Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Price Durian?

Do you know what durian is? It's a fruit that is popular in Asia but famous for having a disgusting smell. I'd read about it somewhere, so when I was recently offered a durian popsicle for dessert, I jumped at the chance! Well, okay, I accepted the chance with great trepidation, but I was really curious.

After hearing my hosts debate whether the flavor was more reminiscent of chemical waste or excrement, I was surprised to find the popsicle completely inoffensive, and actually almost pleasant. I pronounced it "sweet and fruity, sort of like a piña colada," at which my friends practically fell off their chairs they were laughing so hard. "Although," I continued, "it does taste worse every time I take another bite."

It turned out that they'd had the durian pops in the freezer for a while, so the flavor was much less strong than when they'd tried them: they'd had to spit out the first bite, and ended up feeding the rest to the dog (who enthusiastically lapped it up, perhaps finding it reminiscent of toilet water).

Anyway, the reason I'm writing about durian is this part of the Wikipedia entry:


It's illegal to carry a durian on public transportation in parts of Southeast Asia, including the Singapore subway, where these signs are posted. But if the smell is really that bad (or the spikiness that hazardous) why isn't there a fine, as there is for smoking and eating? Does the lack of a fine mean people are constantly flouting this regulation? Is this law ever enforced?
I guess this is one instance where durians are actually "odor: free!"

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

My family is from Malaysia where durians are much-loved. When ever someone goes, they're required to bring back some candies or something. That being said, don't bother buying the actual fruit in the US, it's extra stinky. And yes, the no durian rule in hotels is often enforced.

VixenOnABudget said...

That sign made me laugh so hard. It was just... so random to see that a fine was mentioned for flammable goods. Remind me next time I board a bus not to bring the propane in a used gallon of milk container.

And, then, of course, the durians. I share your sentiments that a fine should be enforced; if not only because the sign looks unharmonious with one random item that isn't fined.

Daniel said...

Durians are a delicacy in Southeast Asia where I'm from. It's called the "king of fruits" due to its strong flavor and smell.

In Singapore there is a neighborhood where durian stalls spring up at night and line the street with walls of durian. In fact those stalls are so popular that they have makeshift tables and chairs for people who walk past and get so tempted by the smell that they have to eat one right there and then.

But above all, durian eating is an occasion for many people. The fruit is so popular that it helps gather everybody in one room - most people eat the fruit with the whole family or at least with friends.

That's really half the fun of eating that fruit.

Mike said...

Hmm, that's weird. I lived in Singapore for a summer and always thought there was a fine. During my 3 months there, I used public transport nearly every day and never saw (or smelled) anyone violate the law on the bus or subway. Also, I agree w/u that the first bite is delicious, but it starts getting worse and worse w/every bite. I usually just take a bite or two from friends when they have it instead of getting a whole slice for myself.

Mrs. Micah said...

Thich Nhat Hanh's work introduced me to durian. I believe he doesn't like them at all. I'm trying to remember what else he said about them...I think his point was that sometimes we develop attachments to very useless and strange things.

Fabulously Broke in the City said...

Durian pops are my favourite. But I absolutely CANNOT stand durian itself. Something about the consistency and .... flavour makes me gag. My parents love it to bits...

There's no fine for carrying durians.. but I think the issue is because it's spiky and can be quite dangerous if dropped on an open-toed foot if the MRT subway (Monorail transit) were to jerk to a stop suddenly.

It's a dangerous fruit to handle, most people wear gloves to hold it to protect themselves from the spikes...

It's not the smell so much as it is the fact that it could be a weapon of sorts LOL!!!!!! They're not going to eat it on the MRT.. just carry it :P But you cannot claim fruit as being a weapon :P

Anonymous said...

No one needs to enforce the durian rule coz anyone can smell from miles away. No one will attempt to bring it. The rule is also more a courtesy for foreigners than an actual rule so they don't throw up in the trains.

Anonymous said...

Durian is actually pretty good - try durian and sticky rice at a good Thai resturant, I'm sure you can find a nice one in NYC.

Those signs are all over Thailand by the way - usually in Hotels :-)

sujay said...

haha! i'm indian, was born in singapore and love durians :))) no way can a popsicle compare to the actual fresh fruit. I think if you tried it you might just faint dead away

and those signs are just to keep foreigners/white folks happy (the govt wants your tourist dollars desperately). most locals really don't care if they see someone carrying durians on public transport (which I've never seen happen anyway).

Shadox said...

That's hilarious. I have never heard of durians, and by the description I hope to never have a face to nose encounter with them.