I went to the shuttle bus stop to buy a ticket to the grocery store. I could’ve saved a dollar or two by getting into the back of an old truck with a bench running along each side of its cab, aka “local bus” but if I was going to be out on the road during this dangerous holiday I’d rather be in a big relatively safe bus. However I was told the 3pm bus wasn’t coming and since I didn’t want to wait for the next one I told the ticket lady no thanks and was going to head to the local bus stop. Continue reading
As if the roads in Thailand weren’t already dangerous enough today is the second day of Songkran (Thai New Year) a holiday where many people throw water from the side of the road and out of the back of trucks at people driving or walking by and where drunk drivers aren’t hard to find. I try to stay off the road this time of year as the death toll adds up. Right now for the first 3 days of this deadly week it’s at 181 deaths which is 50% higher than last year along with 1,771 injuries. In fact just a few hours ago I saw a truck that crashed off the side of the road with people standing around it.
According to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute Thailand has the second most dangerous roads in the world with 44 deaths per 100,000 and the most dangerous is Namibia with 45. China is 22, the global average is 18, the U.S. is 14, and countries like Canada, France, and Germany are 8, 7, and 6 respectively. Which means you’re over 6 times likely to die on the roads in Thailand than you are in France or Germany. So if you’re in Thailand, particularly during Songkran, please be careful and wherever you are please, please, please don’t drink and drive.
In Thailand many of the locals prefer to eat unripe fruit. For instance mangoes are often eaten green, hard, and tooth meltingly sour. I do cringe a little when I see locals eating unripe mangoes, jackfruit, bananas, santols, and pieces of durian that look more like raw potato than durian but what really gets me is when tourists come to Thailand and try these fruits for the first and perhaps last time but are given unripe fruit not worth eating.
If you try durian in Thailand for the first time you’ll probably buy a small plastic wrapped pack of it rather than a whole fruit so here are three tips for selecting some durian that’s worth trying. I don’t endorse buying anything on or in foam packing so if possible try and buy durian that’s packed on paper but know you probably won’t find any so you should just bring your own reusable food container and have the seller open a fresh ripe one and sell you some of that or you could just buy a whole durian which comes packaged in a biodegradable spiked shell.
1.) Color: The color of durian flesh ranges from white to red however odds are the type of durian you’ll encounter in Thailand is MonThong. When it comes to this cultivar of durian generally speaking the yellower the better however note that many cultivars of durian are supposed to be white or close to it.
2.) Softness: Don’t squeeze ripe fruits! I can’t believe how many tourists I’ve seen squeezing ripe fruit or poking dents into it and then walking away without buying it. However you can very slightly press on the plastic wrap covering the durian with your finger tip just enough to know whether or not it’s soft.
3.) Smell: If all that stands between you and a piece of fresh ripe durian is a thin layer of plastic it should give off a strong smell and make you understand why durian is banned from most hotels and public transportation. If you’re only getting a slight smell or no smell it’s probably unripe durian which isn’t worth trying.
In summary if you visit Thailand and would like to try some durian make sure it passes the three checks above and if you see some that looks like the unripe, overpriced, inedibly bad stuff below it’s best to pass and wait for a better chance to try this must try fruit. Also feel free to let the fruit seller know that you’d like to buy some durian provided it was soft and ripe so they understand that unlike many of the locals most people prefer ripe, sweet, fragrant, and in the case of durian, very soft fruit.
If you want to see what durian is supposed to look like check out this post.
P.S. Rambutans should be red, not green, when you eat them. There are yellow rambutans but you’re unlikely to come across those in Thailand. However you will see people selling unripe green ones which I don’t recommend.