For the last 9 months, I’ve spent a lot of time hunkered down over my computer writing and compiling our new book, The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Thailand (link here), and not a lot of time writing new posts or even going on durian adventures! It was a time of reflection, sorting through old material, and realizing just how much we’ve done in the last 2 years (and the scarily large number of durians we’ve eaten!).
Here are 21 experiences that really stand out to me looking back over our travels in Thailand – the amazing adventures, beautiful places, and downright fantastic durians that I would recommend to anyone interested in heading to Thailand for a durian hunt.
2. Eat Durian On The Beach
3. Bring The Durian Into The Ocean
One of my favorite memories is when a group of us brought durian to the beach. It was a hot day, and we felt torn between the cool promise of the turquoise waves and the delicious durians we’d brought with us. That’s when my friend Durian Darrick had the bright idea of bringing the durian into the water. The ocean water gave the creamy pods a salty kick that was unique and zingy, but better yet we laughed the whole time.
4. Share Durian With An Elephant
The Asian elephant is native to Thailand, and visiting an elephant camp is a common activity for normal tourists visiting Thailand. There’s just something about the loveable pachyderms that draws us to them. Besides peanuts and bits of banana, elephants love durian. In the jungle durian forms part of their natural diet. So why not share a durian with them? I got to share this amazing durian with an elephant on Koh Chang.
5. Learn To Harvest Durian
One of the coolest parts about visiting a durian orchard is learning to harvest the durians Thai-style. In Thailand, harvesting durian is a two-person operation. One person stands on a ladder or in the tree, cutting or twisting off nearly ripe durians. The other person stands below with a burlap sack, waiting to whip the cloth upward to catch the plummeting 10 lb spike ball. It takes a bit of bravado, but the adrenaline rush and the final prize are totally worth it.
6. Get Cultured
The most striking feature of Thailand is the ornate temples dotting the landscape. These are everywhere, with their brightly painted, red and gold roofs and flowing dragon motifs. Taking a peak inside a temple is a great way to learn about local religious beliefs and get a better understanding of the Thai perspective.
7. Take The Train
I love taking the train in Thailand. It’s by far the most comfortable
way to travel, and if you’ve ever taken a train in India boy does it
feel posh. If you take the overnight train, attendees make up a bed for
you with clean sheets, pillows, and a blanket. You can close the curtain
and lie back, watching the exotic countryside slide past.
8. Attend A Durian Festival
As the largest producer of durian in the world, Thailand hosts multiple durian festivals every year between April and August. For durian lovers, they’re a heck of a lot of fun. Besides providing the means to pig out on the most fresh, local varieties, you also get to have a truly authentic cultural experience. Attending a durian festival is a great excuse to jump off the beaten path and travel like a
9. Hook Up With Friends Who Love Durian As Much As You Do
More than other countries, Thailand seems to draw a crowd of English-speaking durian fiends. It’s easy to find them – just start hanging around the big durian piles at the market or attend the Chanthaburi Durian Festival. We’ve made so many new friends over a few open durians and punctured fingers, and now every year I look forward to meeting up again for new durian adventures. In my experience, durian always tastes better shared.
10. Find Heaps of Durian in Random Places
The abundance is jaw-dropping. Sometimes the immense, oceanic warehouses of durian stretches beyond our imaginations. This durian stall at a small market near the train station in Saraburi especially impressed me because of the randomness of its location. Saraburi is not a big durian growing region. Where did all those durians come from?
11. Sleep Inside a Giant Durian
unlikely Disneyland-esque resort set uncannily in the middle of
nowhere. – See more at:
This Disney-esque resort is set pretty squarely in the middle of nowhere. Sure, it’s in the major durian growing district of Kanchanaburi, but there’s really nothing else around to draw the normal tourist. Maybe that’s why I loved finding this place so much. The 100 concrete dwellings formed in the shape of fruits is actually set into a real fruit orchard that includes over 100 varieties of durian. The owner hopes to attract horticulturalists and fruit-minded people. It’s basically a resort made for durian lovers. How sweet is that?
