Thailand
Ban Khai

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    • Day 20

      Suphattraland

      June 4, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

      We came to Rayong for the opportunity to visit one of the many durian farms not too far outside the city.

      Yesterday we went to the front desk to make arrangements to cross this item off our bucket list. Our first choice, Suan Ban Rao, which grows 111 different varieties of durian, turned out to be about 60 kms from our hotel, making getting there costly and impractical. The clerk at the desk suggested Suphattraland, which offers an all you can eat fruit buffet and a tour of the farm where they grow durian, mangosteen, papaya, mango, jackfruit, snakefruit, passionfruit, pineapple and rubber trees, to name a few. The hotel clerk booked a taxi to pick us up at 8:00 am Monday morning, reserved us a place at the farm (since we heard these places can get quite busy) and gave us coupons for a 100฿ discount on the admission price.

      The taxi ride to the farm took about thirty minutes and, as we pulled into the parking lot we were greeted by giant statues of the various fruits grown there. Uh-oh, this was looking a little kitschy. It got worse as we neared the ticket booth since all the fruits had now magically sprouted arms, legs, eyes and big goofy smiles. A cross between Disneyland and the worst sports team mascots ever dreamed up.

      Maybe we should have gone with our first plan and trekked out to Suan Ban Rao. This was looking like your typical Thai tourist trap.

      Well, we were already there, so we decided to make the best of it. We hopped onto a transporter with three Thai folks and the driver and embarked on our tour of the farm. Sadly, the commentary was all in Thai and we couldn't understand 99% of it, but it was nonetheless a lot of fun to see how all this wonderful fruit is grown. As we made our way through the orchards and groves we were like excited little kids, pointing at all the exotics we'd never before seen except in pictures or movies. I called it the vegan equivalent of a trip to the zoo.

      Not long into the tour we stopped in the middle of the rambutan grove (orchard, plantation?) and our driver used a long bamboo pole to pull some of the hairy looking red fruit from the tree tops. He showed us the correct way to open them (we'd been doing it all wrong) and offered the fruit to us. If you've never tried rambutan, it has a lychee or longan like texture, but isn't so fragrant or flavorful. The flesh has a tendency to stick to the seed, which generally makes lychee more desirable to me. But these fresh-from-the-tree beauties, still warm from the morning sun, were another story altogether. They were so sugary sweet and succulent I almost wanted to stay there and fill my belly with them.

      We all climbed back into the shuttle and soon arrived at the fruit buffet, where we were disappointed to see only mangoes, passion fruit, mangosteen, papaya, snakefuit, pineapple, rambutan and banana on display. I asked about the durian and was directed off to my left where there were piles of the stinky fruit just waiting for us to attack. The staff at the table was very helpful as they would skillfully slice up the thorny fruit into manageable chunks and hand it over to us. There were only Monthong and Chanee varieties, but both were served perfectly ripe, creamy and delicious. By far the best durian we've had here so far. As soon as we'd finish one pod, we were offered another and we probably could have stayed there all day, scarfing back durian until we exploded. The mangosteen was also outstandingly sweet and the mango was like candy.

      One of the Thai women in our group had as voracious an appetite as we did, but even with our combined onslaught, we barely made a dent in the piles of fruit available to us. After about thirty minutes of stuffing our faces, we climbed back onto the bus and saw where the rest of the fruits and veggies were grown. There were gigantic jackfruit hanging from trees with comically thin stems attaching them. We saw alien looking dragon fruit growing from the tips of equally alien looking cacti-like plants. There were hundreds of mango trees, yet we didn't see a single fruit and later learned that their season is March to May. As we drove through the papaya plantation we understood something the driver said: Sum Tom. Green Papaya Salad, or Sum Tom, is served everywhere in Thailand and is one of our favorites. We figured the driver was just referencing one of the uses for papayas, but all of a sudden he pulled into another rest stop area and we all had a custom made Sum Tom prepared for us. How we managed to stuff any more food down our throats I don't know, but stuff we did. The salad was so well prepared both Brenda and I ate every last morsel, and then used the leftover dressing to flavour the hydroponic green and red lettuce and red cabbage that was also on offer. Oink!

      As we made our way through the farm we noticed beehives everywhere. Our driver pulled into another rest stop and we were treated to a sample of the locally produced honey that had literally just dripped from a honeycomb.

      Our last stop was in the middle of a cluster of durian trees where farm workers were gathering durian and piling them onto a trailer. The smaller durian weigh on average two to three kilos each and are so spiny they are almost impossible to handle without gloves. Yet these workers gather them from the ground, stack them onto a burlap sack, which they use to carry the fruit stretcher-like to the trailer. Sometimes one or two fruits would fall from the sack as they lifted it from the ground and they'd hop out of the way of the rolling torture device to avoid injury.

      At the end of our tour we found our taxi driver patiently waiting for us as we hammed it up for the camera with the fruit mascots. I wonder how many kids have nightmares of those things after they visit the farm.

      In the end, despite our initial trepidation, Suphattraland turned out to be an entirely enjoyable experience that I'd recommend to anyone visiting the area. I just hope that giant dragonfruit doesn't come and haunt my dreams.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Amphoe Ban Khai, Ban Khai, บ้านค่าย

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