Reviewed By : yearofthedurian

When I planned my Thailand Durian Tour, the one thing I wanted to show people was how many varieties of durian there are in Thailand. Even hardcore durian lovers often assume there are only one or two types of durian in Thailand, and that they taste more or less the same. On Day 3 of the tour, my group demolished 16 Thai durian varieties and any misconceptions they’d had about what defines Thai durian. This post shows photos of all 16 durians that we ate in one single sitting.

About Suan Ban Rao

Suan Ban Rao used to grow rubber, like most of the other farms around it. Today, you turn off the large highway onto the farm’s narrow cement driveway, which winds through the dense brown shade of rubber trees. When the shade gives way to verdant green durian orchards, you’ve reached Suan Ban Rao. Even in this year’s extreme heat, the farm was emerald with health.

The farm is a labor of love, not a commercial endeavor, and I suppose that explains the efforts Kajohn Puttisuknirun takes to keep his pet trees healthy. Eleven years ago, Pi John made the startling decision to  chop down all his rubber trees and replace them with old, scarcely remembered durian trees with no market value.

Basically, he planted his 40 acres with 111 durian varieties he wasn’t sure he could sell. His durians look different: they have sharper, longer thorns, different shapes, and are generally smaller than the commercial durians of today.  The flesh is more often pale, or with lower flesh-to-seed-ratio, or with a stronger, distinct flavor.

They are exactly the durians my group was hunting, but even today most of the people who visit his farm request the old standby varieties: Monthong, Ganyao, and Chanee.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Thai Triumvirate. We tasted one of his Chanees, and it was exceptionally good.

But when there’s novelties like Kratoei or a Chok Loi or Yindi durians to taste for the first time, who can get really excited about Chanee?

 

The Tour

I’ve been to Suan Ban Rao twice now, and each time Pi John started our durian feast by hopping into a creaking trolley car with a microphone in hand. As we lurched around the orchard, he narrated the story of each tree we passed.
The orchard is arranged by durian family, so we bumped through the Kops and Thong Yois and Kampans and Luangs, each dangling a colored ribbon.

This diversity alone sets apart Suan Ban Rao from other farms, but then there’s the odd, twisting, Dr. Seussical trees themselves.

The orchard looks a bit like a zoo gone awry . Each tree has three trunks that meet a few feet off the ground to form one tree, like an orchard full of stumpy three-legged animals.
Pi John believes that combining three rootstocks together yields a stronger, more disease-resistant tree. I’ve seen this done elsewhere with two or three trunks, but I don’t know if it works or not.
The tour lasts about 15 minute, and for full value make sure a member of your party speaks Thai and can translate. Otherwise it’s just a farm ride to look at some very strange trees.

 

At the end of the orchard tour, the trolley stopped in front of a beautiful, elevated boardwalk that leads to the buffet area.

Everyone commented on how beautiful and serene it was, way up nearly at eye level with the durians (look in the far left of the photo above).

Pi John brought us a basket of 13 varieties of durian. If we could finish that, he told Parisa, he’d bring more. We took it as a challenge. We were determined to taste as many varieties as he had.

Luckily, there were 11 of us to do the job. We successfully surpassed his 13 durian challenge.

Scroll down to see photos 16 Thai durian varieties consumed in one seriously successful sitting. I did my best to take notes, but got too excited/distracted and forgot a few.

 

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