becoming a raw
fruit connoisseur destination, with people who love tropical fruit
flowing through at a steady clip to sample some of Thailand's best
But is it really worth the trip to Chanthaburi, a spot that's a bit off
Thailand's beaten tourist path, just for a fruit feast?
Let me tell about my experience there.
The Durian Festival: What Is It?
Like many ambiguously-translated Thai phrases, there are several names
for the festival. Signs in the city and online documents varyingly call
it The Chanthaburi Durian Festival, The Chanthaburi Fruit Festival, or
the World Durian Festival.
The event, whatever you want to call it, takes place in the small city
of Chanthaburi in the province of Chanthaburi, a rich agricultural
region near Thailand's eastern border with Cambodia.
The yearly gathering there
celebrates of the vast
amount of tropical produce grown in the orchards surrounding
Chanthaburi city. The most popular fruit, of course, is the Durian,
aka, the king of fruits.
Chanthaburi province churns out half of Thailand's durian crop, and
more farmers in the area grow various types of durian than any other
crop, although other tropical fruits are also prominent.
It's no surprise, then, that the city would have a festival honoring
its most popular fruit.
What I like about the festival is that it actually honors the fruit by
featuring it prominently for sale in its natural state, unlike in North
America, where, for instance, the strawberry festival in my home town
features no fresh strawberries, but only processed and baked
There are plenty of stalls selling all kinds of tasty fruit, as well as
the usual processed foods based off durian, normal cooked
Thai food, meat
on sticks, toys, clothing, knickknacks, cool hand-carved furniture, and
The Durian Festival: Fruit Quality
The produce available at the durian festival is certainly of great
quality. I devoured melt-in-your-mouth mangoes, enough durians to give
me a hangover, and mangosteen that really hit the spot.
What Produce Is Available At The Durian
At the festival and in
the city's surrounding markets you'll find:
Watermelons (They don't seem to be grown
locally. Mediocre quality)
Cherimoya (You have to look around the market a
bit for them).
But in all honestly, while I'd say the selection and quality of durian
may have been slightly better than I've found elsewhere in Thailand,
the rest of the fruit was no better.
I've been living in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, and at Muang Mai
Market the prices tend to be as good or better, the selection
broader (they have egg fruit here, for instance), and the quality is
pretty much at the same level (watermelons are way better here).
And if you're simply looking for the best quality durian, then most of
the durian connoisseurs (I don't consider myself one) will tell you
that the paragons are all grown in Malaysia's Penang province, and that
Thai Durian is at best a runner up.
Still, if you're looking for a place to eat good-quality fruit in May,
The Durian Festival is a good bet. I'm simply trying to make the point
that it doesn't blow away the fruit available in the rest of Southeast
The City of Chanthaburi
The city itself is not a touristy city, and is primarily set up to
service the agricultural and mining industries that are the province's
Because of this, the selection and quality of hotels isn't going to
compare to a place like Chiang Mai, fewer people speak English, and
western tourists still seem like something of a novelty to many of the
locals, which is kind of refreshing.
The city has about 30,000 residents, and is significantly less dense
than Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai. It's not a particularly attractive
city, with the one city park, King Taksin the Great Park, being the
The park is centered on a large island surrounded by a man-made lake,
with beautiful trees and shrubberies all around. I spent many great
evenings here during the festival, polishing off the days with
fruits meals and the company of interesting people.
My Video Review Of The Durian Festival
What The Durian Festival Offers
All around the perimeter of
King Taksin The Great Park and through the municipal center of the
city, the Durian Festival sprawls. There are countless stalls
selling food, clothing, toys, and just about everything else you'd
expect at a festival.
You can engage in a durian speed eating contest (I took second, losing
by a mere 10 grams!), there are amusement park rides for children, and
every night musical acts and other entertainment groups put on shows at
The Chanthaburi Durian Festival: Why It Was Worth The
For me, the fruit itself
wouldn't have been enough of a draw. However, because there are so many
health-conscious, progressive raw foodists in attendance, it's a nice
chance to socialize with other like-minded people.
My friend, Grant Campbell,
organized a raw food retreat coinciding with the festival in 2011, and
plans to hold them yearly.
You can find out about his future retreat plans here.
Grant was nice enough to let me participate in many of his retreat's
activities, and I had a great time getting to know his group as
as the other fruit tourists moving through the area.
We took several trips outside Chanthaburi city, visiting a waterfall,
one of the best beaches I've seen in Thailand, which was called Ao
Krathing, an organic farm, and a Buddhist monastery. There are also
several national parks around the area.
Dates And Times Of The Chanthaburi Durian Festival
The dates of the 10-day durian festival differ from year to year based
on when the durian crop will be harvested. Generally it starts in late
April or early May. In 2011, the dates were May 5 to 15. This Thai
website generally has
the dates a few weeks before the festival starts.
Every day the first fruit stalls start opening around 9 or 10 a.m., but
most of the festival activities gear up around noon. The festival is
busiest at night, with activities continuing through 10 p.m.
How To Get To Chanthaburi
There are no train lines
Chanthaburi, but several bus lines make regular trips. If you're
traveling from Bangkok,
find transportation to the Bangkok Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai) on
First class buses to Chanthaburi leave every half hour or so during the
tickets around 150 baht.
Where To Stay
Although there are some really cheap, really basic hotels in the city
with employees that don't speak any English, there are a few with
fairly modern accommodations and better service.
The River Guest House is fairly nice. A basic spartan-but-clean fan
room with a shared bathroom and no windows starts around 150 baht per
night, but it was too claustrophobic for me. For around 250 baht you
can get a bigger room with windows, a fan, and a built-in bathroom. The
more expensive rooms have air conditioning.
The next tier up, for around 600 baht a night, can be found at the
More expensive resort-like accommodations can be found outside the