Geylang Durian Street is dangerous if you’re a durian lover. It’s especially dangerous if you’re a new durian lover, and obviously not a local Singaporean. It’s here, maybe more than anywhere else in the world, that you’re likely to get duped into buying some seriously bad durian, for the worst price. My Singaporean durian friends usually snicker when I tell them I’m going to buy durian in Geylang.
“Wait, you’re going to Geylang?” They say incredulously. “Why????”
They know it’s a place for suckers to get suckered. They expect me, the author of this durian blog, to know better. There are obviously better choices if you’re after honesty and a peaceful, sit-down-and-savor experience.
But that’s kind of what I like about it.
Somehow, I love Geylang Durian Street. The stretch of durian stalls lining this busy stretch of road are absolutely fascinating. I’m inexplicably drawn to the mischievous dodginess of this old red light district, the hustle and bustle of the crowds flowing into and out of the stalls, and the way the durian vendors and I look each other up and down, them wondering if it’s worth trying to scam this gweiloh and me wondering how they’re going to try to scam me.
So I go back, and back, and back, and after years of being tricked and wasting my Sing dollars on bad durian, I think I’ve finally figured out the Geylang Durian scene.
So here’s how to get good durian and have good time on Sims Avenue.
This Geylang Durian Guide is broken down into three sections:
- What and Where is Geylang Durian Street?
- When to go to Geylang Durian Street
- 9 Common Tricks and Scams
- 8 Durians You’ll Commonly Find
- 9 Geylang Durian Stalls
- Where to Stay near Geylang Durian Street
- How to get to Geylang Durian Street
What is Geylang Durian Street?
Geylang Durian Street is a 400-meter stretch of Sims Avenue with 9 different durian stalls and 9 different durian experiences. It’s a busy, dusty two-way road running east-to-west through the Geylang neighborhood in Central Singapore, just on the other side of the Kallang River from Singapore’s commercial district and famous tourist sites like Gardens by the Bay and Little India. It’s an easy walk; I’ve done it many times.
It’s the most famous place in Singapore to eat durian.
It’s also still considered Singapore’s red light district, a place where even Singapore’s strict rules and regulations are nudged aside for a little vice. Everybody gets a mischievous little smirk when they talk about Geylang. Say it out loud yourself. Don’t you feel a little naughty already? Ready for durian?
Some of the Geylang durian stalls have a real reputation for ripping people off and appear to be run by real-life gangs.
Others are honest and serve good durian.
As a visitor, how are you ever to know the difference?
Some Background History Stuff
Part of the problem is that you, as well as everybody else going to eat durian in Geylang, are likely fresh-faced n00bies just asking to be scammed. Why else would you be on Geylang, instead of at the Durian Story or Durian Garden or Ah Seng or Durian Tree or any of the more reputable shops?
Part of what makes Geylang edgy is that it was founded as a place for immigrants, fresh off the boat, to get settled in Singapore. People from all different regions of China and India passed through Geylang, bringing with them their own culture, food, and religious practices.
If you take a few minutes to walk around Geylang, you’ll notice that it’s bursting with cultural diversity. The highest concentration of temples in Singapore is here, according to this great video,and Geylang is also getting trendy for food adventurers.
It’s also still a popular place for immigrants on a work visa from China to come eat durian. So when you go to eat durian in Geylang, you’re likely knocking elbows with a bunch of people who aren’t local Singaporeans and who also don’t know how to protect themselves from buying bad durian.
So let’s focus on making sure you have a good durian-buying experience in Geylang, and let other websites like geylangredlightdistrict.com (real site) explain the dodginess.
When to go to Geylang Durian Street
Part of what keeps Geylang going is that it’s reliable. You can find durian here any day of the year, at any time of day. But for the best experience and the best chance to get some actually good durian, you do need to time your trip.
Go for durian when it’s the main Malaysian durian season, usually between June-August or November-January. Nowadays there are micro-seasons all year, so you can still find durian, but the quality may be low and the price may be high.
Time your visit to Geylang for the late afternoon to make sure you are getting fresh durians and not yesterday’s leftovers. Durians from the state of Johor arrive first, around 2 pm, while durians from Pahang typically don’t arrive until after 5 pm. This means you should time your visit depending on the variety your are hunting.
