For readers of this blog, Lindsay and Rob should need no introduction. The curators of the Year Of The Durian Website Of Total Thrash-Ass Awesomeness™, they are without a shred of doubt Durianism’s First Couple, beloved by all comers lucky enough to fall into their orbit – and they’ve each got damned nice hair, to boot. Our heroes were last spotted in Chanthaburi, Thailand, celebrating the release of Lindsay’s awesome new guidebook for the Thai Durian enthusiast.
Her beau having flown back to the States to attend to family matters, Lindsay couldn’t very well let pass her twenty-fifth birthday sitting home alone, could she? So, she put out the bat-signal – which, here in Penang, looks a little something like this…
…and called the tribes to the epicenter of the Penang Durian miasma, the Bao Sheng Durian Farm.
I had wanted to try Bao Sheng’s famous on-farm tasting two years ago, but for one reason or another, failed to make it over there. So you could imagine, I was pretty giddy with anticipation. Got the bus out to Teluk Bahang; which is a pretty nice ride, right there along the coast and all. But, factually, it was for me most memorable because of all the humorous signs I seen. They were zooming by at such a rapid clip that it was all I could do to jot a few of them down. To wit…
Hat Parking [Wouldn’t mind getting a job as a valet there…]
Local Food Haven
Crab Village [Right next door to…]
Slow Rock Café
From the end of the line in Teluk Bahang, it’s about five or six miles to the farm. My concerns with walking it were these: That there would be an assload of traffic, that the road’s shoulders would be about as wide as a credit card (turned sideways), and that the sun would be baking hot. Thought I might be better off getting a hitch, but decided to set out walking and see how it went.
Turned out, there wasn’t much traffic at all, the shoulders were manageable enough, if at times a little goofy (ended up walking, for example, a goodly distance at the bottom of the bone-dry aqueduct), and the route was – at least at this time of the evening — mostly in shade.
Oh, and it was quite scenic; proceeding first past a nice reservoir (containing the island’s drinking water supply, I guess?)…
…and then into the Durian Jungle. Most of the island is in fact a concrete jungle; but the Western edge is reserved for the finest Durian trees this galaxy has to offer.
In Penang (or possibly it’s all of Malaysia – can’t rightly remember which) they have a saying: The Durian have eyes. It means, if a Durian falls off the tree and de-brains you as you’re walking underneath…you probably had it coming.
This saying was foremost in my mind as I prepared to pass under a tree hanging over the road.
But then I noticed…
A net? The fuck happened to Karma™? Sheesh.
The path was veritably littered with roadside stands and turnoffs to farms.
Oh, and also:
I think it means that the pedestrian should prepare him- or her-self for the most excruciatingly hellacious half-hour walking he or she had ever had the dis-pleasure to experience. Dunno what the fudge happened, but all the suddenly, the motorcycles were out in full force. The loudest, noisiest, meanest, most obnoxiousest motorcycles this side of fuggin’ Sturgis, Dakota.
I shouldn’t have to say this again…but, apparently, I do have to: MOTORCYCLES ARE FUCKING SATANIC. I mean, if they would just outfit the goddam things with mufflers, they’d be more less fine. But so long as they won’t, MOTORCYCLES ARE THE FUCKING DEVIL.
I kid you not, walking through this torture-chamber-on-two-wheels was the closest I’ve ever in all my born days come to falling cross-legged to the ground, ripping out all of my hair, and bawling for my mommy. So horrible.
Just as I was kicking myself for not having thrown a pair of earplugs into my day-pack, it occurred to me: The fuzz, when they’d performed the “Police Check” over me back Bangkok, had discovered a pair of foam plugs which’d burrowed their way to the bottom of my little belt-pouch used to house my MP3-player. Zing! I scrambled madly to get at them, popped them in, and…yes, they were effective.
But also no fun. For, when wearing earplugs, one can also not hear the song of the birds, nor that of the cicadas, nor the rustling of the breeze through the trees, nor the babble of the brook. In some ways, one can not even hear oneself think (as strange as that may sound).
Thankfully, it was shortly thereafter that the freaking onslaught (for the most part) ended as suddenly as it had begun. But still I say here to one, some, and all: MOTORCYCLES CAN JUST ABOUT FUCKOFF.
I think back now to the time, two years ago in Bangkok, when I did lower myself to hiring a moto-taxi, and I hang my head in shame. The experience was very much akin, now that I ponder the matter, to that time I voted for Michael Dukakis: I had promised high and low that I would not do it, I had known that I was wrong at the moment of doing, and I have felt dirty and unwashed ever since.
And I do now therefore on this very date issue the following Solemn Fucking Oath™:
[Begin Solemn Fucking Oath]
Any and all persons reading this-here blog are hereby deputised with the authority to — should they hear tell that I have ever either driven or ridden on top of a two-, three-, or four- (or, hell, five-, if there is such a thing) wheeled motorcycle – run my dimpled ass through with a motherfucking javelin. No questions asked, no forgiveness sought.
I’d rather eat greasy catshit out of a gasoline can than to be caught riding on top of a god damn motorcycle.
[End Solemn Fucking Oath]
The party was set for Saturday morning, with the various representatives trickling in throughout the day on Friday. I arrived near sundown, and the Good People were already beginning their pre-func, partaking of a little somethin’-somethin’ (if you catch my meaning). For the most part though, we were in a holding pattern, waiting for the evening harvest to arrive.
