The Durian Khlong Saeng Market is set up under the dappled shade of durian trees that are hundreds of years old. It’s a market inside of a farm with a mixture of unnamed durian baan and established durian varieties, and is basically a tree-dropped Durian Lovers Paradise in Thailand.
About Khlong Saeng Market
The market is set in the shadow of Khao Phang, a looming limestone karst thats broken shape has earned it the name “Heart Mountain” or sometimes Khao Phi Ket — “Falling Apart Mountain.”
The trailing market begins in the parking lot of Khao Phang Temple, where most people park (20 baht parking for foreigners, 10 for locals). There are a few food stalls and a bunch of durian; but we didn’t see any durian here worth eating.
Most of the durian here looked wrinkled and not fresh, and I suspect not even local to Khlong Saeng.
To find the famed Durian Khlong Saeng, you need to cross the steel suspension bridge over the River Saeng and into a small market set inside of a 700-rai (200+ acre) area of durian farms.
The market is on private property. Four families live here full time, so remember that when you are visiting Khlong Saeng Market it’s like having been invited into their home.
In fact several people sell durian from their front porch.
They estimate their families have lived in this area for around 5 generations.
It’s their grandparents who planted the very old trees that dot the market, some of them more than 100 years old.
The most famous tree has a name, Pa Min.
The old towering durian trees, intermixed with rubber trees and a handful of rambutan, mangosteen, pomelo and longkong, make the market shady and cool, dappled with light that makes infuriating white spots on my pictures.
Small bamboo kiosks and covered seating area line a cement track. They cluster together in front of one house, then you need to walk around the next bend to the next cluster in front of someone else’s house.
Besides durians, the local residents of Khlong Saeng sell khanom sweets served out halved bamboo or folded leaf boats and eaten with bamboo skewers.
A tea kiosk serves cold drinks out of bamboo cups with papaya straws. Another man sells handmade wooden helicopter toys that wind up.
Colorful ribbons flap overhead. Dried Gai Fah flowers twirl like desiccated chicken feet from the rafters of the small bamboo kiosks.
The huts look almost new, because they are – the market has only been official since December, 2019.
It started as an annual durian festival in 2017. In 2020, of course, the durian festival was cancelled for Covid19.
We visited on July 19, 2020, joining a small crowd of durian shoppers from as far away as Bangkok and Songhkla had still come to taste the famous Durian Klong Saeng.
Durian Klong Saeng
Thailand durian lovers are really into terroir. Maybe more than variety, the specific environmental elements that give a durian it’s specific flavor draws Thai durian lovers to leave home and look for durians to taste.
These durians are known more generally by their location — Durian Si Sa Ket, Durian Pa La-U, and here, Durian Klong Saeng.
The Thai government has started awarding “GI” labels to durian areas that get famous, but I don’t think Klong Saeng has one yet.
Klong Saeng is of course most famous for it’s Durian Baan.
These are the old, old trees planted by seed. Here Durian Baan is always allowed to fall on their own when ripe, rather than being cut-harvested and served crunchy.
And because they are genetically diverse, they vary a lot. These are the equivalent of Malaysian Durian Kampung.
Some are tiny, little personal-sized durians. Others are huge.
Some have barely any flesh on them at all, like a sweet lollipop over a huge seed.
Others are so fleshy and dense I wonder if they are seedlings of a variety, or maybe an old variety forgotten long ago.
Each Durian Baan tree makes a different fruit. And each tree ripens at a different point in the season – another reason why no one bothers to cut them.
But if you are someone who desires a specific Thai variety, or wants cut-harvested durian, the Khlong Saeng Market has plenty of that too.
Durian Tud (Cut-harvested)
If you speak a little bit of Thai, or at least durian-related Thai words, you can hear the visitors from Bangkok telling the Khlong Saeng sellers that they don’t want soft durian. They want Durian Tud.
Bangkokians are renown for preference of crunchy-hard durians.
It means they miss out on the Durian Baan – which is all tree-dropped –and what to me makes Klong Saeng so special.
But because it’s more about terroir, they’re still curious to taste Klong Saeng Monthong or Chanee.
The Monthong trees are fairly new (within 10 years), but the Chanee trees are old. And since the Khlong Saeng sellers are more familiar with tree-dropped durian than other parts of Thailand, there’s a real mix of cut-harvest and tree-dropped durian.
Just don’t forget to tell them you want your durians lown (which means tree-fallen) rather than tud (cut-harvested).
Gaeng Som Durian at Khlong Khieun Chiew Larn ร้านอาหารเคียงคลองเขื่อนเชี่ยวหลาน
After touring the market, we stopped for lunch at the small outdoor restaurant overlooking the river and the suspension bridge.
A local contact had tipped us off that this restaurant is famous for making Gaeng Som Durian.
As we sat down, I noticed that several other tables were already enjoying it.
Because we are vegans, I actually booked ours ahead via their Facebook Page. Sour curry, or Gaeng Som, is a staple dish of Southern Thailand and we couldn’t wait to try the durian version.
What makes Gaeng Som unique is its watery, sweet and sour broth flavored with a type of tamarind.
It also usually features a lot of fish and fish products, so if you are vegetarians like us make sure to be really clear that fish and fish sauce is not okay.
Ratchaprapa Dam & Chiew Larn Lake
Khlong Saeng Durian Market is an easy morning outing to combine with a visit to Chiew Larn Lake.
This is the main tourist attraction in the area, and most people head out by boat onto the beautiful turquoise waters to spend a night on a floating raft in what may be one of the most scenic places in Southern Thailand.
This is an artificial lake, created in 1987 by the Ratchaprapa Dam, which is open to visitors.
This dam controls the flow of the River Saeng. If you arrive to the Khlong Saeng Market early in the morning, the river is likely to look dry like this:
Every day around 10AM siren nearby the market goes off, reminding everyone that the dam is releasing water and the water level will rise.
So if you want to go for a swim, it’s best to wait until after your durian munching.
Where We Stayed: Bansuanputarn
We stayed at a small resort called Bansuanputarn about 1km upriver from Khlong Saeng Market.
This is sort of a new tourism area, and there are surprisingly few options for accommodation close by to the market. I guess it’s expected that most tourists will come on packaged tours to visit the raft houses on Chiew Larn Lake and then leave.
The resort has just 7 rooms. There are 3 in a long, raised building on stilts that share 1 bathroom.
That’s where we stayed, and this is the view of Khao Phang from our room. In the picture you can see the red roofs of the 4 individual bungalows that face directly on the River Saeng.
At night it’s so dark you can see the milky way.
The rooms were spacious and comfortable, and at night the temperature is comfortable even without air conditioning. None of the rooms have air conditioning.
The mornings dawned misty, but early morning it was hot and by late morning the rooms were saunas. We were grateful to have the river nearby, but also spent a lot of afternoons at Yolo Cafe just a 7-minute drive away (their Chiew Larn smoothie, featuring bitter gourd and basil, is really good).
How to Get to Khlong Saeng Market
Khlong Saeng Market is located in Baan Tu Khun District of Surat Thani, one of the gateways to Khao Sok National Park. The market is around a 10-minute drive from the Chiew Larn Lake pier.
If you stay at Baansuanputarn, like we did, the market is an easy walk. Otherwise, self-drive is your best option. Parking is at the Khao Phang Temple (20 baht for foreigners, 10 baht for locals).
Follow the map below for directions or use our Durian Season App (free!) to both find the market and find out when the next durian season is coming.