Vacations come in categories. Do you like beach or adventure? Spa or jungle?
But what if you like both? What if your vacation ideal is as oxymoronic as relaxing poolside, cocktail in hand, surrounded by a 25 lai durian orchard in the mountains where you might see a Horn Bill sitting on your front porch and an elephant might yank out the bamboos in the front garden?
This is a different way to visit a durian orchard for sure 😂
About the Orchard Pa La-U Durian Resort
The Orchard Pa La-U is owned and operated by the Sea-Cret Hotel Group, a chain of 4-star “lifestyle hotels” that include the Sea-Cret Hua Hin and the Sea-Cret Garden Hua Hin in the big farang-tourist city only an hour away from Pa La-U.
But whereas Hua Hin is metropolitan and busy, it’s very very quiet up at the Orchard Pa La-U.
There is very little else to do in the area except eat durian and relax.
The resort is actually in Pa Deng Village, which is only a 15-minute drive from Pa La-U but technically in another province – Petchaburi.
Nearby there is a market at Wat Pa Deng on Saturday morning, from 6am until about 9 or 9:30am.
You can walk from the resort to Nong’s Durian stall if you want to try durian somewhere else, or schedule a visit to Pa Na’s Organic Orchard.
Or you can drive 25-minutes to the Pa La-U waterfalls and have lunch at Khrua Chai Khao, a restaurant/durian garden on the hill overlooking Pa La-U.
That’s really about it.
You can also just stay on the Orchard Pa La-U grounds, swimming and picking the durians hanging outside your bedroom window.
The Accommodations at Orchard Pa La-U
In the photo above, hotel manager Gan is tapping on a durian outside one of the bungalows to see if it’s ripe.
The Resort is set on a 25 lai orchard comprising 200 Monthong trees and 2 Ganyao trees.
The durian trees are scattered around the property – around the reception, the pool, the dining area, and around the 9 identical bungalows where guests stay.
Each 2-story complex comes with its own set of solar panels to heat the personal jacuzzi in the over-sized bathroom.
There is a master bedroom upstairs, a bedroom with twin beds for the kids downstairs, a very big bathroom, and a personal dining area downstairs replete with hammock. We saw the staff bringing room service so guests could eat in the privacy of their own little garden space. I suppose you could have room-service durian too!
Gan showed us one of the rooms, but since it hadn’t yet been cleaned after guests it was messy and I feel like not really fair to the hotel to share that picture.
I should note that, at 2,900 baht per night ($94 USD), the Orchard Pa La-U was out of our budget. We stayed at Pa La-U Garden Home just 5 minutes back toward Huai Sat Yai Village.
The Orchard itself is around 8 years old. It was planted before the resort opened just 4 years ago. Gan said it is an organic orchard, and we did notice that the durian leaves looked large and lush, deep green in color.
The orchard is not laid out in tidy rows like in commercial farms, but spaced a little at random around the houses along with other fruits.
Gan picked handfuls of passionfruit for us. Coconuts and breadfruits hung at the corners of the property, and a variety of huge plantain called Kluai Nga Chang (elephant tusk banana) hung over one of the houses.
Gan called the staff to chop down a mega-banana for us to taste.
It was a very hot day, with blue skies and we looked longingly at the pool as we walked back toward the poolside dining area where they serve the durian.
The pool is open for visitors for 50 baht per person, so you can have your durian pool party! But on that day we’d forgotten our suits, so we dipped into the shade to talk durian with Gan.
Monthong Durian at 3 Levels of Ripeness
With 200 durian trees, obviously the Orchard Pa La-U produces a lot of durians!
Even with a full house, I don’t think the guests would be able to eat all these durians.
As Gan heaved open a durian Malaysia-style and started piling the fat, voluptuous Monthong pods onto a plate, she told us that different types of guests typically prefer different levels of ripeness in their durians.
She opened all three for us to taste.
The first durian she opened for us was fully ripe. It had been cut off the tree, but only about 3 days before it would have ripened naturally. It was then left to ripen by itself until the shell was a bit yellowish and the fruit was, well, squishy.
It was better than most overripe- Monthong I’ve had, which can have a watery texture and a gasoline-y aftertaste. This one still retained the thick body and texture I appreciate so much in fresh tree-dropped durian, even though it had been cut. But the flavor had become a little strong for me in terms of the stale onion/gasoline arena.
Gan said this is how guests from China typically prefer their durian.
This one, she said opening another durian, is how guests from Bangkok like to eat their durian.
This Monthong was slightly spongy to the touch and dry, like holding a piece of very dense banana bread. It left no wet cream at all on my fingers and to be honest, it tasted very much like a sugary bread or a pastry too.
And this, Gan said, is how people here in Pa La U like to eat durian.
She presented us with a durian that was still pale and had a firm skin, but when I picked it up I could feel the creamy inners squishing and moving beneath the skin.
The flavor was fresh and vanilla, not as sweet as the Bangkokian-style and not as onion/gasoline as the Chinese-style.
I think I’ll be choosing Pa La-U-style every time. Or even better: the Tree-dropped Pa La-U Monthong that tastes like not-bitter Tekka. That post coming soon!
How to Visit the Orchard Pa La-U
The Orchard Pa La-U is set back from the main road, around a 15-minute drive from Huai Yat Sai Village.
It’s not actually located in Pa La-U district: It’s technically just over the border in Petchaburi province, but still a very convenient location if you are planning to visit the Pa La-U Durian Festival or the Pa La U Waterfall.
Note that currently accommodation options in the Pa La-U area are limited. The area is very dark, there are elephants on the road at night, and it’s not really a place you want to rock up to unannounced. So make sure to make a booking in advance on your next trip to Pa La-U!