Which it soon enough did; along with Lindsay, her co-host Grant, and, of course, the farm’s owner: a man who – much like Magic Johnson or Vanilla Ice – has so transcended his chosen field of endeavour that his craft has become a part of his name. You may call him “Durian Seng” (for he is none other).
He proceeded to give a very high-level lesson in the Durianic arts, teaching us how to properly hold the Durian…
…how to properly smell the Durian…
…how to properly carve up the Durian…
…and (most importantly) how to utilise the various and sundry smartphone apps in order to properly illuminate the Durian when eating after dark.
If I’m understanding it correctly (which, I very possibly am not: it’s a quite deep well, and my noggin’ is a quite puny decanter), there are five stages of Durian taste progression: Sweet, Flower, Bitter, Wine, and Numb. As soon as the Durian falls from the tree, the stages begin peeling away like layers of the onion – ‘til, after a relatively short period of time, only the Sweet flavour is left standing.
Mr. Seng took me to task when I queried whether we would, on the morrow, be able to eat of a certain variety for which I was carrying particularly fond memories from two years ago (the “Oh Chee”). He explained that any and all varieties exhibit all five stages; and that the reason to come drop ungodly quantities of coin at Bao Sheng was not to chase down prestigious or favoured varieties, but rather to eat Durian which has fallen from the tree less than a half-hour’s time from the moment of consumption – and thus displays all five of the possible taste sensations.
The “Numb” stage is to be taken literally, by the way: The eating actually numbs one’s lips and tongue. Unfortunately, we weren’t privileged to experience this ultimate stage, as none of the harvested fruits had retained this quality. There was one that many agreed imparted a partial numbness – but I personally felt nothing at all.
After a midnight dip in the spring-fed pool, we retired to the cute little two-storey house (er, rather, villa) Lindsay had helpfully rented out for the occasion. When the Morning Harvest came in, we’d already be on the grounds with our trusty Durian Scythes in hand.
Now then, anybody ever spews at you some kind of fucking crap about the supposed wretchedness of the Durian’s aroma, I invite you to rejoin by showing to the miserable oaf(s) this very same photograph:
The gleeful kids-in-a-candy-store anticipation washing over Grant’s and Jake’s faces here as they dig in to the morning’s first Durian so clearly and completely puts the lie to the rumours and innuendo that all such libelous rot can and must henceforth entirely cease.
For Durian is the King Of Fruit, and all who share its bounty…
…know it for true: There can be no higher, more superlative, feeding experience.
See that? That, right there, is Durian Lust:
It turned out, as it happens, to be a fantasm. What Mads and Ryan believed for the briefest of moments to have been the fabled Titanium Homunculus variety being delivered from on high turned out was just another stoopid revelation from the fucking Holy Ghost (or whatever).
No matter how many Durian Mr. Seng’s son, here, kept pounding onto the floor (to get primed up for best eating)…
…and delivering up to our table…
…we done devoured those sons of bitches with such indomitable grace and fury…
…that they had to back the truck up…
…and cargo in a whole other Harvest.
Ladies and Gennlemen, the mighty Hor Lor:
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you find that the six-leggeds are swarming in with such vigour as to threaten to make off with your prized fruit before you’ve even had a chance to get a good whiff of it yet…
…you know there’s a Taste Jackpot awaiting your very immediate future.
After we’d stuffed ourselves silly, we made the obligatory trek over to the old waterfall/swimming hole. Just look at these characters, willya? Could be one of only two explanations, here. Either they’ve just laid waste to a thousand metric tonnes of Bao Sheng Durian, or they’re busy filming the next Godfather picture. We’ll probably never know which.
Bao Sheng’s is just about equidistant between Teluk Bahang and Balik Pulau. I went ahead and walked the rest of the distance between the two, completing my two-day tour of “Durian Alley”.
Along the way, I nearly got blown over by a mad rush of cars come racing around the bend like as if it were the end of the known World. “What do they think this is,” I muttered to myself, “the goddam Penang Grand Prix, or some shit? …Fuckin’ idiots.”
But then, I rounded the corner myself, and, it looked exactly like a Grand Prix course. Huhn – I guess the joke’s on me.
Grabbed a ear of corn…
…and a Watermelon along the way. The former I et at once, while the latter I schlepped all the way to the Bus Terminal in Balik Pulau, for my next day’s Luncheon.
Balik Pulau, where the Durian are so numerous, they’re piled in knee-deep mounds every old where.
Got the bus to George Town, and along the way, had a very intense experience listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Wedding Song” while speeding along near the airport at around dusk. Partly it was that the conditions, including being in a foreign country, made it seem very cinematic. But mostly it was just…Karen O. I tell ya, she has got to be the most potent weapon in Rock and/or Roll to-day, innit?
Or maybe it was just the Durian, fogging up my brain again…
Right, lemme get serious here for just a hot second, okay?
Why is birthday-girl Lindsay the world’s greatest Durian Photographer?
It’s because she puts her entire heart and soul into her photos. It’s because it’s not a representation of the Durian you’re seeing there in those flickering ones-and-zeroes so much as it is a representation of her very essence.
Lindsay lives and breathes Durian, and has done more to advance the cause of Durian advocacy than any person I’ve ever heard about. She works her fucking ass off – sacrificing much, asking little or nothing in return. And she delivers the goods. Her book is really great, and if you’re reading these words, I for one think that you ought to go and purchase a copy from her.
Oh, and wish her a Happy Birthday while you’re at it.