I made a dash for the Bao Sheng Durian Farm on Wednesday to look in on the Durian Villa built by durian plantation owner Chang Teik Seng. Yes, like he had described to me earlier, the Villa comprises two small huts with a king-size bed, a cupboard, an attached bathroom and a flat-screen television, and separated by a small three-foot-deep pool. All in warm, earthy colours to complement the lush green settings of Sungai Pinang on the other side of Penang island.
When I arrived, workmen were still around to widen and cement the road at his farm so that visitors could park their cars in the compound more easily and there would be more open space to hold durian parties. There are plans, he told me, to build two more huts further down the road, spacing them further apart so that there'd be more privacy for homestay tourists.
I took a look around. It has been such a long time that I had taken in the breath-taking view of the south-western of the island which overlooks the town of Balik Pulau. Chang is lucky to live here away from the hustle and bustle of the city but more importantly, surrounded by such greenery, quietness and nature.
There was already a group of his friends around, no doubt all of them were durian connoisseurs. We were waiting for another small party of people to arrive. But today, there would be no big durian feast yet. The season still has not started so not many of the fruits have dropped yet. All around us, we could see fruiting trees. Some of the fruits were high up in the trees, so much so that Chang had to spread nets beneath the trees to collect those that drop. There were also fruits that were just at eye level.
Chang took us on a tour of his farm. Actually, farm is a misnomer because it is actually an estate or plantation land on a hill slope with trees and shrubs growing everywhere. There's simply no order at all. And there's no clear demarcation where it starts and where it ends. There's a path leading down the slope. "It takes five minutes to walk down," he said, "but 15 minutes to walk up." And he does that five or six times a day. Don't have to ask if he is physically fit; he is...
And ultimately, there was the durian tasting. As I mentioned earlier, it's still too early for the season to be considered started. But there were some early fruits that had dropped in the last 24 hours. Enough for our small group.
First of all, Chang took pains to explain the ins and outs of choosing durians. First, make sure that the stalk is fresh and not dried up. Sometimes, he said, durian sellers try to fool their customers by slicing off the tip of the semi-dried stalk to pass off the fruit as fresh. Next, place the durian close to the ear and shake it. If you can hear or feel slight knocks within the fruit, then it must be okay. If it knocks a lot, the durian may not be ripe and if it doesn't knock, chances are that it is soggy already. And finally, give it a good sniff near the stalk to take in the aroma. Now you know....
Interested to try the durians at Bao Sheng Durian Farm? Just call Chang at 012-4110600 to make reservations and check the availability of the fruits. Getting there is easy: turn left at the Teluk Bahang roundabout and travel for about nine kilometres. The Farm is on the right side of the road. You can't miss it; there's a signboard there. To know the rates for his all-you-can-eat durian parties, click here.