GEORGE TOWN, June 24 — They come from Denmark, Australia, Canada, Slovenia, United States, United Kingdom and Singapore and they all have one goal: to feast on durians and local Malaysian fruits.
Contrary to common misconceptions that foreigners from Western countries are put off by the pungent stench of the King of Fruits, about 70 of them are now staying at the Bao Sheng Durian Farm to feast on durians and other local fruits for a week.
The festival, dubbed as the Bao Sheng Durian Festival, is the first large-scale durian festival in Penang organised by durian lovers, Lindsay Gasik and Ryan Lewis, both Americans.
“There are about 70 of us here for the festival, 64 are participants and the rest are volunteers to help out in our programmes throughout this week,” Gasik said.
All of them are staying at the farm's newly-constructed chalets overlooking a stunning panoramic view of the Balik Pulau town from on top the hill at Titi Kerawang.
“When we came here to try the durians in this farm, we had the idea of organising a durian festival for durian lovers from all over the world,” Gasik, who is also a vegan, said.
Gasik is a well-known durian lover who has been traveling all over the world — 13 countries to be exact — in a journey to try different types of durians from various countries.
She even has a durian website, yearofthedurian.com, that chronicles her durian journey since she started in 2012.
“Everywhere I go, when I asked for durians, I’d get asked ‘are you sure you like the smell of durians’? Just because I’m a Westerner! This festival is also a way to tell people, look, I managed to get 70 Westerners to come and eat durians every day,” she told Malay Mail Online when met at the farm.
The week-long festival is not only about eating durians as it also includes a variety of activities such as eco-tours, hiking trips, morning runs around the hill trails and even a visit to the Orang Utan Sanctuary in Perak.
All of the festival participants will also get a tour of the farm by the owner, Chang Teik Seng, followed by talks on durian by Gasik based on her years of research on durians and, of course, the art of choosing durians and the varieties of durians available.
Raw food vegan motivational speaker Grant Campbell, who is helping out at the festival, arrived a week earlier to participate in the Penang Bridge International Half Marathon.
“I will be staying here for a while after the festival, I love it here and I love the durians,” he said.
Some of the participants may choose to stay on after the festival ended and some of them are volunteering for work exchange with Chang — to help out at his farm in exchange for accommodation and naturally, durians.
Visitors to the Bao Sheng Durian Farm during this week, between June 21 and 28, will be surprised to find foreigners expertly helping to pick out, open and serve durians to customers.
Bao Sheng is an organic durian farm located on the hilly curve at Titi Kerawang and is open daily from 11am to 7pm.
For details on the farm, go to durian.com.my and for details on future durian events by Gasik, it is available on her site.