Ciao Selects: Favorite products I’ve bought during my travels 焦點嚴選:國外帶回來的好物

Great news! I’ve decided to launch a new series, called “Ciao Selects. “Ciao Selects (or in Chinese: 焦點嚴選) will be a way for me to organize (and share!) all my recommendations across the different lifestyle categories that I’m interested in.

This week, I’ve decided to talk about the best and worst products brought back from my travels. In this context ‘best’ refers to the items that are used most often, and ‘worst’ means rarely or never used, or simply just a waste of money.

Best Products 

1.Hair dryer from Japan           

By far, one of my favorite and most used purchases is the Panasonic Nanoe Hair dryer, that I brought back from Japan.  I use this everyday~ aside from the obvious utility of drying my hair in record time, I’m also reminded of how much fun Laura and I had on this trip three years ago.

You can read more details from the original post here.

2. Aesop hand soap 

I bought this during my trip to Melbourne. I feel so luxurious every time I wash my hands at home right now. The distinctive citrus smell reminds me of spending warm summer evenings in Melbourne, laughing with friends over good food and wine.

3. Kitchen utensils of assorted shapes and sizes

One of my greatest pleasures is visiting kitchen supply stores during my travels. Here are some of my most used tools. The most versatile utensil is the long handled stainless steel spoon that I bought at Jaju, in Seoul. I use this spoon at least once a day~ for either stirring soups, spooning yogurt out of the carton, or for drinking soup.

Left to right: Jar Key (Melbourne), citrus reamer (Hong Kong), fruit fork (Korea), soup spoon (Japan), measuring spoons (USA) , mini rubber spatulas (Germany), rice paddle (Japan), long handled spoon (Korea)

By far the most satisfying items are the soup spoon from Tokyo (which delivers the perfect mouthful of soup) and the Jar Key, which makes me feel like Wonder Woman, because I can pop open the most onerous jars on earth.  (To read more about my kitchenware sleuthing adventures, see here , here and here!)

4. Mugs from special or favorite places

As a kid, I imagined the day that I would have matching mugs… which to me symbolized true adulthood. In reality, my collection consists of mugs that I have slowly collected during my trips. Each is a different size and shape, and perfect for my morning coffee, or a comforting cup of tea.

5. Teas

Speaking of tea, I drink so much tea. I love berry teas and green teas. Some recent favorites are Tazo from the U.S., (I’m a huge fan of the passion flavor)

Other favorites include T2 in Australia (the fruit teas are the best!), English breakfast, extra strong, from Marks and Spencer’s, in Hong Kong, and a supermarket brand of tea from Japan.

I would fly back to Japan to stock up on these two teas shown below, because I haven’t found anything in Taiwan that tastes half as good.

By the way, tea bags are usually a hit as gifts too, they are also light and easy to pack. I usually bring some back for colleagues, and magic them up during long meetings, when everyone welcomes a refreshing and flavorful cup of tea.

6. Tins of assorted shapes and sizes

I’m a complete sucker for cute packaging, and it’s a double thrill when the box can be repurposed. This cute box originally held peppermints from Marks and Spencer, and now it sits on my desk at home and holds my emergency chocolate stash (necessary to cure writer’s block).


My dear friend Iris and family gifted me with this box of macarons during my most recent trip to Hong Kong. The macarons are long gone, but I use the box for pens and pencils.


7. Unique clothing

It seems like everyone in Taipei wears the same clothes from Uniqlo, so I always jump at the chance to buy something more unique when I travel. I fell hard for the “perseverance” print from Australian clothing label Kloke. I love the print so much that I bought the top, skirt and bag. I wear them so much that they have been worth every penny.

Less useful items:

  1. Stainless steel soup strainer, from, Hong Kong. I love the concept of this kitchen tool… but I haven’t used it yet. I love a hearty chicken soup, but if I made something like that in my current apartment, it would make everything smell like soup for days. So this soup strainer will have to wait until I move to a place with better ventilation.

2. As much as it pains me to admit this… these cute bento boxes from Japan are not as useful as I thought. Since they are not completely leak proof, I have to be careful about the types of food I put int them. But I think I can alleviate the problem more in the upcoming season~ I’m sure the containers will be great for fruit or dry snacks.

3. Rice seasoning from Japan. I thought I would be the onigiri champion when I came back from Japan. In reality, I think I’ve only made them twice.  The other times, I’ve just bought them at 7-11 or Family Mart.


4. The banchan plates from my trip to Seoul. I thought I would use them more than I do… if not for sauce, or for corralling earrings or small items. Unfortunately, I usually forget about them! I need to do some rearranging and place them front and center in my kitchen cupboard.

5. Stickers. I’m always tempted by stickers. Especially ones from Japan and Korea. The designs are a bit different than those you find in Taipei and the U.S. In reality, I don’t usually have time to use them. Lately, I’m lucky if I have time to jot things down in a somewhat orderly fashion into my Hobonichi planner, and there is definitely no time leftover for washi tape, or much decorating. So like the banchan plates mentioned above, the stickers get placed lovingly in a designated spot… and then forgotten.

Writing this post helped me assess which of my  overseas purchases have been thoughtful, and incorporated into my everyday life. I hope you have enjoyed the first installment of Ciao Selects. Come back every few weeks for my recommendations for stationery, kitchenware, travel-must-haves, and other lifestyle sundries. Of course, since I am on my 35 day no spend challenge (as mentioned last week) the products I will be writing about are ones that are in current possession and use– no new purchases! Hopefully during this process, I will develop increased appreciation for the items that I have, and not always be chasing after new items.



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