On 25th June last, thirty keen plant collectors, mostly R.F.C. members, flew out of Townsville for a 15-day tour of S.E. Asia, visiting Bangkok, Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Singapore. About half the time was spent free-roaming and sightseeing, and the other half was spent visiting nurseries, fruit markets and D.P.I. demonstration farms.
June and July are the main fruit harvest months, and there was no shortage of delicious fruit to taste. The markets were absolutely full of local and imported produce.
Rambutans were plentiful and proved very popular with the group. Rongrien and Chompoo were found in Bangkok, whilst in Malaysia, the markets were selling R3, R4,R7, R9, R134 and the yellow variety R156, which generally was the sweetest variety, while R134 had the best flavour. R4 is still the most common variety found. In Singapore, R37 and Jit Lee are still their most popular.
Purple mangosteens were very popular with all members of the tour. The mouthwatering white flesh with its sweet tangy flavour seems to melt in your mouth. They certainly live up to their name of 'Queen of the Tropical Fruits'. The largest specimens were about 3" or 8cm in diameter, and were found just south of Kuala Lumpur. Everyone agreed they were a taste sensation. Prices were generally about A10 cents each. Wild and cultivated mangosteen trees were seen by the hundreds, all the way down the Malay peninsula - the largest being about 60' (18m) high.
Durians were abundant in every market and sold for A$3 to A$5 each. About half the group (mostly the men) seemed to really enjoy them, while the ladies were a little hesitant. The better quality fruit were dearer, but well worth the extra money, as the flavour was quite superior. Durian flavoured ice cream in Bangkok was popular with all members of the group. It must be said that there were few complaints about that famous sweet and strongly-fruity Durian smell. Previous attempts at describing this noble fruit have not done justice to it at all. Many Asian shopkeepers were seen to reward their staff, after a hard day's work, with a feast of freshly opened durian. Thai durian, such as Chanee, Gaan Yaow and Montong, were generally mildest, but around Kuala Lumpur they seemed to have a better flavour, especially D2, D16 and Hew3.
In Northern Malaya we tasted the 'horse mango', (Mangifera foetida) and now we know why they call it the 'horse mango'.
Indian jujubes or Ziziphus (Chinese dates) were common in markets and back yards around Bangkok. They taste very much like a Granny Smith apple.
Jak fruit were very impressive, especially their size and flavour. Just north of Malacca we saw 30kg (65lb) fruit, and in Bangkok we sampled a very attractive pink-fleshed Jakfruit.
Pulasans were hard to find, but worth waiting for. They were juicy and very delicious. The few Pulasan trees we found with fruit, had a very small crop and the owners said it was an 'off' year for the Pulasan.
Bangkok Santols had a very nice tangy flavour, but it is difficult to talk when one is trying to eat the flesh around the rather large seed. (maybe they have a role to play in our society).
Langsats and Duku-Langsats had a nice citrus-like flavour, but were obviously picked too green and had not fully sweetened.
Rambai trees made a spectacular sight with their long, hanging racemes of fruit and the sweet acid taste was liked by all the group.
Tampoi had a similar flavour to Rambai, in a larger fruit.
Lichees from Chiang Mai were on sale and of these, No Mai Chee had by far the best flavour.
Longans were also plentiful and popular with everyone.
Thai Pomelo of excellent quality and flavour, sold for up to A$3 each. Most were white-fleshed or slightly pink, with a thin rind. They are quite superior to the pink-fleshed, thick-skinned variety which is common in north Queensland. Thailand now exports large quantities of Pomelo and Durian to Europe.
Our sincere thanks must go to Mr. Lim Boon Tiong and staff at M.A.R.D.I., Penang; Mr. Chan Ying Kwok and staff at M.A.R.D.I. Kuala Lumpur; Mr.Yong Seng Kong and staff at D.P.I. demo farm in Singapore. All these people gave very interesting grafting demonstrations on Rambutan, Mango, Durian and Sapodilla. They all proved most helpful and courteous.
Our thanks also to the bus drivers who had to make so many sudden stops at road-side stalls.
To see the actual growing conditions and the marketing methods is certainly inspiring and one returns home full of enthusiasm for our own fruit industry.
To those people interested in growing fruit, I can thoroughly recommend any future S.E. Asian fruit tours.
DATE: September 1982
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