If you want D13, come around 3pm when the durians have just arrived from Johor.
9 Durian Tips and Tricks to Avoiding Being Scammed on Geylang Durian Street
Think of it as a game. The durian vendor sizes you up. He wonders if he can make extra profit off you. You wonder if you can get a sweet deal and some sweeter durian. Then it’s time to pick the durian.
Follow these tips and guides and you’ll come out ahead, or at least with something tasty.
Use the Guides and pricing suggestions below ↓ ↓ to be able to recognize the varieties and not overpay.
#1: Know your durian varieties
The most common deception you’ll suffer is that you will buy (and pay for) a durian that has been mislabeled. I see it all the time with Thai durians that are labeled “Musang King,” — one of the most expensive varieties– or D13 that is labeled “Black Thorn.”
Sometimes this mix-up is purposeful, and sometimes it’s not. Some of the durian sellers, especially the younger ones, are not that experienced with durian. They may have never seen a durian tree and have no idea what they’re selling. For them, it’s an after-school job like scooping ice cream or manning the cashier of a 7-11. So don’t be too super hard on the seller, but also don’t buy a durian you know is priced incorrectly. Take responsibility for knowing your durian yourself.
On my last trip, I found it really handy to keep my own guidebook, The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang, in my purse so I could whip it out and show the vendor pictures of what different durian varieties should look like. It turned out one of the sellers thought he was selling Black Thorn, but had been cheated by his own supplier. I wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Conclusion: Educate yourself and don’t rely on the durian seller. Use resources on this website or on other awesome blogs like I eat I shoot I post to learn how to identify different durian varieties.
#2: Don’t buy durian “varieties” that are all actually the same durian
Selling different “grades” of durian supposedly based on quality is becoming increasingly common in Singapore. It’s most often found with durians that used to be expensive, like Musang King, which are now so over-produced both the price and the quality are decreasing.
In Singapore you’ll find Musang King with all kinds of names, like “Black Gold” or “King of Kings” or the “Super Excellent Emperor of Kings” or other rubbish. Sometimes, King of Kings will be more expensive than Musang King. Sometimes it will be less expensive than Musang King. The grading is not standardized across all stalls, so it depends on the day and the seller.
If you’re buying from a really reputable seller, sometimes it is worth paying a bit more for a better grade with a special name. But in the name of honesty, a reputable durian seller will explain that it’s just Musang King. And since this is Geylang we’re talking about, the likelihood of the durian seller being reputable is unlikely.
Conclusion: Don’t pay extra for durians with weird names.
#3: Be clear about the price before opening any durians
There’s a few great, cringe-y stories of poor innocent souls who lost their wallets to their durian appetite on Geylang Durian Street.
Sure, there’s an old saying about how people used to sell their only item of clothing — the sarong– for a durian, but sarongs don’t cost $600 Sing dollars. Perhaps one of the most famous examples was this unfortunate couple who thought the durian seller was kidding when he told them the cost of their durian was $600. Nope. He was not kidding.
Sometimes, a durian seller will act really friendly, but also in a rush. He’ll suggest a durian variety, and before you can say yay nor nay he’s already given two quick chops and twisted it open. It can happen alarmingly fast. If he claims the durian is now yours, just cuz it’s open (which if you didn’t agree to it, shouldn’t be the case), you might have a situation on your hands.
Conclusion: Always get the price per kg and total price of each durian before any durians are open. or preferably even picked out.
#4: Avoid durians with trimmed-up stems
Picking out a candidate for a good durian with a glance depends on you being able to see the intact stem.
Is the stem dried out and old? Is it fresh and plump? Just seeing how much oxidation has taken place gives you an idea of how long that durian has been off the tree. And if there’s any yellow dust on the stem, you can bet it came from Thailand.
So sometimes vendors will manipulate what the stem looks like. Either they’ll chop it off entirely, or whittle the oxidized brown parts away to reveal more green and make the durian look fresher. If the durian seller is doing this, it’s a clear sign that he’s not honest and your money is more safely spent elsewhere.
Conclusion: Avoid stalls completely where the durians have old, dried up stems or the seller is obviously messing with them.
