ONE MAN'S DISGUSTING SMELL IS ANOTHER MAN'S AMBROSIA
The durian fruit has that effect on most everyone. A dear friend of many years commented on a recent blog that closed with an image of a Vietnamese man transporting durian fruit on the back of his bicycle. She said she could smell the distinctive smell by just looking at the photograph. It turns out, The Bangkok Post recently published an article entitled Welcome to Durian Country which is, in fact, the remote area of Uttaradit’s Laplae district of Thailand where the most delicious varieties of the “King of Fruits” are the only business in town. Uttaradit province is in the northern part of Thailand and not far from Lampang which claims the most beautiful women in Thailand while Uttaradit can claim the best durian in the world.
Laplae is a town nestled within steep rugged mountains. The name Laplae means “hidden from sight” which is a handy description as it is necessary to hide the town durian jewels from poachers. People face many obstacles to seek out the famous resource grown there, particularly the two elite varieties of durian – Long Laplae and Lin Laplae – which are shown here. Those two varietals were developed there and have become the most expensive and sought-after durians.
Although durian have been cultivated in Linplae since 1942, one of the seeds planted produced a tree that looked and a fruit that tasted much differently from the others which evolved into Long Laplae and Lin Laplae. Fruit from that tree was kept by the villagers to eat while the other durian was sold outside the village.
The terrain shown here illustrates the difficulty in growing this fruit and the toll that the setting takes on the planters and harvesters. Laplae is also a major producer of monthong and local varieties of durians that form a protective layer around the Long and Lin trees. A farmer could walk more than six kilometers up and down slippery hillsides before finding a single Long or Lin tree. Harvesters work from dawn to dusk in teams with one person climbing the trees to drop the fruit some ninety feet to a teammate below.
The durian is loaded into metal baskets on a motorcycle to deliver to local vendors who pay them $15 for every 450 pounds delivered which requires six trips to the mountains to collect that amount. Clearly, it is a lot of work for a modest amount of money though $15 goes a long way in that village. The durian season lasts four months, with the bulk of the harvest occurring in May and June before tapering off in July and August.
I am waiting to hear from my friend, Myrna Ann, whether she is overwhelmed by the durian smell in this room during the harvest season. You can believe that I have carried that aroma with me as I have written this piece. I like durian but one should not drink alcohol while eating it as it will likely cause your heart to beat like a bongo drum and drive your blood pressure to astronomical levels.
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