As I contemplated the end of the 2016 durian season, I felt the itch to scratch this Melaka durian farm off my list. It’s been on my radar for years because it’s one of the farms closest to a major tourist destination, the city of Melaka.
I love leaving on high notes, finishing all the goals, checking all the lists. It’s like making the bed before you leave home; it feels tidy and satisfying. But sometimes I don’t know when to stop and call it good for the season.
About Sim Koa Yen Durian Farm
I had certain expectations when we set out for Sim Koa Yen Durian Farm.
I’d found them online years before and was immediately impressed. The website has both English and Chinese versions, galleries, a durian menu of 29 varieties, pricing and more, when the majority of durian farms in Malaysia limit their online presence to Facebook.
Sim Koa Yen has Facebook, but they also have a Youtube channel and a Twitter account.
They’re also organic, talk about the environment, and offer facilities for groups as large as 250 people.
That’s pretty progressive, or commercialized, or however you want to think of it.
But if it’s one of the only durian farms near Malacca City, it makes a lot of sense that it’s also a major tourist destination. So when we turned off the highway toward the farm, I had some expectations.
Among the things I did not expect was that Sim Koa Yen doubles as a Buddhist retreat center, replete with a Buddhist temple.
Facilities at Sim Koa Yen Durian Farm
The temple is officially a multi-purpose room, which according to the pamphlet we were given can accommodate 400 people.
As we toured the facilities, Buddhist chanting echoed in the empty hallways and the dozens of toilets and showers.
They were well-prepared for big groups.
No one was there when we visited, the concrete blocks that housed the dormitory empty. The rooms were shut up, the mattresses covered, and the bunk beds pushed into the corners.
There was a sense of desolation, or complete calm. Maybe it was the chanting, or the stillness, or the bare simplicity and cleanliness of the buildings and bathroom (I used one), or just my imagination.
But even though there was no one eating durian in the large covered eating area, each table was set with a flower, as was each table in the smaller, indoor dining area where we sat.
The air-conditioner was turned up so high I felt a bit chilly as we selected one of the pretty tables by the window. I was impressed, because I’d never seen an air-conditioned durian restaurant in Malaysia. It might be the only one.
One other group was leaving as we arrived, and when I checked about my booking, I found out that the other group had taken all our durians with them. Mr. Yap Senior and his helper had totally forgotten about my booking. It turned out later that the son, Mr. Yap Junior, who I’d spoken to on Facebook the day before, expected me to confirm by telephone in the morning before we arrived.
There were still two durians I’d never tasted before, which was exciting news for my checklist.
Cost: 35 RM/kilo
This late-season durian is fairly common in Penang. It was one of the trees chosen by Mr. Yap Senior, back in 1991 when he selected the durian varieties he wanted to plant on the empty, overgrown property he’d just purchased.
D14 is a Thai-style durian, easily recognizable by its big thorns.
D14 has pale white or cream-colored flesh that is really thick. Mr. Yap Sr. recommended we start our durian feast with this one, because it’s mild, sweet, and fatty. It can also be filling and satisfying, and since people are usually hungry when they come to a durian feast (having staved off their appetite in anticipation) it’s good to start with something chunky.
I thought this durian was a little underripe. It was sweet and pasty, sticky in a dry sort of way, and the inner skin close to the seed had a crunch that I found unpleasant.
We didn’t finish eating this D14.
Cibei No. 7
Cost: 35 RM/kilo
Next up we went on to a specialty Melaka durian, the Cibei no. 7. I was pretty excited about this durian. I’ve never seen it anywhere else, but I’d read raving reports that made it sound exceptional.
Both Mr. Yaps likened it to ice cream.
The color was nice, a gentle, comfortable orange blush like the sunrise on Saturdays. The delicacy of color reminded me a little of Ang Bak Kia in Penang.
Unlike the D14, which was dry and underripe, the Cibei was soft to the point of soggy, with beads of perspiration along the shiny skin. It was sweet and pleasant enough, but had the faint metallic-alcohol tang of an old durian. We ate it anyway.
I was thrilled to capture a photo of this one for my growing collection of registered durian varieties in Malaysia. That “D” before the numbers connotes a registration number. There are 134 official durian varieties in Malaysia, and I’m making it my business to catch them all.
It was a huge durian, weighing nearly 3.5 kg by itself.
It was also the most disappointing of all the durians we bought that day. I suspected it had fallen off the tree early, as the flesh was dry.
It was also really fibrous. Again, we didn’t finish this durian, deciding to save our appetites for something better.
Our final durian pick of the day was Musang King. Musang King did not disappoint. It rarely does, which is probably why it’s so popular.
In my notes I wrote, “Musang King — good.” I didn’t elaborate, but I can tell you what qualifies as a good Musang King. It was smooth, without fiber, with the texture of a partially melted marshmallow. It was sweet without being fruity, like a milk chocolate bar.
With this Musang King, we’d had the best durian of the day, and my last Malaysian durian for the 2016 durian season. I’d called it good.
About 1km down the dirt road from the durian farm, there’s a small sign pointing toward Tasik Pesona, a lake.
Since it was still early in the day, Huai Bin and I decided to take a look. We nearly got lost in an oil plantation before we found a small resort on a driveway lined with flowers and variegated shrubs.
The sun was directly overhead and it was hot. The shore was deserted. The lake was empty.
I slipped off my sandals and waded into the warm shallows, feeling the snail shells beneath my bare toes. The only sound was wind over the water.
It was completely, eerily, peaceful, just like the durian farm.
Things to See in Melaka
Of course, I wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity to do a little touristing myself. Clueless and camera happy is my favorite way to be.
When we left the lake, we headed into the city to see what all the fuss is about. Our first stop was the Menara Taming Sari, the Sky Tower, because my friend Liz told me that it seemed lame but was actually pretty cool. It’s an 80 meter revolving platform from which you can see the whole city.
Then we caught the 4pm guided tour of the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum. This was definitely worth being part of the herd. The guide did a good job of helping us understand who lived there, over 100 years ago, and what they might have thought of all the baubles and intricate craftsmanship that went into their home.
I was glad to finally see Sim Koa Yen, especially since it wasn’t what I expected. I like to be surprised.
It was quieter and calmer than I expected. It felt remote, not just from the road or the noise of the touristy city nearby, but from everything, enshrouded in stillness, like if the meditation vibes hung over the farm in a curtain.
The farm is an easy drive from Melaka on mostly paved road, and although the dirt driveway to the farm was a little washed out Huai Bin’s little black car handled it just fine.
I wasn’t very impressed by the durian quality, but I bet that’s my fault. I knew that it was the low season, and when I didn’t call in the morning reconfirm, another group walked out with all the really good durians.
It made me realize too, that if really good durians were something so easy to get, I wouldn’t enjoy them as much. It’s the hunt, and the challenge, that makes durian worth it to me. So I glad Sim Koa Yen wasn’t my high note of the season. It’s just a reason to go back to Malaysia, and look harder.
How to Get to Sim Koa Yen Durian Farm
The farm is located near a small town called Durian Tunggal, about 22km from Melaka City.
From Malacca, take the M19 past Durian Tunggal until you see a sign for Sim Koa Yen on the left. Turn there, and then follow the dirt road for another few kilometers. The road does get pretty rough at points — in fact I had a hard time believing huge tour buses can make it down that road.
Tel: 012-681-6895 / 012-678-6895
Email: [email protected]