Thailand always astounds visitors with its infinite variety of cultures, landscapes and peoples, but it is its wide range of fruits that leave the sweetest of impressions. This is especially true in Rayong during June and July when the monsoon rains have restored lushness to the land, the soil is soft and loamy, and the season’s fantastic fruits hang ripening on the trees, ready to be plucked.
Visitors from temperate climates feel spoilt for choice when they enter Rayong’s orchards and discover this cornucopia to enjoy. They can feast on fruits barely known outside of Southeast Asia, (except as wildly expensive imports) and buy in bulk countless mangos, sourly sweet mangosteens, colourful, soft-haired rambutan and massive jackfruits and durian that hang improbably from the trees like fruity cannonballs. There are fruits of every possible creed, colour and taste to enjoy which is why the orchards offer a refreshing new diversion for tourists seeking a literal taste of tropical Thailand.
So if you’ve got a sweet tooth, feel like a day in the country, or simply want to sample the delights of these Eastern Gardens of Eden, you should take one of Rayong’s orchard tours. There are a range of orchards to enjoy in the Eastern Seaboard and now is the best time to go. The heat of summer has gone and the land is fertile, fragrant and fruitful.
The real pleasure of these orchard tours, especially for city-slickers is getting away from the urban sprawl and heading into the little-known hills of Rayong. These seem a long way from the flat rice plains you see in much of Thailand. Rayong boasts impressive highlands, resplendently green, scented and cooled by breezes from the Gulf of Thailand. Most tours take you to the orchards in open-sided trams and if you’re there early enough, you’ll see the morning mists gently resting on the hills evoking a tropical Tuscany.
The trams make regular stops among the groves so you can jump out, explore and, more importantly eat. And if some of the fruits are not quite in season, there are ripe examples put aside for visitors to dive in and enjoy as much rambutan, mangosteen and pungent durian as their bellies (or nostrils) can handle. And you’ll probably eat a whole lot more than you planned. There’s something sublimely primaeval about eating fruit that has been freshly plucked from the surrounding trees.
One of the most impressive sights is the durian, which appear too large, heavy and unwieldy for the trees they grow upon. They seem more like medieval weaponry than a fruit, yet the sweet flesh this “King of Fruit” yields is sought after by connoisseurs all over Southeast Asia. Durian’s famous scent takes some getting used to, “Like eating raspberry blancmange in the lavatory” British writer Anthony Burgess said, but here among the trees, it seems like a rich, heaven sent (if not heavenly-scented) pudding, to be savoured.
After time among the trees, you can enjoy a buffet of their bounty. The trams drop visitors at shady salas where they can gorge themselves on the offerings they’ve just seen growing on the trees. Lips become sticky with the dribbling juice of sweet long kong, pineapple and mangosteen, followed by Thailand’s favourite dessert, mango and coconut-infused glutinous rice. If you’re seeking something more savoury, try the freshly made papaya salad. If you like it more spicy request an extra chilli or three, or you’ll get the less fiery, but equally tasty, tourist-friendly version.
These buffets are the highlights of Rayong’s orchard tours. All that remains if you to pick up some of these fruits at bargain prices to take home to your friends back home to sample. But like many things in life, (Belgian beer, German sausage, and Chinese dim sum, for example) Thai tropical fruits are best enjoyed at their source of origin, the atmosphere enhancing their delights. So arrange an orchard tour soon, for a refreshingly new way to spend part of your holiday in Thailand.