The Geylang Durian district is the most famous of Singapore’s durian stalls, although I don’t know why. Maybe its because the greatest concentration of durian stalls are located here, giving it the nickname “Durian Street.” Or maybe its because its located in the red light district, where everything is a little shady, including the durian deals.
Singaporean forums abound with warnings about buying durian at Geylang. Durian sellers are routinely accused of cheating unwary customers by not telling the price, selling old or bad durians, swapping durians, or selling a bad variety under the name of a good one. With all the hype, Rob and I had to go check it out.
I was too hungry to wait until late in the evening, so we showed up on Sims Avenue early. Like a proper sleaze-town, the action doesn’t really start here until the sun goes down. We enjoyed a few durian from Durian Culture on the corner and waited for more people to arrive while the harsh bright white lights of the durian stalls flicked on down the street.
We went to two other stalls that night. One offered us a Thai durian, telling us it was a Mao Shan Wong. We knew better. The large, rectangular spikes and bright puff of yellow ethylene powder on the stem makes Thai fruit hard not to recognize.
Many people were eating Thai durian. We were surprised. I was under the impression that Singaporeans, like Malaysians, distained eating Thai durian. An investigation into the matter cleared things up right away. I spoke to four people eating Thai durian: a group of Chinese tourists, a Bangledeshi immigrant, a Jakartan businessman, and a westerner. No Singaporeans eating Thai durian!
Geylang seems to be a place where tourists, the uninitiated or desperate go to get a sample of some cheap durian. While we were never cheated, that’s only because we paid attention. I prefer a more relaxing durian scene, where I trust that the vendor wants me to have good durians.