Sometimes being in the right place just takes a long time. When Kok Chow Hioong purchased the property 28 years ago, she just wanted a little corner of natural paradise for herself. Today, the Kok family has suddenly found their small organic durian orchard, Haw Kee Durian Farm, in the midst of a back-to-nature movement. Eco-resorts are popping up on all sides as city-escapists flock to their district to hike, swim, and get some fresh air. And eat some Negeri Sembilan durian too.
About Pantai, Negeri Sembilan
Pantai is a small district, or mukim, about 20-minute driving from the capital of Negeri Sembilan, Seremban.
It’s a little piece of paradise tucked into the hills just an hour’s drive south of Kuala Lumpur, making it an easy day trip or weekend holiday for those who want to stare out into a rolling green sea of forest and spend time getting their nature fix.
Haw Kee Durian Orchard is right in the thick of it. Just a few miles up the road, there’s the trail head to Gunung Berembun, a narrow jungle trail that climbs 1,000 meters to the mountain’s top and then descends another hour’s walk to the crash site of an old World War II plane. You can read a full how-to-hike-it on this blog.
The area also has plenty of waterfalls for those who just want to chill out.
Eco-tourism is like, the thing here. Since 2009, when the Kok’s neighbor, The Dusun, opened to visitors, many, many small resorts and cabins have opened on high areas overlooking the Mantin Hills.
But these hotels are not for the budget-minded. A single night at The Dusun runs upward of 900 RM ($212 USD), while the Kok’s other neighbor, The Shorea Retreat, starts at 530 RM ($125 USD) per night.
Harry Kok, one of the brothers, drove me into the gated community where most of these Eco Residences are located. I was surprised just how many there are, most of them gated off and unwelcoming to anyone without a reservation. The only one who would let me look around was Cabinz eCottage (above), which had a gorgeous enough view I am considering it for future Durian Tours.
The only rooms I found in the area for less than $100 are on Airbnb (just type Pantai, Negeri Sembilan into the search bar)
About Haw Kee Durian Orchard
In the midst of this upscale nature-glamour, the Koks run one of the most down-to-earth, humble little durian farms.
They’ve only recently opened the 10-acre farm to the public and haven’t invested in comfortable eating patios or even chairs or table for their guests.
Instead, we munched our durian standing around a rickety wooden table in the dappled shade of the trees.
Chow Hioong, now in her 70’s, kept the durian trees already growing on the property and replaced the rubber trees with more durian and odd varieties of fruits, like her super sweet dwarf coconuts and Pisang Embun (Dew bananas).
Her brother, Kok Kin Au, takes care of the durian trees. About 50 of them are old kampung, the others a mix of popular varieties. But he also has 30 trees of his personal favorite, a Durio lowianus hybrid called Red Flower.
He discovered it about 20 years ago when an Orang Asli brought the fruit out from the jungle. He planted the trees out, and felt confident he would have the best durian. But the trees fruit only rarely, making it a real treat if you get to taste a Red Flower.
When I was there, they had four varieties of durian for me: D13, Tawa, Musang King, and Golden Phoenix.
Mr. Kok recommended I start with D13, as it is one of the lighter, sweeter, more floral durians.
It reminded me a lot of Penang durians, with its mildness and brilliant color.
I thought it was a little bit riper than I would prefer it, as it had become soft and smooth and lost some of my favorite durian quality — stickiness.
But Mr. Kok was right to have me taste it before one of his other favorites — Tawa.
D162 — Tawa
Tawa has big green spikes, and as I looked at it from the outside I kept thinking how similar it looked to a Thai Chanee or a D15.
But the difference ended when we opened it up. Inside, the flesh was ivory and firm. I had low expectations until I took a bite and it’s creamy bitterness hit me. It tasted a lot like a Tekkah, one of my all-time favorites.
This was my favorite durian at Haw Kee Durian Farm.
Next, Mr. Kok wanted to open a Musang King for me. Musang King are expensive. I was already kind of full and to be honest — Musang King is not my style. I’m just not a Musang King fan girl.
Maybe it’s my inner rebel bucking whatever is popular. Or maybe Musang King is just too dense and sweet for me.
But whatever my MSK issues, I had to hand it to the Koks — their Musang King is top notch. Maybe one of the best I’ve ever had.
We ended my durian day with a Golden Phoenix, not because I was still hungry — I wasn’t — but because it dropped as we were walking up toward the house and Mr. Kok insisted that it must be tried. Plus, it was so small….surely I had room to try one more petite little durian, right?
I gave in pretty easily. I mean, who can say no to that ↑ ↑ ?
At that point, I’d only had sub-par Golden Phoenix, which quickly loses its stickiness and develops an odd herby, chamomile aroma. This one was amazing. I think the photo says it all.
But just because he could…
One of the brothers whipped out a brix refractometer to measure their durian’s sugar content. This was high tech. I carry the cheaper, optical version in my bag, but durian is too low in water content for me to test it. I’d never been able to use the more accurate, commercial version. They’re expensive — this one goes for $290 USD on Amazon.
This was fun. For reference, sugar is 100% brix. Mangosteens are about 18%. Watermelons, 10%.
Mr. Kok said his kampung durians started at about 20%.
His Musang King averaged 37% (see photo above)
And his Red Flower? The one I didn’t get to taste yet? A whopping 42%. That’s a lot of sugar.
It’s also something to look forward to tasting — the next time I come back to Haw Kee Durian Farm for Negeri Sembilan durian.
Haw Kee Durian Orchard is located in Pantai, Negeri Sembilan, about a 20-minute drive from Seremban.
Contact: Another brother,Harry Kok, speaks English. Call him at +60-012-283-8610
You can use this map to navigate there, or jump to other durian orchards in the area. Every red pin is linked to a blog post to make exploring the durian farms super easy!