#5. Avoid durians with yellow powder on the stems
Geylang stalls provide durian all year round, whether it’s the season or not. This means that they source from all over Malaysia and Thailand. Sometimes, they sell durian that has been artificially ripened using a chemical called etephon. You can tell if Etephon has been used because the durian stems will be painted with a yellow substance.
Durians ripened with Etephon usually don’t have the same pungent bitterness as a tree-ripened fruit, and often the texture will be uneven. In my mouth, Etephon also imparts a strange flavor that I don’t care for.
You’ll normally find these artificially-ripened durians in abundance during the off-season, so the prices will be higher. You’ll end up paying more for something that’s only so-so delicious.
Conclusion: Yellow paint on the stems is a Do-Not-Buy.
#6. Examine the durian for damage in your own hands
Durian sellers often cradle the durian in the palm of their massive glove. It looks really cool and casual, like “oh hey, I just throw around giant spike-balls all day for a job.”
Except that what they’re really doing might be hiding signs of damage or over-ripeness. I’ve bought durians on Geylang with worm holes and fungal soft-spots that we didn’t notice until after we’d tasted it and the durian was officially ours and non-returnable or exchangeable.
Conclusion: Watch out for worm-holes, fungus, or other signs of damage that can be easily hidden with a glove.
#7. Don’t agree to buy the durian until you’ve tasted it
When buying a durian in Singapore, the durian seller will twist it open and hold it for you to examine it’s luscious insides. You can often visually see if it’s any good, but you’re also allowed to reach in and take a very small pinch between your forefinger and thumb. DO NOT TAKE THE WHOLE SEED, or that durian is yours.
If the durian’s taste is not to your liking, you can ask the vendor to pick out another one. Try to be helpful and give feedback about what you liked or didn’t like. If the seller has any skill, he’ll pick you out one that is more to your liking.
Remember that once you say you like it, that durian and its consequences are yours.
Conclusion: Make sure to examine the whole durian yourself, turning it to all sides, before agreeing to buying it.
#8: Watch the durian being weighed with your own eyeballs
Yes, scales in Singapore have to be carefully measured and registered, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter a scale that has been outright rigged to the wrong weight (like in the Philippines).
But who’s to say if a durian seller fudges the numbers a little when he writes down your total kilos? Just 0.1 or 0.2kg can change the price of your durian by $4 or 5 Sing dollars. So when you want to get another durian, get up from your table and be an active participant in the selecting process.
Conclusion: Watch when your durian is being weighed and agree on the weight before the seller writes it down.
#9: Don’t buy boxed durian
The cheapest way to eat a lot of durian is to buy the pre-packed boxes or styrofoam containers all beautifully laid out on tables and often blatantly mislabeled by variety. It’s also a nearly sure-fire way to get durian that is too soft, soupy, sour, bubbly, stinky, and just not that really delicious.
Remember that durian already has a long journey from the farms in Malaysia to Singapore. Sometimes it has to stay overnight in a distribution center before arriving on the display tables on Sims Avenue. Yes, Singaporeans have developed a palate for more ripe durians, but still, you’re pushing your luck with the boxed stuff. Since you can’t look at the outside of the durian, there’s no way to tell without taking a bite whether it was fresh or whether the seller was trying to get rid of old stock.
They’re not always getting rid of their old durians this way, and it’s not always a scam. Durian sellers sometimes get too much of one variety, and it sells faster if people can just nab a good-smelling box on their way home from the office. But since this is Geylang, don’t push your luck.
Conclusion: Unless you see the durian seller boxing good quality durian, buy whole fruits.
8 Durians You’ll Frequently Find on Geylang Durian Street
Singapore is close to the Malaysian state of Johor, so mostly you’ll find Johor varieties. But Singapore also draws durians from a lot of different places, and likes to give them new and unrecognizable names.
Note that while I saw many durians labeled “Black Thorn,” I have yet to actually see a real one in Singapore. Black Thorn is from the state of Penang, and you can read it’s full story here: The Whole Black Thorn Story
- Thai Durians
- Mao Shan Wong aka Musang King
- D24/ Sultan
- Red Prawn
- Golden Phoenix
- Black Pearl
- Random Kampungs
Thai Durian Varieties
There’s a surprising amount of Thai durian sold on Geylang Durian Street. I’ve see it most commonly in September to November and January to April, when neighboring Malaysia experiences a lull in the durian season, but I’ve seen it even during the peak season and scratched my head. Why is it there?
