Cameron Highlands, Malaysia - (map)
Today is Tuesday, but it doesn't really matter. While traveling, the days seem to meld together and become one long stream of vibrant experiences.
We took a six hour bus ride today from Penang to the Cameron Highlands. The Highlands is a hill station known for it's cool temperatures and fertile land. People come here to relax, hike and enjoy the views. While in the Highlands we plan to visit a tea plantation, strawberry farm, a honey farm, and hike.
The road up to the Cameron Highlands is quite steep and windy and it was painful for our bus as it climbed up the mountain, groaning and shaking around each corner. We pulled up to the bus station safely, just as the sky opened up and began to pour.
Once Tim and I settled into our guesthouse and the rain had slowed, we set out to eat lunch. We found a pleasant Chinese restaurant and ordered. While waiting for our food I noticed outside on the sidewalk a group of men eating the fruit durian.
Durian is a popular fruit in Asia. The outside is green and spiny while the inside is white and fibrous. People who eat durian claim it tastes wonderful, but first you have to get over the smell. It has a distinct, foul smell that invades it's surrounding environment and offends the nose. Often we see signs forbidding durian entry in hotels because of how bad they smell.
The men seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely as I watched them slurp and suck at the fruit. I had seen durian at road stands, in the markets and smelled it everywhere, but had yet to see the inside. So filled with curiosity, I went out to the street to get a closer look. I was immediately invited to a taste. Cautiously I took a little. I found it had an interesting distinct flavor, but what it tasted like is hard to explain. It wasn't sweet the way I normally think of fruit. But it wasn't terrible either. I could see how one would need to acquire a taste for it though.
The men immediately decided to give me a durian tasting lesson. So one of them ran over to the durian vendor down the street and bought two more types. Durians are considered a specialty fruit and can be very expensive, so I was impressed at their generosity. Even though my first taste was plenty, I sat down with them and continued to eat. Every time I stopped eating they would cry, "Try! Try!" and encourage me to take some more. Soon we were discussing my ethnicity, where I was from, and how I liked Malaysia.
Inside the restaurant I could see Tim watching me, our lunch steaming in front of him, wondering if I was going to eat lunch with him. I was having so much fun talking to the men, it was hard to leave. But I had definitely had my share of durian!