An Unintentional Souvenir Collection
Updated: Jul 4
The key card slots in, and the hotel's room door clicks open. The expanse of an unfamiliar room parades itself before me. I haul my luggage to the side and splash myself unto the five-hundred count threads of the sushi-rice-white linens swathing the bedding under me.
And no, I have not broken lockdown. I am at home drinking coffee but perusing memory lane in the direction of the logo on my coffee cup.
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I don't know what, if any, souvenirs anyone else collects on their vacations. But can you honestly look your non-social media follower family and friends in the eye and say you've been on holiday without producing a trinket of a key ring or shot glass of your travels. Likewise, could you look your refrigerator door eye on after a vacation, knowing you'd omitted to return with a souvenir fridge magnet?
I know I couldn't; given the surprising fifteen minutes I'd been travelling, I'd collected sufficient holiday keepsakes to warrant its own car booth sale soon.
A haul of destination fridge magnets so ample they'd reface an American sized fridge freezer. There's the set of Matryoshka dolls that once played on the window sill but, with the room repainted, lay buried in the bottom of a darkened box. And let us not forget the one-of-its-kind harem pants I giddily parted with my bahts for on a harem packed street market in Thailand. Oh, and that one time, my feet burnt holes, pacing the tiles of a bazaar in Istanbul while I contemplated how to ship a mesmerizing Turkish mosaic chandelier back to London without burning holes in my pocket too. There's also my name, framed in Chinese characters; the Vietnamese solo bottle wine holder, a complete six-piece Thai dinner table set and a hoard of shot glasses. The Cambodian shot glass with its gold base is my favourite, by the way.
Still, what is a vacation without the hustle at a souvenir stall, a rummage through local arts or crafts market?
Away from all that, I was subconsciously building up a collection from the chic white-sandalwood scented boutiques of hotels I stayed at.
A collection of hotel mugs.
This porcelain mug from Raffles Singapore is where it all started, and the mug I'm currently drinking from. Love at first sight, they call it, and I wanted it, so I got it. Ever so often, while drinking coffee in this elegantly designed white, gold and black cup, I find myself walking by the matching white, gold, black, and red attired hotel's Sikh doorman and into one of their colonial suites.
You'd be forgiven for savouring an oolong as you sit out on the suite's verandah because this is, after all, the womb that gave birth to the Singapore Sling. So savour one of those while waiting out a sultry Singapore thunderstorm. It's my favourite, my favourite because I'd taken this holiday on realising life as I knew it was about to change.
If I were to sit sufficiently quiet, I'm almost sure I'll recall the white sandalwood scented boutique at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.
A magazine's double-page sprawl of this and another hotel held its own on my memory and jostled for the top spot in my travels.
But call it my lucky day when I walked in ahead of another guest, and these hands clasped the last of this locally made Vietnamese mug. It's become the favourite for a Saturday morning affogato. Its lacquered finish a polished reminder of the room's glossy hardwood floors and Vietnamese silk furnishings.
Take a seat at the alfresco brasserie La Terrasse and, as if on a carousel, watch newlyweds arrive in front of the hotel, take their photos and start their married lives.
It always appears that I am looking at the hotel's gilded facade or its elevators' outer side when looking at this cup. That'd be because the mugs were indeed patterned with the same art deco heritage design greeting you as you enter Claridges. Like his and her bathrobes, wardrobes and double sinks, this stylish mug is available as a set of two (one silver and one gold). For the sophisticated and glamorous couple in you.
It was a stay at Badrutts Palace, a trip to St Moritz in keeping with the glamour and the glitz.
As both hands embrace this mug warmed by the hot coffee it holds, it's as if hugging the memories. The pilot I crossed paths with about to start flying with the airline of his dreams in Hong Kong. The german gent on a weekend break who had us in stitches one morning at breakfast.
Where breakfasts are honoured each morning in Le Relais with a mountainside helping of the Engadins gliding down to the silver-specked lake of St Moritz, this white mug with its gold logo is a little homage to those muted tone rooms and their gold accents. I close my eyes and make-believe I'm sitting on my room's balcony.
Just as The Dorchester has been warming the hearts of its guests for some time now, so have I been warming my coffee and reliving memories with this mug for some time. This classic white mug with its silver-leaved illustrations is sentimental. Sentimental to the night before turning one of those big 'something 0'. Sentimental to that night, walking in off wintry streets, visiting London's top attractions to this iconic residence. Its inside walls licked with sophistication and charm, blissfully removed from the chaos that can be London.
These mugs have now become the soundtrack to beautiful memories created on holidays (seemingly too long ago). Forget about complimentary wifi; the next hotel 'must have' is a branded mug.
Here's to collecting more souvenirs and holiday memories.
What travel treasures do you bring back from your holiday? Do you have a cherished travel memento? What travel keepsake evokes your best memories?