There are two common Thai varieties: Chanee and Kradumthong. Chanee is more common because of it’s bitter flavor and dark yellow flesh. It’s big blocky green spikes and pear-shape also makes it look a bit like an oversized Musang King to the untrained eye, which the seller is hoping you have. Watch out for these and don’t pay MSK prices for a cheap Chanee.
Here’s a guide to recognizing Thai durian when it’s sold among Malaysia durians.
Mao Shan Wong, Musang King, MSK, or Cat Mountain King
Musang King is by far the most common and popular durian sold in Singapore. It goes by a different name in Singapore than in Malaysia, or “Mao Shan Wong.”
Singaporeans also like to differentiate different grades of Musang King by giving them different names, like “King of Kings” or “Cat Mountain King”. These may or may not be better than regular Musang King. It’s up to the honesty of the seller, which in Geylang is not something you should rely on.
Just get a regular Musang King here and save the specialties for other, more reputable stalls.
Old reliable D24 has waned in popularity in Singapore compared to other varieties, in part because it doesn’t seem to grow well in the Malaysian state that borders Singapore – Johor. When you do find good D24, it likely came from the state of Pahang, which has a slightly later season. So wait to eat D24 until nearly the end of the season for best quality. The prices should be pretty low compared to other varieties.
This early to mid-season variety originates from Johor and is plentiful and relatively cheap in the right season. It has a beautiful sunset-orange flesh that makes it close to irresistible. Apparently, vendors in Geylang Durian Street are unable to resist renaming it as other durians.
Because of it’s orange color, D13 is often renamed as Black Thorn or Red Prawn. In fact, several vendors insisted that D13 is the same variety as Red Prawn, while others said it was Johor Red Prawn. But in reality, Red Prawn is a completely different durian.
This is no reason to avoid D13. It’s a lovely, sweet, berries-with-a-coffee-creamer- finish durian, but don’t pay the price of a Red Prawn.
Originally called Johor Mas, D101 is a beautiful orangey-gold durian with tinges of salmon-pink. It runs the gamut in flavor from starchy and strawberry sweet when slightly underripe or from a young tree, to beautiful smooth coffee-berry liqueur when fresh, perfectly ripe and from an old tree. This one appreciates a little extra time off the tree, so is actually improved by the transit time to from the farm to Singapore.
It’s difficult to go wrong with this one as long as the seed sounds pretty loose inside when you shake it. It’s also one that you can usually buy from the cheap pile and be happy with.
Red Prawn (D175) originates in Penang, too far away to reliably source Penang-grown Red Prawn. But Johor-grown Red Prawn are easy to find.
You’ll notice, if you’re a Red Prawn fan, that Johor-grown Red Prawn looks different than Penang-grown Red Prawn. It has a greener husk, larger thorns, and a more yellow-salmon flesh. It’s still a true-Red Prawn, it’s just been affected by the low-elevation terroir of Johor.
Be on the look-out for true Red Prawn, rather than “Singapore Red Prawn” which is really D13.
Another Johor-specialty, Golden Phoenix is a petite little durian with a dense ivory flesh that looks a lot like cream cheese. It tiny, shriveled seeds and a peculiar herbal flavor.
It’s fairly common on Geylang Durian Street, but finding a good one is not that common. Golden Phoenix needs to be pretty fresh to retain any bitterness, or it quickly turns to an off-alcohol sweetness.
Black Pearl is relatively rare in Singapore. I’ve only tried it a few times, but it’s definitely one worth seeking out. It has tiny shriveled seeds, giving it a heft that fills your mouth despite it’s relatively small size. It has a beautiful herby flavor that tinges on bitterness, without being too “oompy.”
I’m definitely going to be looking for this one again my next trip to Singapore.
The cheapest durian in Geylang will be the unnamed ones, sold from big jumbled piles for 3 fruits for $10. This the Russian roulet of durian. You never know when you’re going to get a bullseye, but the possibility is
In my experience, I have never had a good quality kampung durian in Geylang. They’re there to attract the cheap durian lover, who just wants quantity over quality or who has never had a seriously good durian.
