|This gorgeous bay is only a short hike from Teluk Bahang.|
Until we reached Teluk Bahang, I thought Georgetown’s sprawl might
extend all the way to Penang’s west coast. The city bus drove under towering seaside hotels, past
malls and markets all the way through Batu Ferringi. This end-of-the-road,
coastal village was different. Teluk Bahang is no backwater – it still has a few tall apartment complexes and its very own 24-hour
Indian restaurant – but it is wooded and relatively quiet.
Tourists venture here to visit the
butterfly and spice gardens as well as the national park. Lindsay and
I came to visit the famous Miss Loh’s Guesthouse, (famous among durian aficionados and fruit fanatics). Our friend Darrick had recommended it, telling us stories of collecting nearly unlimited
durians each morning while staying on the property. In years past this was the norm. Unfortunately for us, the strangely timed rainy
season that has dampened the durian harvest across SE Asia had a
particularly devastating effect on the durian trees in Teluk Bahang.
I was able to spot durians on only one of perhaps 30 trees on Miss Loh’s property.
some of the fruit grown on the property, but Miss Loh’s is also a
working farm. In good years durians are collected and sold. This year
the only crop is coconuts. Two afternoons a week a fellow comes by to
harvest ripe coconuts from the yard. He doesn’t climb the trees or
even a bamboo ladder — he has a helper.
never would have imagined the pair. I
wandered out around the house to the side yard to find the coconut team.
west yard is all about fruit with no frills: a small grove of
bananas, a handful of durian trees, and loads of coconut palms. There I
saw a man under one of the trees holding a wire leash running up to the coconuts where a young short-tailed monkey sat spacing out.
Everything distracted the little guy. He looked toward birds chirping,
cowered a little when scooters pass, and stopped all work when I
approached – moving a little nervously, more curious than scared –
he stared at me like I was the surprise.
monkey’s trainer clapped to get him
back on track. He pointed at the green coconuts, made twisting
motions, and spoke to the animal in a language it probably
understood only slightly better I did, which was not at all. This
monkey was apparently not the fastest learner, but the trainer believed he’d be
tossing down coconuts at a good clip in maybe 3 more months. He
told me that the monkeys are generally smart, some more
but with age all of them become quite adept at raining down coconuts.
The older monkeys employ a number of techniques including twisting,
biting, and kicking. They will even recognize very ripe coconuts and
just shake the whole bunch to drop them with the least effort. Even
without all those tricks, partnering with the young monkey definitely made the job
easier. Safer too — only one coconut whistled by my head while I
watched them work.
|Nearby, a convenient backup durian source.|
A couple coconut trees were short enough that I was able to eat some of my own hard work. As for durian, we were lucky to be there when the precious few fruits fell, and to be able to share them with our
friends Chris, Cameron and Nico. The flavors weren’t exceptional, but the
added joy of finding them under the tree made them exciting snacks. We found the very last durian of the season the evening of Lindsay’s birthday. If only we’d had candles – but she loved it anyway.
Global warming maladies
aside, Miss Loh’s is a wonderful place to stay and was a peaceful
getaway after the bustle of Georgetown. The durian trees, with or without fruit, blanket the yard in a comfortable shade that is
complemented by the ocean breeze. It was a great place to
exercise, relax with friends, and of
course, eat exotic fruit.
cempedaks and new friends. Miss Loh’s is home to a handful of
seasoned expats, some whom have been around for years. When we arrived Ralph greeted us, taking a break from his daily game of
solitaire to give us the tour and show us to our room. Ralph is a
likeable old man who seems happy enough. Whenever we politely asked
about his day or how he was doing, he laughingly replied that it was
“Terrible,” or mustered, “I’m surviving.”
active. One fellow courts Saudi Arabian ladies at the Shangri Lah
Hotel, explaining that this is his retirement plan. Our
neighbor, Kevin, is a devout outdoor enthusiast, regularly hiking 20
km on the nearby jungle trails. He has been living around SE Asia for
the last twenty years and visiting Miss Loh’s for the last six. In a
few weeks he will head to Sumatra when his visa expires.
Lindsay and I are heading out, too. We are now on a mission to track down the legendary elephant drop durian. Our first stop is one of the world’s oldest rainforests, Malaysia’s Taman Negara national park. There we hope to meet knowledgeable Orang Asli tribesmen who can help us track down some of these endangered, durian-loving, wild Malaysian elephants.