It’s definitely a Durian Market. Although you can find longkong and rambutan, and we even found a vendor selling boiled soybeans, you kind of have to look for the other stuff because durian is all around.
About the Lablae Durian Market at Hua Dong Village
You may have just arrived to Lablae expecting to find mounds of durian waiting for you beyond the golden gates of the district.
But alas, you will find none. The narrow highway that cuts through Mueang Lablae Town is lined with cute wooden houses selling kitchen knickknacks and khanom sweets. A little further on you’ll find trucks of watermelon and soymilk.
Even the very cute evening market is bereft of any sweet aromas signaling a durian feed is at hand.
To find the famous Lablae durians, you’ll need to continue north for 7 kilometers to Mae Phun sub-district – and more specifically, the market around Wat Hua Dong Temple.
You’ll start seeing durians as you get close – a comically piled footstool in front of a house, then a second little table, then a shop full of baskets – and when you finally round the corner and you’ll see them in all their glory: the Durian States marking the gateway to durian heaven.
About the Lablae Durian Market (Hua Dong Market ตลาด หัวดงa)
The twin durian statues on the left-hand side of the road were placed there by Hua Dong City Administration. You’ll see the purple government office building on one side of the statues and the market on the other.
Across the street is a small fairgrounds where they host the Lablae Durian Festival every year.
The statues are a great place for Durian Selfies, and no blog post about Lablae Durian would be complete without them 😁
The two statues represent the two famous durians from Lablae.
One statue is long and skinny, to represent the durian variety called Linlablae.
The other is rounder and fat, to represent the durian called Longlablae.
I was personally hoping we would find both durians on this trip to the market, plus maybe some other stuff.
Inside the market are long rows of durian stalls overarched by an interconnected web of shade cloths flapping in the wind.
I can’t imagine this market is very active when it’s not durian season, as we found almost nothing besides durian.
Only a bit of longkong, which Lablae is also famous for.
Supposedly, a special variety of Longkong grows in Lablae too, called the “Langgong” – but although we asked for it, no one seemed to have it or know anything about it.
As we wandered the long aisles, I noticed you could see the market’s namesake, Wat Hua Dong Temple, from just about every corner.
In fact the market sprawls around the temple – along the road in front of it, to the side of it, behind it – you can get a new angle on the temple every time you look up from your durian quest.
At one time, this old temple was the center of the community life.
Boys went to school here. People registered births and deaths here and met their spouses at temple festivals.
People also brought their best quality fruits as offerings, which is how many durian varieties in Thailand were originally recognized.
A Quick History of Wat Hua Dong
You can’t really tell how big and important Wat Hua Dong used be when you visit the temple now.
The temple grounds were split in 2 when the road through Mae Phun district was built, and many of the old wooden buildings have rotted away and disappeared.
The story goes that around 1825-1827, a Laosian monk named Luang Por Puk arrived in the village to meditate and practice dharma. Historians think he may have been fleeing the Anouvong Wars between Thailand and Laos.
Years later, a miracle happened on the temple grounds that inspired local people to build the first Chedi around 1848.
So we can guess that the market is around that old too.
3 Famous Durians at the Lablae Durian Market
The great thing about visiting the Lablae Durian Market is that, not only do you get great selfies with the Longlablae and Linlablae Durian Statues, this is a great arena for tasting all the famous durians in one place.
If you’re on the hunt here, make sure to pick up one of each type.
Puen Mueang พื้นบ้าน (70 baht/kg)
Puen Mueang is an old grafted variety that pre-dates the other two varieties by a long time – no one could tell me how long – but a long time.
This durian was the one I was most interested to try, and it turned out even more fascinating than I expected!
The flavor was BITTER. Like the vegetal bitter of bitter gourd or cashew leaves or anything you could dip in Nam Prik. I was honestly not sure that I liked it, but kept eating it anyway.
But the texture was what fascinated me the most. The flesh was fully ripe but very very dense, to the point the flesh was cracking and pulling away from itself.
This durian was so interesting I will definitely be looking for more in the future.