Sure, they’re cheap, but in my personal opinion they are generally a waste of money better spent on a more reliable variety. Unless of you find something interesting, like the nearly thornless durian we found in a kampung pile at Delightful Fruit Trading.
FYI, it didn’t taste good and we ended up throwing it away. But we’re durian snobs and a bit spoiled. Who knows; maybe it would have been your favorite durian ever.
8 Durian Stalls On Geylang Durian Street
In July, 2018, I decided to take a durian hop down Geylang Durian Street with my friends Richard, Nick, and Jenny. Between our four stomachs, we figured we had the capacity to take on all 8 of the durian stalls on Sims Avenue and try a durian at each one.
I’d been coming to Geylang for years, but had never done a direct compare-and-contrast between all of the Geylang Durian stalls on one day. Sometimes I would be in Singapore during a bad season, or during the off-season, and would go t0 Geylang when it wasn’t really fair to be judging the fruits.
I wondered if there would be big differences in the quality of the durian and the experience on a single day. After all, July was the peak season. Everybody should have had plentiful, cheap durians.
Please do comment ↓↓ below to share your experience at these stalls or notify us durian munchers if anything changes.
All prices are given in Singapore dollars (SGD).
So starting off on the durian crawl:
Durian Culture or Chin Yong Fruit Trading
What we ate:
- “Super King” aka Musang King — $15/kg
- D13 ($15/kg)
- Chiu Chi – $8 per box
Total: $36 SGD
We decided to walk to Sims Avenue to earn our durian feast, and were relieved when this corner shop heralded the end of our long sojourn through the concrete jungle. We’d made it to Geylang Durian Street!
Durian stretches along this whole first block in a long building that alternates between durian showcases and seating areas with red tables. It looks like a bunch of small, individual durian shops sharing space, but it’s actually one megalithic durian stall owned by two brothers, Lim Chin Yong and his younger brother, Lim Chin Kean (that’s him ↓↓)
Durian Culture is one of the oldest and most successful durian establishments in Singapore. The brothers started with a wholesale durian delivery business in 1969, supplying durian to supermarkets and other durian stalls. Around the time I was born (Mr. Lim couldn’t remember the date) they opened the Geylang outlet. They now have a second branch in Upper Serangoon too, but they still do home deliveries if you order more than $200 SGD of durian.
I’ve noticed the prices here are slightly higher than you’ll find elsewhere on Geylang, but I’ve also notice that they sell higher quality durian. I’ve never seen sliced-off or mangled stems, and the durians all seem fresh. They’ve never tried to cheat me and I’ve never been served a bad durian, but that might be in part because I make my preferences very clear, admittedly a struggle with the language barrier.
Maybe more so than other stalls, the sellers here seem shy about speaking English. It’s sometimes difficult to get the seller’s attention and confirm that you are in the line-up for buying durian and not just there to gawk and snap selfies.
I feel like this is one of the better stalls on Geylang Durian Street, and a place to visit if it is your first time eating durian.
Delight Fruits and Ah Hung D24 Sultan Durian
What we ate:
- Weird-looking Kampung, $3 SGD per piece
- Total: $3
Continuing east along Sims Avenue from Durian Culture, you’ll next come to a busy hub of durian action in the alley between two individual stalls. On the left is Delight Fruit Trading on the right Ah Hung D24 Sultan Durian.
The two stalls seem like mirror images of each other. When I first started coming here, I thought they were the same stall until I tried to join friends sitting at Delight Fruit Trading with a durian from Ah Hung and got barked at in an intimidating Mandarin-Singlish. Chinese can sound so scary, but no one was actually mad.
In fact, the sellers here are some of the friendliest on Geylang. No matter how crazy crowded it gets (and you’ll never eat durian alone here, no matter the time of day), they always seem in good mood, jokingly competing with the other stall by calling each other names, pretend-fighting over potential customers, and taking time to chat with durian-curious foreigners like me. It’s a comfortable vibe.
But the crowding is real. I usually choose which of the two stalls to patronize just based on which one has a free table.
I think they’re popular in part because they offer some of the lowest prices in Geylang. Each has giant pile of low-priced kampung durian that you can sort through and buy per piece, as well as a discount pick-of-the-season pile up front. They obviously compete with each other for prices.
