So I’m not going to lie, the main purpose of this trip was to stay on a durian farm and gorge myself on durian. The durian farm that I chose was Bao Sheng durian farm in Penang, which has been blogged about pretty extensively by Lindsay at Year of the Durian (which is I think the best English-language resource about durian out there).
In order to book this part of the trip, I contacted the durian farm a couple of months before the trip. It’s slightly hard to time in that the durian farmers only know when the durian is going to drop a couple of months before once the durian trees start to flower, but many of us need to plan trips much further in advance than that, so essentially I based on my trip on a time frame that worked with award availability and that I thought would overlap with the main durian season. Last year’s (2016) durian season wasn’t great in Penang, but I still had an amazing time.
To reserve my room, I had to transfer money to the durian farm’s bank account. For this, I used TransferWise (affiliate link). TransferWise seemed like the best way to transfer money to a foreign bank account with minimal fees, and I’m not aware of a better method today.
To get to the durian farm, I took an UberX from Georgetown. Even with the driver keeping the meter on until he got to Batu Feringghi (i.e. he wanted to keep the meter on after he dropped me off, which I was fine with), it ended up being around $10 USD instead of the much, much higher rates I was being quoted by taxis and the hotel.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this place, but I had a great time. Essentially, you can eat durian whenever you want (i.e. there are bins of durians where you can just pick one up and crack it open if you desire), and the durian seng (the “master”/father who owns the place) will periodically host tastings where he or his son chooses durians for you to sample and puts them in a specified order. It’s similar to a wine tasting, as there are tasting notes (e.g. this durian should taste like X, this durian should taste like Y), and there are different ways to eat durian. There are also tours of the farm, there’s a waterfall not too far away, and there’s a plunge pool. But I mostly chilled in my air conditioned room and emerged to eat durian, which was great.
Most of the people who visit this farm are Chinese tourists (not necessarily from China, as there are lots of Malaysian Chinese people). But the durian seng and his family also speak Mandarin, so some of the tastings were conducted mostly in Mandarin. Many of the people volunteering on the farm, though, are Australians or Westerners who love durian.
There are also plentiful coconuts. For people staying at the farm, you can get coconuts for free whenever you’d like. They also make fruit smoothies and juices, and sometimes even durian candies/pastes.
Below is a picture of the durian seng getting ready to serve us durian. He chose a variety of durian from different trees of different ages. I think this was the amount of durian he chose for 6 of us.
I stayed in one of the standard villas. There are a couple of different sleeping options, and the standard villa is the middle option. But you can expect basic accommodations with air conditioning. It’s not fancy, but it’s worth it for the durian.
If you get tired of durian (which I’m not sure is possible), there are other things to eat on the farm. As stated before, there are coconuts everywhere, but other fruit pops up like cempedak (which I had actually never eaten before). For dinner, you don’t have to eat durian (although you can!). They generally get someone to bring in food cooked from elsewhere and serve it as a family-style buffet (and a durian tasting often follows). As someone who generally doesn’t eat meat, the options for dinner were slightly fewer, except that I could always just eat more durian.
It was cool going on a short tour of the farm and hunting for durian that have dropped. One thing that I didn’t quite understand is how high up durian grows on the trees. Like these massive, spiky fruits grow on these seemingly tiny branches very high up in the air. Nature is amazing.
Anyway, if you love durian, I highly recommend staying on a durian farm as an experience. The Bao Sheng durian farm offers basic but comfortable accommodations and lots of delicious durian. The family all speaks English, so it’s easy to book via email, and Penang is a cool place to visit generally if you like food.