When commercial crops clash with local tribes…

In a rather rural and remote part of Kelantan there’s a dispute over durian plantations… hopefully this is not going the way of palm oil. If it is, you should only buy fruits from old trees, except that there’s no real way to know.

Read about it here.

It not only affects the way of life of the indigenous people but I’m guessing also their livelihood.

Advertisements

Suggestion for property developers 

Durian, especially the Mao Shan Wang variety, has been exorbitantly priced this year. This article (Durian exports to China fruitful) reminds us why.

At this rate, it might be worth converting all that ringgit into land for a good durian plantation.. seems like it might be the best investment as it’s one of the Malaysian commodities that is actually continually increasing in value.

Perhaps those Chinese developers of forest city in Johor Bahru should consider putting fruit plantations on or adjacent to their property. This could entice buyers from China who are also durian lovers. Property & durian trees.. all long term investments.

Living among Durian Trees?

OK, OK, I apologise if I do digress from the King of Fruits itself, but as the season is approaching towards its end, I thought it would be nice to include some other interesting stories around the Durian. Not too long ago, I happened to chance across this advertisement for real estate (constant love affair here in Malaysia) and thought it rather funny that a property “enhanced by fruit trees” would be considered quality of life and perhaps aid the developers in hiking the price… or perhaps not hike the price but be able to sell property that would otherwise be considered too far away and not good value.

“Imagine your house with a garden of all your own fruit trees…” speaks the photos in the advertisement, durians, jackfruit, mangoes, etc. Makes you daydream about how you can simply wander into your garden and eat off your own plants and breakfast among the greenery. BUT hey it isn’t so easy… maintenance of fruit trees is exhausting work (sweeping, pruning, watering, fertilizing, pesticiding and other forms of troubleshooting) and plants are akin to pets in terms of demanding your time, care and upkeep (think bugs, infection, bird do, bats, moths, ants, rats) – if you want them healthy, flowering and fruiting of course.

If I were to consider a property which was using these sales tactics, I think I would certainly have to inspect the property thoroughly and ask if those trees are mature, newly planted or have yet to be planted. Further, the cost of on-going maintenance before you get entirely fed up of gardening on your own (or your partner gets fed up).

And another note. SW asked my mum last night (who has a small garden plot) whether she wanted to adopt our little durian plantlet and grow it in her garden. She said: “NO WAY, those durian roots are going to upset by granite terrace tiles…” Well, there you have it. It’s not only what’s above ground you need to consider, but bear in mind also what happens below.

Living on a Fruit Farm?

Living on a Fruit Farm?

Durian Feast in Malaysia 25th July

Dear Blog readers,

If you are in Malaysia, free for the weekend and also craving for durians, you might like to know about this upcoming event. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of madding crowds but if you’re up for an interesting durian consumption scheme, then this might just be the thing for you…

ALL THE DURIAN YOU CAN EAT

If you can’t resist the king of fruit, mark July 25 on your calendar and set your GPS system straight for Bukit Gantang. That’s where PUTRI ZANINA will be again, licking her fingers at the annual Jom Makan Durian Festival

//

THE car in front of us makes a sudden swerve to the side of the road and stops. On any other occasion, we would have been angry with such a thoughtless driver but not today.

After all, just moments ago we had done almost the same thing (almost because we did signal before pulling to a halt). So did almost every other driver along that stretch of road. What’s happening?

It’s fruit season… and we’re in durian land! So forgive us for being selfish drivers who can’t help but follow our nose, and our heart, for that luscious, sweet yellow flesh.

The road in Bukit Gantang is flanked by rows of stalls offering not only the “best” durian you can ever find but also rambutan, mangosteen and langsat – all in season now.

Bukit Gantang is, after all, the venue for the annual Jom Makan Durian Festival or the Great Durian Festival that has lured thousands of durian lovers since the event was first held three years ago.

Many find it hard to resist this all-you-can-eat free durian feast though you’d have to jostle with the crowd. But there’s actually more than enough for everyone. Last year, it was reported that 15 lorry-loads of durian or some 16,000 fruit were savoured in just two hours.

This year, the number is expected to be even bigger. So we’d rather be ahead of the crowd.

Good Old Days

As soon as July comes, we make our way to this small town in Perak, just half an hour’s drive from the royal town of Kuala Kangsar. Instead of taking the North-South highway from Ipoh and exiting at Changkat Jering to go to Bukit Gantang, we decide to take the more scenic old inland road from Kuala Kangsar.

This route passes through Padang Rengas (another durian haven) and Bukit Berapit which is about 10 minutes’ drive to Bukit Gantang. For me, it’s a road of nostalgia. When I was small, my parents would take us kids to Bukit Berapit for picnics near the river surrounded by the rolling hills of the Bintang Range.

