Posted by: Ciaran | November 22, 2009

Reasons to love travelling #7 – Souvenirs

I’m a hoarder by nature, so my drawers and cupboards are full of all sorts of useless old tat – buttons for shirts I’ve long since got rid of, Top Trumps cards I haven’t used since I was 11, that sort of thing.

But when I go on holiday I can legitimately hoard things, and often what looks like nothing to other people has great significance to me: sat in front of me, for example, is a big stone which I am using as a paperweight to keep an unruly pile of receipts in check.  But it’s not just any old stone.  It was a stone I washed Bosante the elephant with in a crocodile-infested river in Nepal in the summer. 

Having a bath with an elephant - out of shot to the left is a crocodile...

I’m probably a bit sentimental with souvenirs, and I do tend to keep nigh-on anything as a reminder or keepsake.  But I love buying things which show the culture of the place I’ve been to, and Nepal was brilliant for that.

Ganesh painting

Above is a painting of the Hindu God Ganesh which I picked up in Pokhara for less than £5.  It is painted onto cloth and the colours and design are stunning.  Held up to the light or placed in a well-lit window, the colours glow and shimmer – it took somebody hours to make, and I feel privileged to own it and be blessed by its ‘good luck’ charm.

Hand-carved wooden face mask

Hanging beneath Ganesh on my wall is this slightly scary face mask which I picked up for the equivalent of about £3.50 in Pokhara.  I particularly like the third eye in the middle of the forehead, which I think is a nod to the wrath of the Hindu God Shiva whose third eye opens to see the evils of the world…

Buddhist prayer wheel

More religious iconography, this time recognising the influence of Tibetan culture into Nepal from the displaced refugees who have set up villages and monasteries throughout the country.  This prayer wheel opens up to reveal Buddhist scriptures and mantras which are chanted as the wheel is spun.

An Indian wall-hanging

To diverge away from Nepal, my greatest souvenir extravagance this summer was the above wall-hanging (£10.50) which I bought in Mandawa in the northwest of India.  According to the vendor, it was hand-stitched by “gypsy women” over a period of several weeks. 

I don’t doubt he was telling the truth, but maybe I do doubt his judgement (or his eyesight).  As I walked into his shop he beamed at me and shouted “James Bond!”



  1. […] already mentioned elephants in a previous post, but I had to ride an elephant into the dense jungle of Chitwan National Park […]

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