Malaysian durian tours are all the rage despite poor harvest

For less than $100 per person, durian fans can go on a day trip to a durian plantation, feast on durians there, and enjoy a stop at a shopping mall on the way back.
For less than $100 per person, durian fans can go on a day trip to a durian plantation, feast on durians there, and enjoy a stop at a shopping mall on the way back.PHOTO: MY BUONA VISTA/FACEBOOK

Strong demand for such tours run by grassroots groups, which say trips are good for bonding too

A dip in durian harvests this year as a result of the scorching weather has not stopped local fans of the fruit from embarking on day trips to feast on the King of Fruits.

Travel agencies as well as grassroots organisations, which organise most of these tours, said they are running as many such tours this year as in previous years.

This is even though durian farmers had estimated that this year's harvest of the spiky fruit was likely to plunge by at least 40 per cent from last year's, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported in April this year.

Mr Mike Soh, an executive from the Tampines Central Community Club (CC), said a similar number of residents this year vied for limited seats on buses to Johor to enjoy durians as in past years. "Last year, we had three to four buses - that is about 120 to 150 people," he said. "It is great because, in Singapore, we cannot eat durians in buffet style."

Such tours are organised fairly frequently as there is high demand, he added. "Usually for durian tours, we have a lot of residents asking the CC to organise. So we try our best to organise them."

Earlier this month, about 500 residents from Tanjong Pagar group representation constituency (GRC) and Radin Mas single-member constituency joined a day-long visit to a durian plantation.

Overall, dozens of such durian tours to Malaysian states, including Johor and Malacca, are organised each year by grassroots organisations.

For less than $100 per person, durian fans can go on a day trip to a durian plantation, feast on durians there, and enjoy a stop at a shopping mall on the way back.

These tours are an opportunity for Singaporeans to meet their neighbours.

"Our grassroots volunteers help organise many different types of activities to allow residents the opportunities to interact and build bonds," said labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Mr Leong Kum Wah, a programme manager at the Pioneer Generation Office, a grassroots organisation which sometimes organises durian tours, said people still signed up for the tours even though this year's durian season has yielded less-than-stellar offerings.

Mr Tham Wai Loon, a volunteer at Hougang Community Club, said these durian tours tend to attract Singaporeans of all ages.

"Whenever we do this tour, all the residents want to join but we can take only a few," he said.

Mr Tham said these tours not only help the elderly get a breath of fresh air at the plantations, but also help to bond communities.

"The residents enjoy having tours, and some are old and can't travel by themselves. This helps them to get out and about, rather than stay at home alone," Mr Tham added.

Travel agencies also report a similar number of durian tours this year, despite the poor harvest.

KKKL Travel and Tours offers a tour that promises travellers access to a durian bonanza, including the popular Mao Shan Wang, D24 and Jin Feng varieties.

Tours at KKKL this year have been fully booked, with about 240 people signing up this month alone to catch the start of the durian season, which runs from this month to October.

Ms Lilian Neo, manager at Superior Travel, said enthusiasm for durian tours remains unabated.

People of all ages join the tours, she said. "Now I see families, retirees, and even some youngsters coming along for the trips."

Undergraduate Lee Yee Hueh, 23, who went on a trip to Johor earlier this month, said: "The durians in Malaysia are cheap and good. It is also a great getaway with my friends and family."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian durian tours are all the rage despite poor harvest'. Print Edition | Subscribe