We woke up at the Jamson Beach Resort to views over the long inlet separating Thailand from Myanmar.
It’s an older hotel just outside of Ranong City, in Southern Thailand. In the lobby, there are photos of the hotel from maybe the 1960s. The hotel looks almost the same now as then.
Friends have been telling me for years that I would 💜Love💜 Ranong, that it’s a place where time has stood still. There’s not much development here, no big resorts or busloads of Chinese tourists. It’s the least populated province in Thailand, with only 58 people per square kilometer (Chanthaburi has 83 people per square kilometer), and if you’re not going to the islands then the only thing to do is explore the national park, the waterfalls, or the hot springs.
I figured a place like this must be full of old durian trees.
But the city is a good 2 hours from Chumpon. To get back to Highway 41 bombing from Bangkok to Had Yai, you have to take a small winding coastal road along the Andaman Sea that will detour you at least 6 hours.
If Ranong is not your main destination, it’s a very long scenic route.
It felt like a shame to cruise through this beautiful region without stopping anywhere. So I randomly selected a waterfall on Google Maps that looked not too far off the main road.
And accidentally kickstarted a day of Durian Devouring.
Durian on the Road to Rak Loi Waterfall
Rak Loi waterfall is only 30 minutes south of Ranong City. Maps said it was only 4 minutes off Hwy 4.
Good, I thought. An easy & short stop.
As we turned off the highway and drove toward the mountain, I noticed the old durian trees loaded with huge-sized durians leaning over the road. This area must be durian-loaded.
The map pin stopped us in front of the entrance to a temple. It was quiet, the only the sound the dripping of large rain drops from the trees branches. At least until the dogs noticed us.
The area seemed to be inhabited by around 20 dogs of diverse ethnicities. They were in all shapes and sizes, from dogs that looked like black labradors to ones with beagle genetics to several with legs so short I swear they had Corgis as parents or grandparents.
There was no one else around, except the dogs. Who did not want us to enter the temple grounds.
There was also no sign for Rak Loi Waterfall.
But we could hear running water, so we followed a small path lined with picnic tables down to the Nok Ngang river.
On a non-rainy day, this would be a super popular place to swim.
The river rushed over several tiers of waterfalls, falling into deep granite ravines mid-way through the falls where the water almost stopped.
The water rushed, stood still, and then rushed again.
It was obvious this is a popular swimming place with locals. Several rope-swings dangled from the tree branches over deep pools with no bottoms.
Unfortunately, there was also a lot of plastic wrappers and litter on the granite banks of the quieter pools.
If it hadn’t been raining buckets, we would have gladly stopped for a swim in the gentle waters. But the weather had other plans for us, so we started back to the highway.
That’s when I spotted the durian at the intersection.
Durian at the Rak Loi Waterfall Intersection
On the corner of Hwy 4 was a small shop selling Som Tam and vegetables. A pile of durian perched among the sweet potatoes.
We stopped and ducked through the curtain of rain under the tarp roof to check out the durians. Several motorbike riders were also taking shelter from the sudden rainstorm.
They all laughed when we expressed interest in the durians.
The Som Tam lady stopped pounding to come over and help her older friend, who was nervous around us two foreigners.
If you are family of these 2 lovely ladies, please get in touch so I can send you their photos.
We selected 2 durians from different trees, and asked to eat there while we waited for the rain to slow. Rivulets of water flowed around the edges of the tarp roof and the leaks near the poles.
The durian was very fresh, and had obviously been effected by a lot of rain. It felt overly heavy, swollen with water.
Ranong is also the rainiest province in Thailand, with a rainy season that can last 8 months. So this might be normal for Ranong Durian.
It was sweet and mellow, with thin flesh that showed the seeds popping through.
We ate two of them, hoping to find something worthy of the old trees we saw in the area.
But as the rain slowed, we’d had enough. We said goodbye to the two ladies and a friendly dog and continued our journey south toward Phang Nga.
Ranong Durian Cafe in Ban Bang Kluay Nok Village
We both did a double take when we spotted this trendy, tiny durian cafe in the middle of basically nowhere.
Who was operating a Durian Cafe in Ban Bang Kluay Nok Village, Ranong?
The owner of the cafe is Khun Dear, a Thai muslim lady who opened the cafe a year ago.
I asked her what her inspiration was for making such a beautiful durian cafe.
There were only 2 Durian Items on the menu. Khun Dear suggested the Durian Espresso Frappuccino, but by now it was late in the day.
I don’t do coffee after noon, so we opted for the plain Durian Frappuccino. Which happened to be vegan!
The Durian Frappucino is made with freeze dried durian, ice, and a lot of high-fructose cassava syrup.
The texture was fluffy and smooth, just like a Frapuccino should be. I think the freeze dried durian gave it a good texture, and there were no stringy bits at all. But I don’t like cassava syrup.
I would be excited to see Khun Dear use local sugars like coconut sugar or Borassus palm sugar as well as more fresh durian during the season, and expanding the durian options at the cafe.
We will look forward to visiting again!
Daeng & Jit Durian Stall in Ban Triam, Phang Nga
Without noticing we had crossed into Phang Nga, we stopped at one last durian stall.
Ban Triam is only 6km from the border of Ranong, and we stopped because we noticed there were suddenly durian stall on both sides of the road.
I think we picked the best one by accident. The durian was incredible.
We started with just one based on smell. It was a small Durian Baan, the village seedling durian, but it had a lovely gaseous, tingling aroma that promised bitterness and intensity.
The texture was like liquid cream, firm enough to hold but somehow slurpy at the same time, while the flavor was like almond milk and rum mixed with jasmine tea.
We quickly asked for another one. Seeing our enthusiasm, the owner of the stall, Pi Daeng, recommended we try a durian from another tree.
This one was more firm, the flesh thin and bready. It had a very sweet, buttery flavor that was fine, but not our style.
We explained to Pi Daeng that we liked the bitter one, Khom, ขม, which made him laugh. He and his wife, Pi Jit, ate the firmer yellow one, and let us open another of the delicious creamy white Baan.
It was just as good as the first one, delightfully rich and smooth.
We looked at each other. Maybe just one more. Eet Nung please (อีกหนึ่ง).
Pi Daeng chuckled.
The third was even better than the first two, the flesh taking on an almost silvery, pearly hue with a smooth stickiness that coasted our tongues with that ever elusive sensation, the peppery durian numb.
It was amazing. It was addicting. We craved more.
But here is the danger with durian. Even from the same tree, not all the durians taste the same. You can’t expect to get the same flavor again and again, and if you find one incredible, gestalt durian experience, you should probably just savor itand know now is the time to stop.
But that’s easier said than done. And sometimes you get lucky.
Eet Nung please (อีกหนึ่ง), we told Pi Daeng.
Shaking his head, Pi Daeng laughed. Farangs have big appetites.
Predictably, it was a mistake.
The last Durian Baan was not as good as the previous three. It was slightly overripe, the flesh losing that sticky but melting texture and becoming slightly watery, the flavor losing the coconut rum and turning yogurty, slightly stale with a hint of onion, and the sweetness becoming fruity almost like cantaloupe.
Many people prefer durian that is riper like this, because the sweetness is more intense and familiar.
But I prefer to let specific flavors linger , and this was not the durian I wanted in my mouth for several hours. So Richard finished it off without me.
As we cleaned up and washed our hands, we realized that we had already left Ranong, and our Ranong durian hunt was over. Until next time!
Thailand Durian Hunting Map
Use this map to find all the locations talked about in this blog and have your own super successful durian hunt.