Meet Auntie Saw and Uncle Sudjai
Suan Saw Sudjai is a small 7 lai farm (2.5 acre) farm located in the Pliew District of Chanthaburi, just 15 minutes from the city center.
Despite it’s small size, the farm is a popular tourism destination and is the most famous Chanthaburi Durian Buffet among local durian lovers for the good quality durian served by its charismatic owners, Auntie Saw and Uncle Sudjai.
It’s their retirement project, started twelve years ago when the couple decided they didn’t want to sell durians to the Export Market in China.
The Farm Tour
Uncle Sudjai takes the Star position, leading guests on tours around the farm and explaining everything you could want to know about durian. He’s impressively knowledgeable for someone who says he had to start from Ground Zero.
He gives all the credit to Auntie Saw. He was born in Samed Ngam, a lowland mango-growing area along the Chanthaburi River, and didn’t grow up with durian. But Auntie Saw was born on the 80-year-old durian farm and inherited the property from her grandmother. She’s the real durian expert in the family.
“I’m just the handsome face, like Somrak” Uncle Sudjai jokes, referencing a famous Thai boxer. “The Smooth Talker.”
When Uncle Sudjai retired from the U-Tapao Naval Base in Rayong (about 1 1/2 hour drive away), it was natural to move home to the farm, which is where Uncle Sudjai found his second career as a Durian Maestro.
He took great pride in showing us how they harvest the Monthong durian at exactly 90-95% ripeness. Not like the durian they send to China, he said dismissively, which never tastes good.
The perfect Monthong, he explained, should be edible the 2nd day after it was cut off the tree.
On the second day, it will have the texture of “Krob Nak Num Nai” (กรอบนอกนุ่มใน) – the durian texture craved by people in Bangkok for having a firm, crunchy outer skin and a butter-smooth interior.
On the third day after cutting, it will be “Mai Kang Mai Suk” – Just Right.
All of the durian served on their farm is either Krob Nak Num Nai or Mai Kang Mai Suk, and you can ask for the one you like best.
Chanthaburi Durian Buffet
The farm became a famous Chanthaburi Durian Buffet in 2010 when they opened their doors to tourists. They didn’t like picking their durians early to send to China, so when a local government representative suggested they should open Farm Tourism, they embraced the idea.
It took a lot of work to get the old farm tourist-ready. They had to fell two mangosteen trees, set up a covered eating area, and build a parking lot at the front of the farm. But it paid off.
Today, they are among the most popular destination for groups traveling from Bangkok. In the 2019 season, they welcomed over 30,000 durian eaters.
It’s the consistency of quality, Uncle Sudjai told us, that makes people come back again and again and again.
Although Suan Saw Sudjai grows 5 varieties of durian, on the day we visited they had only 2 – Nokyib and Ganyao. We were visiting too early in the season for Monthong.
The Nokyib glowed a pleasing shade of yellow gold. It had a doughy outerskin, moving beneath our fingers like play dough, but when you took a bite the texture was a beautiful heavy cream, like the texture of refrigerated frosting except this was warm.
It had an aroma like roasted hazelnut and a slight fruitiness, and overall was a very good Nokyib.
The Ganyao was even better, to my tastebuds. I love durians with amazing smooth rich texture that aren’t too sweet, and the Ganyao had obviously been picked at the optimum time.
I appreciated that attention to detail, because Ganyao is so finicky and hard to get right. This one had a pleasant nutty aroma and earthiness, and just a hint of something like chocolate. It wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like a Monthong or even the Nokyib, which definitely had a sharp sweetness like a cake or a dessert.
Having multiple varieties of good durian was one of the nice things about doing the Buffet Option. We didn’t have to spend time looking for a good quality out of the pile of “mehs” – we just sat down at the table and enjoyed.
In addition to welcoming day-time guests, Uncle Sudjai and Auntie Saw host overnight guests in a 3-bedroom antique house on the farm.
The house is an old Thai-style abode made out of a beautiful reddish wood, everything carved and polished to a shine.
Everything is open-air, from the breezy hallway to the dark bedrooms, and the only way to shut out the rain is to close the wooden shutters.
Light trickles in through the stain glass and reflects in the wooden varnish, like a beautiful abstract rainbow.
This is really the old Thai-style, with beds made of simple mats on the floor and a woven sarong as a blanket.
It’s simple, eloquent, and surprisingly comfortable place to lie at night and listen to the cricket cacophony in the orchard.
But during the day during pre-covid times, it can get hot and busy with crowds. Visit now while it’s quiet. It might be best to spend the day at the Pliew Waterfall, and come back in the evening when Uncle Sudjai has time to regale you with local tales and show you his sword.
How to visit Saw Sudjai Farm
You can make a booking with Uncle Sudjai on their Facebook.
Neither Auntie or Uncle speak any English, so it’s best to have a guide with you or make sure to make prior arrangements on Facebook messenger (using Google Translate to type in Thai).