Durian is the King of Fruits that Malaysia is proud to possess. Some love it, others absolutely detest it; some start salivating from a whiff of it, others say it smells like garbage. Honestly, this debate will never stop, and it’s always exciting when you can find a fellow durian-lover to have durian-eating marathons with.
Most often, any Malaysian would say that they love durians, but ask someone from the other side of the world, like America, and they would usually say that it smells like an open sewage. However, this is not the case for Lindsay Gasik, a 29-year-old American who is basically a durian expert.
Source: Malay Mail
Back in 2009, she was at a wedding of a raw vegan couple on a farm in Oregon when she had her first sniff of durian. According to Malay Mail, she was so intrigued by it that she used her birthday money to buy a durian to taste it.
“It was exotic and the taste was amazing,” said Gasik, who described durians as a “wily, mysteriously ambrosial custard”.
In 2011, Gasik spent one whole year journeying all over South-East Asia following a durian trail. This was the beginning of everything. Today, she is a bona fide durian hunter who knows the nooks and corners of most of the durian farms and orchards all over this region at the back of her hand.
Year in and year out, she has been trekking all over 13 countries in Asia according to the durian season. She knows every location of the farms and their stories; she even knows the different kinds of durian species that are available.
In 2014, she wrote a Thailand durian guide book to help durian lovers from the Western side of the world find their way around Thailand. The book gives them a guide on how to get to durian farms that were not easy to reach because of the language barrier.
“I was receiving a lot of emails asking for help on where to go for durians so I came up with the guide book in Thailand, just so I could stop replying all these emails,” she said when met at the Soon Huat durian farm up on a hill in Balik Pulau.
She also has an updated and newer version released in 2016, that is now available online on her “Year of The Durian” website.
Gasik explained how she herself managed to pull through the language barrier in these foreign countries. She said that she just kept asking around for help, and was assisted by local Thais who could speak a bit of English.
She added that she also picked up Thai over the years to find her way around, but since most of the orchard owners know her, it has been easier. However, it was much easier in Penang where she picked up Mandarain and Hokkien, as most people could speak English.
While conducting durian tours all over Asia, she spent four years working on The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang as she visited many farms, interviewed their owners and tasted a variety of durians in the process.
“I don’t have a base currently, I go where the durian season takes me and my tour packages follow the peak times to enjoy durians all over 13 countries,” she said.
The book is not just a guide to different durians and durian farms in Penang, but it also features the histories of the farms and the stories from the farm owners. The 300-page book is available both in print and e-book formats.
“It is like a durian-tasting guide book and it is also about exploring the culture here through durians.”
The book features 65 farms all over Penang, including those on the mainland side of the northern state, and the types of durians available at these farms. “There are so many stories to be found here, there are like a thousand farmers here, each with a different story… there’s so much to learn and tell,” she said.
Six years on the durian trail has brought Gasik to a slow-down and will soon find a base in Penang.
“This is the place that feels like home and it has everything I like, it has mountains, the ocean, there’s the strong slow-food movement here and I’m not very far from the city too so I may find a base to stay here,” she added.
Anyone can book a durian tour package with Gasik through her website while The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang book is set to be released in mid-July. Only 1,000 copies will be printed, but you can also pre-order her book from her website.
Wow, this lady is so semangat for durians, maybe even more semangat than some Malaysians!
You can find out more information about her on her website here.
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