Where To Get Durian In Chinatown | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I used to think I didn't like touristy places. They're cheesy. Crowded. Overpriced.

Yet while Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown is always clogged with folks juggling camera lenses and maps to the embarrassment of their husbands (ahem) there's a certain grittiness and unplanned chaos that draws me back again and again.

It's advertised as a great place to bargain hunt, but it's one of the few places I stop hunting. There's durian available here any time of year. It's now one of my favorite places to simply hang out, share some durian with a newbie, and watch the constant flow of humanity.

After all, a big part of being a tourist is taking the time to look around and notice people.

Durio Pinangianus at the World's Longest Tree Top Walk | Kedah, Malaysia

A hundred years ago, a nerdy botanist poking around Penang Island on vacation found a new species of durian that fruited on the trunk and roots of the tree. He named it Durio pinangianus, after where he found it, and then nobody cared.

Maybe there was already so much of the unequivocally delicious kinds of durian on Penang that nobody could be bothered about the island's only native durian, not even the Penang Botanic Garden.  Although we tried, we couldn't find D. pinangianus on Penang Island either.

We found it in Sungai Sedim, a small national park that boasts the world's longest canopy walk, a kilometer long steel bridge suspended 80 feet over the jungle. The irony was that for once, our durian lay on the jungle floor.

Tour of Jelutong Wet Market | Penang, Malaysia

Penang is a foodie's paradise. The island has been listed multiple times as one of Asia's Top 10 Street Food Cities, despite technically not being a city. A large part of that focus on the gourmet goes to its durian, with street stalls selling highly rated and priced durians all over Georgetown.

But while its easy to visit only restaurants and fancy durian stalls during your stay on Penang, it's a great experience to get back to the basics: the traditional wet market.

Freedom Eco-Farm, Organic Durian Orchard | Penang Island, Malaysia

The word organic. As a label it has so much promise, but do we ever really trust it?

There's a lot of "organic" durian in the world, and imagine my fingers cynically making air-quotes when I say that. That's why finding a really organic durian orchard is something to be treasured.

Rob and I were thrilled to visit Freedom Eco-Farm, a durian orchard nestled up against the National Forest in the mountains above Teluk Bahang being run with an eye toward innovation, sustainability, organic principles, and a pure love for the King of Fruit. If you're a nature lover, a hippie, a health freak or you just love eating durian in beautiful places, this is your durian dining haven.

Durian Worms, Organic Solutions, And Lots and Lots Of Frass | Growing Durian

One of the very first durians I ever bought had something wrong with it.

I was in our tiny kitchen in our tiny cottage on a dreary, midwinter day in Oregon. It was so miserably drizzly we'd bought a durian just to cheer ourselves up.

I remember standing tip-toe at the counter in my thick socks, hacking and pushing and generally mangling the half-frozen durian, willing it to open. 

When at last it gave way I let out a little shriek. And not of joy.

Nestled in the soft, gooey folds of my favorite fruit was a giant, voluptuous purple grub. It glowed a deathly magenta, locked in a frozen, arching flail.

Strangely, it was finding that creepy crawler in my durian that got me thinking about actually going to Thailand.

10 Tips To Travel and Eat Loads of Durian On a Small Budget

"It must be nice to be privately wealthy," said the Australian woman on the other end of the phone.

I was calling to interview her about her durian farm, and had just explained that Rob and I really did spend a year in Asia traveling to eat and explore durian.

Her comment made me pause. Was she serious?

I hope not, because that would be a really limiting world perspective. It's true that durian can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn't have to be. And you certainly don't have to be rich (by first world standards) to travel in Southeast Asia.

So here's our tips and tricks to traveling the world on the hunt for good durian, no matter your budget.

*Please remember, all photos published on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Year of the Durian and Lindsay Gasik . If you want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!