That said, I’ve never eaten a truly delicious durian at either stall. The quality has always been just fine — nothing to really complain about, but nothing that makes me want to dump my last Sing coins on the table and beg for scraps.
When my parents came to visit in April, 2017, we went to Ah Hung just because of there was a table available. They were visiting at an awkward time (April), so the pickings were slim and expensive.
We chose the best we could, but even so the durians hadn’t ripened properly and were nearly flavorless. My newly durian-converted parents did not like them. They almost became unconverted in a single durian-eating-session, which was kind of upsetting.
“Maybe I don’t like durian as much as I remember,” my Dad said. I did a double take, and insisted we go somewhere else with better quality.
Come here if you want cheap prices and are not too picky about bitterness and complexity. Don’t come here if you’ve never tasted durian before and are not sure if you’ll like it. You probably won’t.
Conclusion: Nice sellers, good prices, average durian
Tel: +65 9182 9940
85 Sims Avenue
Ah Hung D24
109 Sims Avenue
What we ate:
- Golden Phoenix, $10/kg
- Total: $11
“This wasn’t here last time,” I said, blinking as we stopped in the dusty lot of the Shi Cheng Temple to survey the yellow signs.
According to the seller, Peng, My Durian had been open just 7 days when wandered our way down Geylang Street hunting for something better than the Kampung we’d just eaten at Delight Fruit.
The shop was small and quiet, with just one other customer munching away at a table next to the concrete wall. It felt considerably cooler inside under the fans than out on the hot street, so we stepped inside to see what we could find.
I was immediately unimpressed.
The durian stems looked old, and many of them had been sliced and diced to hide the browning oxidation.
When I went to the bathroom in the back, I passed an old fish-tank full of already opened Musang King durians that had apparently been discarded. I wasn’t sure what to think of that.
They did have some durians that were unavailable at the other stalls, including a Golden Phoenix, which my friends hadn’t tried yet. So because it was hot and we hadn’t yet given My Durian a chance, we ordered one Golden Phoenix. Golden Phoenix is always a small durian; things couldn’t go too wrong.
Peng selected a Golden Phoenix for us and anxiously hovered around while we gave it try. Unfortunately, it was the worst kind of Golden Phoenix — flowery sweet, a little watery, and a little stringy.
It wasn’t peak Golden Phoenix season, but it seemed like this was the best option available, which was just sad. It was their very first week open, so I’d be curious to go back and see if the quality of their stock has improved.
Conclusion: Nice seller, comfortable seating, bad durian
65 Sims Avenue
What we ate:
- We didn’t. Read on
After our disappointing Golden Phoenix, we were ready to eat something tasty. The boys were really, really hoping for Black Pearl, but I warned them that we needed to be careful at this next stall. Wonderful Fruits has a not-so-wonderful reputation.
It’s also one of my favorites to visit, because every experience I’ve ever had at Wonderful Fruits has been super sketchy and weird. Of all the Geylang Durian Stalls, this is the one that will make you feel like you’ve hit the red-light mafia district. It’s so interesting.
We were met at the entrance by large man with huge hands. He told us his name was “Baby” and invited us in to buy some durian. He looked a lot like another seller I met there years ago. I wondered if they are brothers.
Wonderful Fruits is one of the biggest stalls, and has a large selection and an enormous comfortable eating area. The fruits looked pretty fresh, and judging from what others were eating, good quality.
The boys asked for their Black Pearl, and to their delight, were told that yes, they did have Black Pearl available. Are you sure? We asked. Yes, yes yes, Baby replied. We have Black Pearl.
He went to the durian stands and whipped out a durian that was clearly not Black Pearl. It was a Red Prawn. Before we could stop him, he had sliced and diced the thing open and was demanding payment. It looked like a beautiful Red Prawn. But it wasn’t Black Pearl, and for the price of $63 we really only wanted what we wanted. We hadn’t tasted it yet, so I politely declined. An argument ensued, with Baby demanding that now that the durian was open, it was ours, and me insisting that since we hadn’t tasted it yet, we weren’t under obligation to buy it.
When things escalated, we left.
It wasn’t my first argument at Wonderful Fruit. I remember one very clearly, back in 2012, when we were served a durian that was half-eaten by caterpillars. When we asked for a replacement, the seller refused.
That’s nothing compared to that couple who were hit with a bill for $600 SGD.
