I’ve just started to realize that travel involves a lot of planning ahead. Silly that I’m just figuring this out three years down the road, right?
Of course just like any traveler we still did the practical pre-trip stuff like buy plane tickets and figure out how to get from A to B (bus? overcrowded minivan? tuk-tuk?)
“The durian doesn’t wait for you. You must wait for the durian.”
|Kuala Terrenganu viewed from Princess Hill (Bukit Puteri)|
Terrenganu holds the mostly-ignored backside of Taman Negara National Park, the largest expanse of wilderness area in Malaysia. Those few tourists who do stumble into the quiet, predominantly Muslim city of Kuala Terrenganu are usually on their way to or from the Perhentian Islands.
I did try to plan our trip, but most of the online resources in English seemed to hyper-focus on those beautiful islands. I’d done my best to contact researchers and nature enthusiasts in the area, but information about our coveted durian was sketchy.
I’d checked with experts at MARDI (Malaysia Agricultural Research Department), read local advice on forums, and trusted the fantastic work of my friend and fellow durian blogger Francis Chung of Durianinfo (horticultural nerds will love his site).
I was so confident in the season that in my first eBook, The Traveler’s Guide to Durian Season, I marked the East Coast as “August.”
So when we headed out on our first durian hunt in Terrenganu after the 7 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur, there was no doubt in my mind that we would find durian. I just wondered what kind.
They were selling a mix of kampung and kahwin durians, which looked like they’d been dragged through hell, or just left jumbled in a truck with other durians for a long time.
They looked old.
I was confused. “We can’t possibly be too early…. right? I said to Rob.
“Maybe they mostly sell durian in the morning here,” he suggested, mostly to make me feel better.
In the morning we got up early to check out the Pasar Besar Kedai Payang, the main produce market in Kuala Terrenganu.
The one durian stall was still there.
I headed inside the market, where a smiling lady in a bright blue headscarf cracked open a slippery fruit with a hard shell and gave it to me to taste.
There were a lot of interesting fruits in the market (post coming soon!).
But no durian.
I wandered through the vegetable section and out into the bright sunlight of the back lot, where a grinning seller dangled the innards of a delicious smelling cempedak at me.
There appeared to really and truly be just the one durian stall.
The One Durian Stall
It was a popular joint. All times of day, from mid-morning to late at night, both locals and tourists (okay fine, only the Asian ones) were gathered in front of the stall.
The durian wasn’t even that good.
It wasn’t terrible. But they were playing the old trick of putting their fleshiest, creamiest, plumpest durian on display.
Even that was a hard sell. The striated flesh alternated between translucent and pale, a sign that it had ripened unevenly.
We bought a few anyway. Desperate times – don’t judge.
The durians had a curious flavor to them that reminded me a lot of Thai durians. The durian seller told us they were from Pahang, but I wondered if it was possible these durians were being cut early and brought in from Thailand, only a 200 km to the North.
Then I definitely saw Thai durians.
A second stall opened up on our last day in Terrenganu selling these Ganyao durians. I was almost tempted, but they looked pretty unripe.
It was disappointing. I also worried that I’d led other durian freaks astray with my eBook, since it was now obvious that August is NOT the durian season in Terrenganu.
But things that don’t turn out the way we want them to often turn out better.
ended up really enjoying Kuala Terrenganu. It’s one of those cities that, on the surface, seems like there’s not much going on. But if you take the time to look around, the beauty is really striking.
The city itself has a unique look influenced by both the airy, geometrical design of Islam and the brashness of modern architecture.
|Crystal Mosque, Kuala Terrenganu|
wasn’t much in the way of durian to pursue, we were able to
really slow down and appreciate all the things to do and see in Kuala Terrenganu.
So Terrenganu wasn’t the durian hunt of my dreams, and a summer of planning and waiting didn’t bag us a new Durio.
I also need to update The Traveler’s Guide To Durian Tourist, and tell everyone that I was wrong. August is not the durian season in Terrenganu. Please don’t go there with expectations!
I’m still glad we had the chance to explore Kuala Terrenganu. Even if there wasn’t much durian, there were a lot of other really cool and unusual fruits (full article and video coming soon!). I’m definitely looking forward to going back next year, when it’s durian season.