GEORGE TOWN: They fly in, stuff themselves full of durians and fly out after a night’s rest.
Such a durian buffet by Tourism Malaysia costs a mere RM186, including a night’s stay in selected hotels.
For Malaysians who do not need the hotel stay, this package is a mere RM66 per person for the buffet only.
It is the tourism promotion board’s latest effort to bring durian lovers to Penang for a feast that will not burn a hole in the pocket.
Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said tourists from Hong Kong and China have begun flying in just for the package.
The trick to making it both affordable for tourists and profitable for durian farmers is to keep the famed variants Musang King and Black Thorn out of the picture.
“Don’t be too obsessed with these two clones. There are many more varieties available only in Penang,” said Muhammad Bakhtiar.
Last month, a woman and her friend enjoyed two Black Thorn and one Musang King durian here and was charged RM937. She aired her unhappiness on social media and it went viral.
Muhammad Bakhtiar said among the varieties found only in Penang is one called Felicia Khor, which is named after a loyal eater.
“It is bitter unlike any other clone and it comes from only one kampung durian tree on the island,” said Muhammad Bakhtiar.
He said five years ago, Khor, who is a Malaysian now living in England, came home and tried it.
The following year, she told the durian seller in Teluk Bahang that she wanted that specific variety again.
“It took a lot of effort to find it for her. So the durian farmer named it after her,” said the deputy minister, adding that it only costs RM20 per kilo.
Among the classic durian clones offered in the package are Red Prawn, Kung Poh, Xiao Hong, Lipan, Capri, D11, D14 and Kacang Hijau,
Muhammad Bakhtiar said the package, which runs till Aug 6, is in collaboration with an orchard in Teluk Bahang willing to offer the buffet at that price.
“We focus on independent travellers instead of group tours. So people can make their own flight arrangements and when they reach the hotel, we will arrange transportation to take them to the durian orchard,” he said.
Orchard owner Eric Yeap said although his net profit was not large, he was eager to help the government make Penang durians famous.
On a separate note, Yeap has Musang King and Black Thorn at his orchard and those who want them simply have to pay for them separately.
He said even AirAsia has chipped in to push Penang durians.
“Those who show an AirAsia boarding pass to Penang get an extra 10% off our list price. Those who take Tourism Malaysia’s durian package get a lucky draw chance to win AirAsia return tickets from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru or Melaka,” he said.