Longlablae หลงลับแล (500 baht/kg)
There was plenty of Longlablae at the market when we visited at the end of the season. But the price had soared to 500 baht per kg ($30 USD per lb!) so we were selective with our choice.
We definitely prefer later-harvested or tree-dropped Longlablae, because it’s unique strawberry-caramel flavor and butteriness really shines when it’s fully ripe and soft.
When we’ve tried normal-harvested Longlablae, it tastes kind of generic, and definitely not worth 450 baht or so for one petite little durian.
If you know how to select Longlablae for yourself, you can find a nice one at the Hua Dong Lablae Durian Market. Otherwise, maybe head back to Summer Green Durian Cafe for something fully ripe and more reasonably priced.
Linlablae หลินลับแล (600 baht/kg)
Unfortunately we were a bit late in the season to find much Linlablae, and most of the specimens we spotted around the market were very very small in size. I was nervous to buy one – they were expensive – and Linlaplae is a risky buy.
The reason it’s risky is that the durian’s elongated, pronounced lobes that give it such a unique appearance can also result in the meat being pressed into slim, flat disks without much to eat. If you’re unlucky (as I was once), you’ll buy a durian that is entirely shell with nothing to eat at all.
I’ve had Linlablae on previous trips, and as much as I wanted Richard to try it, we decided the risk wasn’t worth the reward on this round.
So we’ll be back for a Linlablae Mission in the future.
Phuen Baan พื้นบ้าน (50 baht/kg)
Toward the back of the market, along the wall abutting the temple, we came across a table of all tree-dropped durians.
Most of them were what the vendor called “Phuen Baan” – seedling durians without names. We are suckers for good, cheap Durian Baan.
But this Durian Baan was unlike any we’ve ever had anywhere.
The meat was incredibly thin, thinner than most wild durians in Borneo and lower than most Durian Baan we find in Southern Thailand.
It was like a film of tasty skin that you could peel off the fat, round seeds. I am not sure what the edible portion was, but it was very very low.
In any case, the Phuen Baan tasted good but we were not going to get anywhere close to full.
Tree Dropped Monthong (80 baht/kg)
Our last durian for the morning was a tree-dropped Monthong pulled from the pile of Phuen Baan that smelled too good to resist.
It had an unusually elongated shape with a long, pointy “nose” that made us question if this was really Monthong or a seedling of Monthong.
We couldn’t tell, and at that point, it didn’t matter what it was. It was delicious – our fingers breaking through the pillowcase skin into a fluffy pale yellow cream below.
It was so good we would have licked our fingers clean – but that’s not good manners in the best of times, and this was pandemic times y’know.
As we headed out of the market, we stopped to watch fresh Durian Chips being sliced and deep fried in a huge wok.
Durian chips are a common snack in Lablae, a product that is being encouraged by the local government as a way to sell unripe durians that get damaged by storms or fall off too early.
In Thailand, bringing gifts of food and small souvenirs to friends and family is important etiquette. So we grabbed the opportunity to bring some fresh Lablae Durian chips with us as a gift for our hosts in the our next Durian Destination.
Where We Stayed: Thaimit Resort
There are several homestays around the Lablae Golden Gate and Evening Market in Lablae Town, just a 10 minute drive from the Durian Market, but since we were visiting in pandemic times all were closed.
We ended up staying at the Thaimit Resort in Uttaradit City, just 10 minutes before the Lablae Golden Gates and around 20 minutes from the Hua Dong Fruit Market.
The Thaimit is a small brand new hotel with rooms circling a courtyard and windows facing the parking lot. The rooms are large, clean, and include AC and a small refrigerator. When we stayed, it was just 450 baht per night ($14 USD).
How to get to the Lablae Durian Market
If you stay at the Laplae Guesthouse ลับแลเกสเฮาส์ you can rent a bicycle to explore all the duriany places in Lablae.
But if you don’t have a bicycle or a motorbike, you’ll find that Lablae is a very stretched out sort of place and it’s not that easy to get around.
Luckily it’s easy to rent a car in Thailand. From Chiang Mai, it’s around a 4-hour drive.