innocent look-alikes, such as this one in New Zealand.
Although you may instantly retort that: a) elephants are way too expensive to buy as souvenirs; b) an elephant (even a baby) would put you over the limit with any airline in terms of weight restrictions; not to mention c) it’s a ridiculous idea to purchase a live elephant from a foreign country! What about the warranty?? How would you return it?? – We’re actually talking about ivory.
Thailand is sadly one of the world’s hottest destinations for illegal ivory shipments as it is one of the few nations in the world that permits sales of the brutally sourced material. The archaic laws are there to only allow sales of domesticated elephants, but smugglers have abused this law to their advantage for many years. While it may be legally possible to purchase ivory in Thailand, we agree wholeheartedly with Leonardo Di Caprio, who recently spoke out during the launch of the World Wildlife Federation’s ‘Hands Off My Parts’ campaign.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for souvenirs you can buy while you’re in Asia, check out our previous blog – Gifts Worth Giving From Asia to get some innovative ideas!