Read more about it here.
12. Eat Durian From 100-Year-Old-Trees
Anyone from Malaysia knows a durian from an ancient tree is top-notch stuff. That’s why it’s so exciting to find one growing in Thailand, where they’re considerably more rare. Thai people have been growing durian for generations and, every once in a while, you can find a tree that has been in one family for nearly 200 years. This durian, an unnamed variety from a tree more than 100 years old, was every bit as mouth-numbingly chocolate as any Penang connoisseur could desire.
13. Explore Thailand’s 234 Varieties
Thai durian has an unfair reputation for being overly commercialized. It’s true that only three varieties are commonly grown and known even by Thai people, but Thailand has 234 varieties to taste, ranging from pale cream to golden yellow to deep orange, like the Puangmanee featured above. The fact that these durians are hard to find just adds to the thrill of the hunt.
Start your hunt here.
View the complete list here.
14. Try Durian Som Tam
Som Tam, or pounded salad, is a Thai national dish that only gets better with the addition of durian! The salad is a combination of grated vegetables and fruit, usually green papaya, that is pounded with a mortar and pestle with a spicy, garlic and lime dressing. The durian adds just a hint of sweetness and compliments the garlic nicely.
Find the recipe here.
15. Ogle At $300 Durians
Each of the durians in the picture above costs 10,000 baht, or about $300. They’re the world’s most expensive durians. They’re hard to get a hold of should you even want to shell out the cash, a fruit reserved for Thailand’s elite politicians and movie stars. Like crown jewels and other very expensive things, it can be fun just to catch a glimpse and wonder – is it worth it?
This tasty dessert is common throughout Thailand. It’s basically durian flesh that is stirred over low heat for hours until it congeals into a sweet, dense loaf with a rich, earthy durian flavor that can be even stronger than the real deal. Try it hot off the pan, warm, sticky, and delicious.
Get the recipe here.
17. Visit A Floating Market
Once upon a time, narrow boats loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables roved the canals and rivers throughout Thailand, but especially in Bangkok. These floating markets were the normal way for residents to stock up on staple ingredients and treats. Now they’re more of a tourist gig, but it’s still a unique way to buy some durian. Picture courtesy of Tropical Fruit Hunters
18. Learn to Ride A Motorbike
If you want to get around in rural Thailand, the first step is mastering the motorbike. Personally, I found learning to drive a motorbike terrifying. Maybe because of all the stories my mother told me about people’s skin being shredded off in accidents, I still creep along the outside lane like a blue-haired grandma. But I’m glad I learned to do it – not only is driving a motorbike a totally Thai thing to do, it’s really useful for getting out to the best durian farms.
19. Get A Selfie With a Durian Statue
Who doesn’t want to go home from a great vacation with loads of silly pictures? Durian statues make it easy, because they’re naturally pretty silly. Plus, there are so many opportunities for silly things to do with them. Make some great memories to take home and share the durian love!
20. Look for Other Durian Species
Five or more species of durian are native to Thailand, including this crimson beauty. They’re hard to find, and not even many Thai people know about them, but they’re there – hidden away in national parks and jungles. Some jungle guides know about them, and can take visitors on treks to find them. This is durian hunting for real.
21. Eat This.
If you’re a durian lover, this is your main reason to come to Thailand. I picked this durian up from under the trees near a waterfall on Koh Chang. It was perfectly ripe, the stem still pale and gooey from having just fallen. You can see the black bruising on the flesh where it hit the ground, maybe only moments before I arrived. I couldn’t believe my luck when I fought the thing open and found this super wrinkly delight inside. Each bite was bitter, sticky and rich. It caught in my throat like a good bar of dark chocolate, the flavor lingering around the outside of my tongue with a cool zing like a breath mint. This is the kind of durian that makes you believe in divine creators.