Youtuber Durian Traveler asked for a farm that grew something *besides* durian (heresy, I know). Yes, he wanted durian, and really good durian, and interesting varieties of Thai durian, BUT he also wanted his durian tour group to visit a farm that was growing something tasty that was not durian.
I thought about it, and decided to take his durian tour to Suan Khun Pichai.
About Suan Khun Pichai
You know you’ve reached Suan Khun Pichai as soon as you spot the giant red Salak statue in the dusty parking lot.
Mr. Pichai made Bangkok Post headlines with rows and rows of sweet U-pick Thai Snake Fruit or Salak, Salacca wallichianna var. Sumalee.
I thought Durian Traveler’s group would enjoy seeing how Mr. Pichai ties up the big clusters of well-cared for Salak fruits so they’re easy for visitors to pick.
And taste the sweet-syrup product, Sala Loi Kaew, considered a local delicacy.
And watch the women processing the Thai snake fruits for Salak Loi Kaew by slicing out a careful pyramid around the seed.
I figured we’d settle in one of the comfy covered huts in the Salak grove to have snacks and eat some of Mr. Pichai’s durian.
But our Salak outing quickly twisted back to durian.
When the Durian Traveler and the Durian Writer get together, how could it not? 🤷
Mr. Pichai — the namesake of the farm himself — joined us in a small trolley the family uses for showing tourists around the farm.
Then we trundled past the Thai snake fruit orchard, with a corner dedicated to just male trees, to the 30 rai (12 acre) durian orchard that Mr. Pichai started planting when he was just 15 years old.
Now Mr. Pichai is now 59 years old. You do the math.
Mr. Pichai pointed out the red mounds of volcanic soil he spreads around his trees as a source of micronutrients.
He first took the soil from his parent’s farm, about 3-4km away, when he was just starting the farm and needed extra soil to plant his baby durian trees. He noticed that the trees with this red earth were healthier than trees without it.
The family didn’t realize the soil was volcanic until much later, when researchers did some tests.
He also took the old durian varieties, like Kop Chai Nam, Kop Suwan, and Nockachip, from his parent’s farm. He’s not sure where they got them.
The group, all durian farmers themselves, grilled Mr. Pichai for answers about his fertilization and irrigation techniques.
Then, their curiosity satiated but not their hunger, we started to head back to the main building/shed/eating area.
But on the way, Mr. Pichai stopped the trolley on a row of fully loaded rambutan trees.
“Hop out,” he instructed, “and pick 4 rambutans each. But keep the shells in the trolley, don’t throw them on the ground.”
There were two varieties, so I chose 50-50 of each.
Chompu Si The smaller of the two varieties, Chomphu Si means “pink” and had long red hairs covering a lighter gold-pink body. Inside, the flesh was slightly sour and clunk to the seed. It was pleasant, but nothing compared to:
Trat Si Thong This one was big. Each seed was incased in maybe an inch of very sweet, slightly musky, rather grapey, but tasty flesh. The seed parted easily from the flesh too.
After tasting just two of each, I knew which variety I would choose in the future (even despite my love of all things pink)
While we were standing in the rambutan row, one of the guys heard a thump. He went running. There, on the mound of red volcanic soil, was a tree-dropped Monthong.
Mr. Pichai laughed and said we could have it (we did have to pay for it though)
We rushed back to the main area to crack it open and see what a tree-dropped Monthong looks like inside.
As tree-drop Monthong does, it was half ripe and half squishy, a delicious very sweet cream with a hint of something bitter, like milky coffee, but with little crunchy bits thrown at random through the cream.
Maybe you like that — maybe you also like Nata de Coco or tiny bits of crunchy celery in your tuna fish sandwich. You and I do not like the same things.
The Durian Traveler Boys were like me, and a little disappointed that tree-drop Monthong wasn’t the end all of their durian dreams. But they understood why Thai people do cut some of their durians early — a cut and off-the-tree-ripened Monthong does have a smoother consistency than a tree-drop one.
Since the Thong Yoi Chat and Kob Chai Nam weren’t ripe enough for us, we went for a Chanee, Ganyao and Puangmanee.
How to get to Suan Khun Pichai
You know you’re in the right place when you reach the giant Salak statue, about 3km down a rubber tree-lined road once you turn off Highway #3 (Sukhumvit Road).
The statue sits on the side of a big dusty parking lot that clearly has capacity for tour buses. But both times I visited, the orchard was quiet and we were the only guests. I don’t know if it was beginner’s luck or my timing –late in the afternoon on a weekday, and the Saturday before the farm was officially open for the season.
If you’re worried about durian supply, or want to eat a specific durian variety, make sure to call to book ahead. Neither Mr. Pichai or his wife speak English, so get some help from a local Thai or get a Custom Durian Itinerary and ask for a booking.
Suan Khun Pichai Facebook
Phone #: +66 081 782 4645