So I’m saying to you the same thing I said to the boys when they wanted to ask for Black Pearl: Be careful.
Conclusion: 👎 Come here for the adventure and the possibility of good durian but keep your wits about you
147 Sims Avenue
What we ate:
- Cempedak – $5/box
Still a little shaken from Wonderful Durian, we weren’t quite ready for another encounter at Metro Trading just a block further down Sims Avenue.
Metro Trading is a small corner shop that doubles as a fruit stand. They always have a lot of pre-packaged durians in boxes as well as a huge supply of Thai durians, no matter the time of year. I’ve never been able to figure that one out — why they have so many Thai durians. I guess it’s their specialty.
When I visited in 2012, they had almost all Chanee durians. When I visited in April, 2017, with my goofy dad ↑↑, they were mostly stocked with Thai Kradumthong. Even on this last trip, in July 2018, they still had a stock of Thai durians in the mix of Musang King and Kampung. So if you want to taste Thai durians, I guess Metro Trading is the place.
Related post: Guide to 234 Thai Durian Varieties
We were not in the mood for Thai durians, nor any of the discounted boxes or 3-for-$10 deals.
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Geylang Durian Street in Singapore is famous obviously for durian, but it’s a really good place to explore the weird flavors of the rest of SE Asian fruits. There are tons of fruit stalls here selling the best from Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and India. I was so excited to find this Cempedak King, juicy and bubblegum sweet, at a stall along the busy roadside. Cempedak is a softer, chewier, funkier, smellier jackfruit relative. Like durian, it’s banned on the local MRT. But it’s one of my favorite fruits. Oh man, in an epic battle between cempedak and durian I don’t know which would win! What would you chose?
We almost skipped Metro Trading completely, but then I got a whiff of the cempedak for sale. The aroma was amazingly floral and jackfruit-like, each piece a massive golden promise.
We got a few boxes to lighten our spirits and continued the hunt to our second-to-last stall of the day on Sims Avenue.
183 Sims Avenue
Tel: +65 6746 1400
What we ate:
- Musang King ($18/kg)
- D101 (A grade, $12/kg)
- D101 ($5/fruit)
- Total: $55
We’d been hitting so many stalls so close together that Deluxe SG felt like a long hike through the asphalt savanna. It’s only 4 1/2 blocks further along Sims Avenue, but you have to cross large intersection and hop to the other side of the street. With traffic, it took us awhile.
But when we arrived, I was in awe. We’d hit the durian motherload. The stall was simply overflowing with durian. It was the most durian I’d seen anywhere in one place in maybe all of Singapore.
It was also crowded, and difficult to navigate around the piles and the crowds. Luckily, we got the attention of Ah Siang, who explained how the durian piles were sorted.
The durian were sorted not just by variety, but by grade. In the piles in front, small-sized D101, D13 and Musang King were jumbled together and sold for $5 per fruit.
The more premium durians, with perfect shape and large size, were stacked in the back and sold by weight. I looked them all over and felt skeptical that the more expensive ones would actually taste that much better, so despite being pretty full at this point we got two D101’s to compare: a $5 one I picked out from the pile, and a $12/kg one that Ah Siang chose for me from the rack that worked out to $17.6.
This was a pretty huge range in price, and to be perfectly honest — I liked my $5 D101 choice better. It was less tacky and sweet than the large one, which I think was still too fresh and tasted underripe. The Musang King was also on the sweeter side, unsurprising for its large size.
Overall though, we had a great experience at Deluxe SG and gave Ah Siang our thanks as we departed for our next (and last) durian stall of what was beginning to feel like the most epic durian hop ever.
Conclusion: 👍 Very nice server, comfortable seating, fair-priced durians, overall thumbs up
280 Sims Avenue
Tel: +65 6846 4301
What we ate:
- Black Pearl, $13/kg
- Total: $18 kg
The last durian stall of our Geylang Durian Hop wasn’t on Sims Avenue, so it technically isn’t on Geylang Durian Street. But it was in Geylang, and it had good reviews online, and after eating 3 durians at SG Deluxe we needed a walk. Sweet Musang King is kind of heavy.
We turned off Sims Avenue and headed down a side street, one of the numbered lorongs, to head toward Geylang Road and 36 Durian, conveniently located on the corner of Lorong 36.
