Staying overnight in a durian homestay is just about every durian lover’s dream. Just imagine it: sleeping sweetly in the safety of your bed with an evening breeze whispering through the open cracks, listening for the crash an rattle of durians dropping overhead and then waking in the morning to a super strong scent wafting in through the window…is this your dream?
If you don’t own a durian farm, but you have a friend with a durian farm, you might find yourself bugging your friend to let you stay over. Just for one night. Pleeease.
Jenny and Jit Keong Tan (photo below with my friend Richard) happened to inherit an old durian farm from Jit’s grandfather, and finally decided it was better to build a small chalet on the property rather than allowing pestersome friends to pitch a tent in the fall-out zone.
One thing led to another, and fifteen years later they now they run a durian homestay resort.
Nature Fruit Farm is an organic 20-acre durian farm in Kampung Genting, in the southwestern half of Penang Island. Mr. Tan shares 12-acres inherited from Grandpa with his brothers, and farms another 8-acres on his own.
The farm is easily accessible down a winding dirt road. Even my low-rider car, with it’s deflating tires, had no trouble lumping and bumping it’s way to the farm’s gates.
They’re lucky, because they have enough flat, grassy land to build a cute cafe and chalets, while the rest of the property arches up into a steep mountainside. If you’re feeling fit, you can hike through their property all the way to Bukit Genting Hill, 275 meters (900 feet) above sea level.
They’re also lucky, because Jit’s grandfather left them some seriously old durian trees. The property was purchased on August 21, 1941. Jenny still has the property title, written out in an old cursive scrawl from the time of the British colonies. It would have been the end of the durian season, so it’s likely Grandpa Tan planted durian seeds almost immediately. These old trees, somewhere around 80 years old, are Jit and Jenny’s favorites.
They grow all the other Penang varieties to0, like 600, 604, Hor Lor, Red Prawn — “The same, lah, same as everyone,” says Mr. Tan although he admits he thinks their Kacang Hijau is very nice, one of their best varieties.
The durian that makes his eyes light up and get excited are the durians from Grandpa Tan’s trees, “Grapes” and ” Pie Mao Wongsa” (Prince Charming), and “White Horse.” They’re all white-fleshed, sticky, bitter, pungent old things with a surprisingly satisfying heft.
“White Horse” Durian
Take for example, “White Horse.” Nobody’s sure what inspired Grandpa Tan to name this one, but it’s stuck. Maybe it’s the super sticky, dense cream that has a pearly white sheen. Or maybe there was a horse stabled under the tree, like the Goh’s “Goat Pen” durian.
This one had a bitter sweetness to it, like burnt brown sugar and milk chocolate. It reminded me a little of a really good D24. The flavor was strong, but it didn’t kick me in the face with garlic, onions and that weirdly tantalizing grassy, gassy smell of their other durians, but it was actually my favorite that I’ve had from their farm.
Richard and I had to reserve a Grapes durian to get our greedy little hands up in it’s white cream.
As soon as the durian fell, Jenny grabbed it and hid it for us. She knew that if any of her customers, the ones sleeping in the cabin under the 100-foot-tree, got a whiff of this super pungent durian it would be cracked open and slurped in a heart beat.
It fell so hard, this one had ruptured a little, spilling white.
From the aroma, I knew this durian was going to be a hard-core garlic and sugar experience. It was strong, not too sweet, but very smooth and kicky. I was surprised at how fleshy it was. Most non-varietal durians, the really old ones grown from a seed, have just a bit of very flavorful flesh surrounding a large seed.
But Grapes was a hefty one, just as satisfyingly fleshy as any of the local varieties. I guess that, along with it’s strong flavor, is why Grandpa Tan and family loved it so much.
Once upon a time, there was a local grape tree growing under the durian tree, just about where one of the chalets now stands. Jenny says she’s not sure how long ago, because when they inherited the property 25 years ago it was long gone. So she’s not really even sure what kind of tree it one was.
It wasn’t, of course, a grape like we in the West thing of grapes. Those grow on vines. My educated guess is that it was a Bauccarea species, which are known sometimes as Burmese grapes, but have nothing in common with actual grapes.
Today, in place of a mystery-grape tree, Jenny and Jit have built a rustic chalet under the “Grapes” tree for people to sleep and wait for the durians to drop. This one they call the “Malay Chalet.” It currently rents for 398 RM ($99 USD) per night.
It’s their most basic and rustic dwelling of several different small houses on the property, although it’s still air conditioned. All the rooms are air conditioned and set around a grassy lawn interspersed with Frangipanis and small fruit trees. Set far off the road, it’s a quiet, pretty little escape.
They have a lot of different kinds of rooms at all different prices, from just 194RM ($50USD) for a roomfor a couple in the main house to 988RM ($250USD) for a larger dwellingwith several bedrooms. They also offer dormitories for people on more of a budget (although let’s face it, durian doesn’t fit into a normal backpacking budget. More like a flashpacker).
The prices differ between the different kinds of rooms and change every year, so it’s best to check in with Jenny (scroll down for contact info). They’ve generally offered to give all you durian lovers who follow this blog a 10% discount, so just mention Year of the Durian when you make you booking.
I think it would be a great space for a retreat or a durian family reunion.
They’ve also tucked a small cafe into the dark, cool, recess of the main building’s ground floor. The textured cement walls, which Jit marbled with white and black cement, hold out the heat making it a comfortable escape from the intense heat of a Malaysian mid-day.
The couple have really put a lot of thought into the design of the space, with it’s wooden front, plants, and mixture of antique ceramics and modern-day kitchen equipment. They serve some food for guests, but re also open for coffee, tea, a beautiful blue-flower citrus drink, and wine — just in case you want to experiment with durian and alcohol! Just kidding. They would probably prefer that you don’t do that, but if a White Horse durian falls while you’re sipping, you might not have any other choice.
How To Get To Nature Fruit Farm Resort
Nature Fruit Farm Resort is located in Kampung Genting, just south of Balik Pulau, off Hwy6. If you’re driving from Balik Pulau south toward the airport, turn left at Kampung Genting and take an immediate left on the road running parallel to the main road. Follow signs to the Kem PLKN White Resort, and then continue straight. Jenny and Jit have done a good job marking the way with signs for Nature Fruit Farm too.
You can also use the map below to get directions to Nature Fruit Farm Resort.
Malaysia Durian Map
Use this map to navigate to Nature Fruit Farm Resort or lots of other durian homestays around Malaysia.