Now, however, I could hardly see the river. In the old days, as you drove along the road, you would see the clear waters cascading over boulders and forming natural pools for swimming.

Cars, lorries and motorcycles would be parked on the road side where there were many food stalls too. Drivers making the long journey from the north to south or vice-versa (pre-North-South highway) would stop at Bukit Berapit to take a dip in the cold mountain waters or have a refreshing cuppa before continuing their journey.

Sadly, you don’t see such scenes anymore and you have to go further in from the road to have a good view of the river.

There’s a telecom tower marking the spot where you can still see a good stretch of the river. There are signs of logging and parts of the land have been cleared for a double rail track project. But the river water still looks enticing enough to take a dip in and that’s quite comforting.

Traditional Noodles

Near Bukit Gantang, we see a stall “advertising” laksa pulas, so we make a stop. Laksa Buyong, the name of the stall, is apparently famous for laksa pulas (made by using a traditional noodle-making tool that you have to turn). The coarse, pale white noodles are made without preservatives.

Instead of ikan kembong or mackerel as is usually used for Malay-style laksa, flaked sardine is added to the piquant gravy. A bowl of the laksa comes with sliced cili padi and lime. The verdict? Absolutely hot, palate-burning, mouth-watering and tangy.

Much as we enjoy the laksa, our minds are still set on durian.

Roadside Fiesta

Bukit Gantang durian, according to the locals, is one of the best in the country. Roadside stalls offer several varieties, including D24, D99 and MDUR, that are grown in the little hamlets in Bukit Gantang and surrounding areas.

Like in previous years, there’s a glut this year, so you can get durian quite cheaply. A medium-sized fruit is priced at between RM3 and RM4. Small ones sell for as little as RM1 each, so it’s not surprising to see car boots filled to the brim with not just durian but also mangosteen and petai (stinky beans).

Well, the durian stinks too, so imagine the journey home with durian and petai in the boot. What a pong!

For us, the joy of buying durian includes eating it on the spot. The stall keeper happily opens a few and we dig in, enjoying every bit of the sweet, creamy flesh.

At other stalls, most customers are doing the same thing and it looks like one big durian feast all the way. The colours of the different types of fruits – green, red, yellow and more – add to the festive feel.

With the smell of durian drifting in from the car boot and the lingering aroma on our fingers and our breath (arrgh!), we leave in a happy mood.

We see some signboards to Long Jaafar Mausoleum and to an old railway station site but we decide to give these historical places a miss. Somehow, durian and history don’t sound like a good mix.

There’s no mistaking the air of history in Bukit Gantang but we’re too smitten by the king of fruit to think of anything else.

Bits Of History

Larut District’s eminent son, Long Ja’afar, created history when he found tin in the area in 1840. This started the tin boom and, later, wars between two Chinese miner clans, Hai San and Ghee Hin.

Bukit Gantang was Long Ja’afar’s administrative centre. His son, Ngah Ibrahim, took over the business 16 years later and built his residence, fort and store in Matang, known today as Kota Ngah Ibrahim. This fort and Long Ja’afar’s Mausoleum are two of the area’s historical attractions.

But for now, it’s durians we’re after. We are drawn to a signboard directing us to Ladang Bukit Gantang. Perhaps we’ll find a durian orchard there.

Fruit & Flowers Haven

But what we find really bowls us over. Not only do we drive through a durian valley but we also pass other fruit orchards including rambutan, ciku, mangosteen, jackfruit, cempedak, papaya, mangosteen, dragon fruit and mata kucing.

The looming Bintang Range stands guard over this green sanctuary. Cold winds give us a chill as we alight from the car and walk along a garden of blooming hibiscus, cannas and heliconias. The plants “fence” a brick bungalow house fringed with fish ponds.

This is the house of Robitah Zainuddin and her husband Md Tarmizi Md Noor. Robitah is the “celebrated” farmer-cum-entrepreneur who co-ordinates the increasingly popular Bukit Gantang Homestay and the Jom Makan Durian Festival. She won the national-level Successful Farmer Award 2004 while Tarmizi won the Successful Livestock Entrepreneur, Perak 2002.

Within the sprawling fruit farm and flower garden are a chicken farm and a fish farm. Tarmizi rears and sells chicken (some 70,000 birds annually) as well as prized arowana and fish fry for breeding.

Homestay Model

The couple is now reaping the fruits of their labour over the last nine years. Their home in Kampung Lorong Makam Long Jaafar is the reception area for farm visits and showcases facilities available in the 30 other homes that are part of the Bukit Gantang Homestay programme.

The sample homestay room in their bungalow is simply furnished, with wooden furniture and a fan. Outside the house is a clean flush toilet.