The shop was fully stocked with durian surrounding a central island of other fruits. I was almost tempted to buy a golden yellow dragonfruit, but at $10 per fruit I decided to just focus on our mission of the evening: figuring out Geylang durian. I still had some questions.
And my biggest question at 36 Durian was why they were advertising Red Prawn everywhere, when I didn’t see any on their shelves.
The big sign announcing the stall’s name proclaimed it “Home of Red Prawn D13 in Muar.” I read this as “Home of Red Prawn COMMA D13 in Muar.”
As in, they have both Red Prawn AND D13. I was wrong.
After a quick chat with the server, he explained that in Singapore, D13 is often called Red Prawn. It’s not the same Red Prawn as the Red Prawn in Penang, he said, although they did have that one too. He pulled out 3 very sad looking Penang Red Prawns, with their football shape and small thorns.
The light bulbs went off in my head. All of the sellers that night who had been advertising D13 as Red Prawn had just been using the local name. It’s just that durian nomenclature is really confusing, and sometimes redundant, and not that the durian sellers on Geylang were all totally dishonest.
So when the boys asked if he had Black Pearl, and he said yes, I believed him. He weighed it in front of us, let us look it over for holes, and then opened it. We said yes and paid, then settled on a table on the sidewalk alongside the rushing traffic.
The Black Pearl was slightly fibrous and still a little firm, but it had a good bitter-vanilla-cream flavor. It reminded me a little of a Golden Phoenix, especially with it’s tiny seeds, nd I imagined it could be really amazing when super fresh, but we’d probably have to pay more for it.
Where to Stay
There’s a lot to explore in Geylang besides the naughty stuff. Besides durian (ahem), Geylang is getting famous for its cultural diversity, temples, and food. So there are places to stay that aren’t just rent by the hour.
As we were walking around, I saw a number of decent-looking one or two star budget hotels, which I thought we should check out on our next trip. Singapore is spendy. On my last trip, when our Airbnb host never showed up and we ended up wandering the streets late on a Saturday night (bad idea), we paid $90 SGD for the hotel’s last closet-sized room.
Here are a few budget options in the $25-40 range along Geylang Durian Street and Geylang Road (where 36 Durian is).
Final Tips For Navigating Geylang Durian Street
Geylang Durian Street is a place to have fun and enjoy the game of picking durian. You can’t rely on the sellers, so you have to rely on yourself, or at least be willing to gamble. And there’s a certain thrill to gambling, right?
There are so many stalls here, you can have a variety of very interesting experiences in a short amount of time and space. It’s a great place to go on an adventure with a good crew of durian munchers, so at least if you get scammed at one stall, you can split the cost and the loss can be funny story, not a total buzz-killer.
Our total damage for an epic evening was $128 SGD ($94 USD), which split between the four of us cost just $23 USD each. Really not that bad. We were stuffed to bursting and had enjoyed hours of entertainment, walking, meeting new friends, people watching, and eating some pretty decent durian.
I felt like, after years of visiting and feeling mystified by Geylang, that I now more or less understood. I was looking forward to visiting some more relaxed, honest stalls with better quality durian on the next nights in Singapore, but Geylang still had a piece of my heart. I’ll be back.
How To Get To Geylang Durian Street
Geylang Durian Street runs along Sims Avenue for about 16 blocks, from Lorong 11 to Lorong 27. It’s just across the Kallang River from Little India, and I’ve walked there many times (walking is my preferred way to see Singapore).
Uber officially died and was buried on May 7, 2018, after being bought out and merged by Grab. As of writing there are investigations into whether or not this infringes on Singapore’s anti-monopoly laws. Luckily, taxis are still reasonably priced in Singapore and the drivers are very nice, so if you have any qualms about Grab you have plenty of options.
Singapore has it’s own version of Google Maps that is actually better at helping you navigate and find your best public transit options from wherever you are. It’s called Street Directory. You can take the green-line MRT, which runs parallel to Sims Avenue, and get off at at Aljunied Station, or Bus #2, 13, 51, 63, 67, 80, or 100, which all run down Sims Avenue too.
Use this map to scope out your Geylang Durian Hunt beforehand or navigate to other durian hotspots around Singapore: