See More on Facebook

Culture and society, Curiosity

In search of durians…in Australia!

Very few compelling reasons exist for Malaysians to visit Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, unless its for Durian.


Written by

Updated: December 16, 2018

Most of the time, it’s hot in Darwin … and I mean blazing hot and dry. And coming from where we do, there is barely a need to holiday in a destination that has worse weather than ours.

Even AirAsia, which used to fly there, has completely given up on that destination. Darwin isn’t on Malaysia Airlines’ radar either.

China’s Donghai Airlines, which began its direct flight from Shenzhen to Darwin in August, now records disappointingly low numbers.

Four months after the direct link began, the flights are often less than half full. In September, apparently only 382 passengers flew there, or 44% capacity, while 237 passengers flew outbound, equating to just 27% capacity.

The biggest, closest tourist attraction is Ayers Rock at Alice Springs, and that’s 1,496km away – equal to a 16-hour drive or a two-hour flight.

My Australian friends who live in Melbourne thought I had lost the plot when I told them I was going to Darwin, and worse, in December, when the weather is at its most unforgiving – scorching sun in the day and thunderstorms and rain in the evenings.

“Why are you going to Darwin? I know you have announced your retirement as the CEO, but for heaven’s sake, Darwin is smaller than Kajang,” said my friend.

He isn’t wrong. Darwin City is quite deserted at any time of day, and I arrived on a weekday.

No wonder my Aussie friends who have never visited Darwin, had no intention of joining me, except for two Melbourne-based Malaysians who were drawn by a truly valid reason – Darwin durians!

Durian hunting in Darwin, Australia.

Like me, they are durian fanatics, too, and were keen to find out if our Musang King can hold a candle to or trump the Kangaroo King!

Australia’s largest durian farm can be found in Darwin and is run by the Siah family, who owns Tropical Primary Products.

The Siahs, who moved to Australia from Semenyih, Selangor, more than 30 years ago, have earned national attention – if not international recognition – for their huge durian farm.

They already have more than 2,500 mature durian trees – averaging over 20 years – on 24 ha of land. At least 35 tons of the produce is available in many parts of Australia.

The orchard itself is a sprawling 202 ha, with jackfruit, cempedak, pomelo, mango and jambu air trees, and the Siahs are now trying their luck with langsat trees.

According to Siah Han Shiong, who runs the farm, I was a little late for durian season as it starts in October and ends in November.

My heart sank when he told me that but fortunately, he stored some durians – the whole fruit, and some packages – in the refrigerator. So, we got to sample their HEW1, a Malaysian variety which the family had grown in Semenyih. It looks like Thai durian but its taste and texture are very much of a Malaysian variety.

The durians were creamy, sweet and tasty, and richly yellow in colour.

durians

Sweet and juicy cempedak.

I’d like to think that our Musang King, black thorn or red prawn varieties are more outstanding but then, the comparison may be unfair because I only tasted the few available fruits. So, it would be more appropriate for me to make comparisons during peak season in Darwin.

It was an enriching experience nonetheless, since most Malaysians would never fathom durians to be growing healthily Down Under.

According to Siah, their main customers are Asians, especially Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos and Vietnamese, who live in the main Australian cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Pleasingly, the family knew where to locate retailers who could sell the durians from their farm.

“I think we’ve perfected the growing of durian in a non-tropical environment, which has been challenging in a place like the Northern Territory,” Siah said.

“We’ve worked out what nutrition is required and how to make sure the trees survive the dry season here. The colder weather hammers the tree and you sometimes think, ‘Why am I trying to grow durian here?,’ but when the season arrives, it’s a good reward,” he said, in an interview on the radio show, ABC Rural Country Hour recently.

Siah said that while his family would harvest several more tonnes of durian this year compared to 2017, it would still be very easy to sell the bumper crop.

“At the moment, we’re really only competing against frozen imports, so to produce fresh durian, which actually has a smell about it, we know that once consumers find it, there’s a real market for it.”

The HEW1 variety of durian is currently selling at A$27 (RM81.50) a kilogram, with the average durian weighing between 2kg and 4kg.

There is a growing demand for the King of Fruits in Australia, but the supply is limited because of a relatively smaller number of commercial growers, mostly from Queensland.

But Siah’s Lambell’s Lagoon farm has been getting the most exposure because of his clever use of social media, including a video he made which has garnered much traction. Regular updates by ABC Rural Country Hour has kept the fruit in the forefront of the minds of Australians, too.

His durians are still not ready for export, but don’t underestimate farmers like the Siahs in Australia.

Likewise, who would have thought that the Aussies could be selling mangoes by the truckloads, and better ones from what we get here, too?

The whacky hunt for the Australian durians was certainly worth this excursion, and certainly an eye-opening one. Unlike Malaysia, there are huge tracts of readily available land for farmers to grow these spiky fruits there.

I would hate to see the Kangaroo King “out run” the Musang King in the future, but hey, everything’s fair in the fight for the ultimate title of the King of Fruits.

BY WONG CHUN WAI



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Star
About the Author: The Star is an English-language newspaper based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society, Curiosity

Relentless against child marriage

Farida Yesmin wins an award for her work to prevent child marriage. It was a rainy day in July 2018. As the evening fell, someone called Farida Yesmin, upazila nirbahi officer of Netrakona’s Barhatta, over her phone and informed her that a child marriage was about to take place in Kawrashi, a remote village in the upazila near the Bangladesh-India border. Farida immediately called the police and left for the village in the dark of the night amid rain and thunderstorms. The road was so bad that at one point, the UNO and her team had to leave their vehicles. They walked about two kilometres to find the girl’s home. “As we reached the spot, a local leader tried to stop us. But despite all these hurdles, we were able to prevent the marriage,” Farida said while recalling how she and her team stopped a staggering 59 child marriages after she joined as the Barhatta UNO on May 9, 2017. She


By Daily Star
December 2, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Rental car accidents involving foreign drivers increasing

The number correlates to the increasing number of tourists. As the number of foreign tourists to Japan has increased in recent years, so also has the number of traffic accidents involving rental vehicles with foreign drivers. According to the Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis, 330 such accidents resulting in injury or death occurred from 2014 to 2018, with the accident rate about 5.5 times higher than that for rental vehicles driven by Japanese. Differences in road traffic rules followed in Japan and overseas mainly explain this, and with only about eight months remaining until the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government is scrambling to install road signs written in English, including ones to warn drivers approaching dangerous spots. To drive in Japan, a visitor must possess documents including an international dri


By The Japan News
November 29, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Xi stresses cultivation of military personnel

President Xi Jinping called for enhanced efforts to train more military professionals. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in Beijing on Wednesday that a strong pool of talented professionals is the foundation of a powerful military. He urged the armed forces to uphold the military education strategies of the new era, prioritize personnel training, further deepen military school reforms and boost innovation so they can make new generations of professionals having both integrity and capability. Xi was speaking at the opening ceremony of a training session for heads of military academies and schools at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army. He was accompanied by all members of the Central Military Commission. The president said that the core mission of mili


By China Daily
November 28, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Women in rural Nepal still ashamed of reproductive health issues

Most of these women are suffering from diseases related to uterus and many of them have physical injuries from domestic abuse meted out to them. Sushila Pariyar suffered from uterine prolapse when she gave birth to her first child at the age of 22. Pariyar, who is now 66, didn’t tell her family about the incident until she was 63. Despite her condition, she gave birth to five more children. It was only recently that she underwent surgery after she found out about the dangers of uterine prolapse on a radio show. Bhawani Chaudhary, of Naya Basti in Ghorahi, shares a similar story. Chaudhary, 80, had been suffering from piles for a long time but never sought treatment out of shame. She only recently went for a check-up. The disease has now taken root and needs extensive medication and surgery, but her family doesn’t have enough money to seek treatment. Many women like Pariyar and Chaudhary keep their d


By The Kathmandu Post
November 27, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Fusion of human creativity

AI tech showcased at Yokohama symposium. A symposium on benefits brought about through the coexistence of humans and artificial intelligence technology was held at Landmark Hall in Yokohama on Monday. Organized by major research institute Riken, “Fusion of Artificial Intelligence with Human Sensibility” featured a fashion show in which models wore dresses designed by Ema Rie in “collaboration” with AI technology. A team led by Riken researcher Jun Seita used AI technology typically utilized in healthcare and medical data analysis to analyze about 500 works designed by Ema and images of objects such as shells and roses. The AI system used the results of the analysis to output designs that Ema then used as the basis for the 12 dresses showcased at the event. “We’ve realized that AI is now shifting stage — from a research subject to practical use


By The Japan News
November 27, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting

The government’s hosting of the event has so far been disastrous. Private companies and well-meaning individuals are stepping up to help the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games football tournaments. Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said Southridge School in Alabang has offered its artificial pitch as one of the practice venues for the tournaments, while Vallacar Transit, which owns the Ceres Bus line, has provided 18 of its newest buses to transport teams to their matches. Vallacar is headed by Leo Rey Yanson, who is also the owner of the country’s top football club, Ceres-Negros. Ceres buses were also used by organizers the last time the country hosted the tournament in 2005, following complaints with the vehicle being used by the teams. The 18 buses are intended for the 11 men’s teams and six women’s squads with one spare bus in case


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 27, 2019