The Mad ScrambleStuck for gift ideas? Try these home
and away items on for size

It’s that glorious time of the year again, when you walk into an overly-bedazzled shopping centre and fight through the crowds to pick through clothes and toys that seem identical to the last ones you saw — all set the to the dulcet tones of “Sleigh Bells” in a city that hasn’t seen snow in decades or worse: Mariah Carey carols on a loop.

One of the best things about the Internet is the ability to shop to your own soundtrack without getting elbowed by an aggressive grandmother trying to make a good impression. All that remains is deciding what to get for those most special of someones in your life. You could get books, ties, DVDs or wine (yawn), but you could also try one of these 100 percent Apple-free items this year. Thank us later.

Despite what the aforementioned Apple would have us believe, not everyone wants to spend his or her time at work and at home on a computer. The iPad has had free reign of the tablet market for the last couple of years, but Amazon’s latest Kindle, the Kindle Fire, may be able to chip away at that monopoly. Loaded up with a fast browser and cloud storage, the compact Fire now comes equipped with a full colour touch screen suitable for video viewing as well as audio capabilities. But first and foremost, it’s for book lovers. Some of its options may not be available in Asia (yet), but the Kindle Fire trumps the iPad, the Nook, Sony’s Reader and Kobo for sheer breadth of content. Amazon simply has more for readers, and its recently added Prime membership includes a lending library. For many avid readers nothing will replace paper but for frequent travellers and those of us with space constraints (that means all of us) the Fire/Prime combination is nearly unbeatable.

So you have a “book” and what better place to read than at the spa? New to Hong Kong is Inhalo, a salt therapy “spa” and one of only a handful in Asia. The Eastern European therapy dates back centuries and has been proven beneficial for those suffering from asthma, allergies, emphysema and a host of other respiratory ailments, and salt’s anti-bacterial properties have also worked for acne, eczema and psoriasis. Inhalo uses medical-grade sodium chloride shipped in from Europe, and CEO Omri Shamir is adamant when he states you don’t have to be “sick” to take advantage of the therapy. Inhalo can provide gift certificates for its trial or package sessions for adults and children (the recommended course is 5 to 10), and it also sells a line of salt-based home spa products that can help in maintaining the treatment’s benefits.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Christmas shopping without a video game in the mix. The recent rise of the X-Box Kinect and PlayStation Move have made motion capture game play increasingly common, but have you seen these in action? Position is key and once you’re there, game play often includes mad flailing around the living room like some sort of 1950s B-horror movie monster. It’s not very glamorous. To that end, for racing and racing game aficionados, comes Sideways Driving Club’s collapsible home console. The SDC in Central is where you go to indulge your inner Emerson Fittipaldi on the same simulators elite racecar drivers use for “practise.” But if competing with other drivers at the Chancery Lane club isn’t quite right, the home play console is the answer. This is a long way from Mario Kart.