The couple would direct visitors to the other homes if they are interested in staying and experiencing life in the kampung. This is one of the ways Robitah gets the villagers involved in the homestay programme.

It’s a full-time undertaking. When we are there, a vanload of tourists from Holland arrives. It’s starting to drizzle but, led by Robitah, the tourists walk in the rain and soak in the cool atmosphere as they pass the pokok pinang walk lined with the tall palm trees and later, the fragrant herb garden. We lose sight of them as they turn towards the foot of the mountain.

After our durian feast, we are hoping to burn off some extra fat. So off we go in the rain, winding our way through rows of ferns and fruiting rambutan trees.

Jom Makan Durian Festival 2009

Mark July 25 in your calendar for this year’s Jom Makan Durian Festival. Invited to grace the event organised by the Perak Tourism Action Council and the Homestay Bukit Gantang Committee are Raja Muda Perak Raja Nazrin Shah and his wife, Raja Puan Besar Perak Tuanku Zara Salim as well as the Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir. For details, call 019-574 0767/05-255 0413.

Homestay Bukit Gantang

The homestay packages include stays in Malay homes, Malay-style food, village tour on bicycle/motorcycle, livestock feeding, rubber tapping, visits to agro-farm and cottage industry (bedak sejuk, kerepek and cookies), natural hotsprings, mountain streams, historical places, traditional games and cultural performances including a mock Malay wedding.

Visits to nearby attractions can be arranged, including Taiping’s heritage buildings, Taiping Night Safari, Matang Mangrove Swamp, Larut Hill and Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary.

For details, call Robitah at 019-574 0767 or 05-855 49 67 or email bghomestay@gmail.com

Ladang Bukit Gantang

The farm includes a durian valley, garden trails with fragrant garden, herbal garden, heliconia/canna/hibiscus walk, fern walk, pinang walk, water apple canopy and water garden. Activities include farm tours and fruit buffet. For guided tours, call Robitah at the same number above.

How To Get There

Bukit Gantang is about 10 minutes’ drive from Changkat Jering toll exit from the North-South Expressway. It’s about two hours from Kuala Lumpur, one hour from Penang and 45 minutes from Ipoh. You may also take the old road from Kuala Kangsar, a drive that takes about 30 minutes.

• Pictures by ZAABA JOHAR, Muhaizan Yahya and Ikhwan Munir

Durian Tours Make Headlines in Singapore

Imagine my surprise the other day when I opened up the daily newspaper in Singapore and found an article on durians.

Singapore Durian Lovers Head North

Singapore Durian Lovers Head North

Entitled ” Durian Lovers Head North on Day Tours”, heading north from Singapore could only mean trips to Malaysia. “ALL that way for Durian???” ( I hear you ask!) In a way it is quite crazy that people would travel from far and wide just to eat a fruit. But of course all our blog readers already know that durian is certainly not “just” a fruit.

Well, in times of recession, travel agents certainly have to get creative. Instead of tours to Vietnam, Indonesia or further, why not build up a tour package for Singaporean durian lovers to get away from the city, venture out with a loved one and savour an amorous* fruit together?

The upside is that a durian plantation tour is a bit like getting back to nature, walking among fruit trees and eating fruits which are in the vicinity of the tree that bore them. Fresh air, exercise and a delectable experience can be had for less than 60 Singapore dollars according to this article.

The potential downsides seem to be the variability in fruits offered at any one plantation (many stalls source from multiple plantations and hence will have a variety for the purchaser) while the single plantation may not have more than one or two varieties. Further, if a tour group or high-end buyer has been there before you, the high quality durians may have already been consumed or purchased leaving the day-trippers feeling a little duped into eating durians which perhaps aren’t the premium grade.

============================

Separately, with the durian glut in season some stalls have been offering a “All You Can Eat” durian buffet. I believe in the saying you get what you pay for, this is true usually for service and it is certainly true for durians. There are probably enough aficionados out there who are willing to pay top dollar for good fruit most days of the week, leaving the mediocre or not so good ones for the durian “buffet”. So if you decide to go on one of these trips, make the priority a learning tour about durian orchards and trees and its environment rather than focussing on purely consuming good fruit and I suspect one will be less disappointed with the outcome.

Personally, I would choose quality over quantity, its always much more satisfying to eat one or two good ones of each type than a feast of unripe or bland durians.

Kiss

Kiss

*Why amorous I hear you ask… well if you’ve ever eaten a durian with a partner who does not take a liking to the smell, don’t expect to be getting any kisses, hugs and you risk getting booted out of your room. The contrary also applies, if you share the fruit together, the aromas sort of cancel out and its a great couple appreciation and sharing experience. So before you go, do check if your mate/spouse/lover appreciates durian as much as you do, or it could be a source of tension in the relationship!