Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ah Yong | The Seasonal Durian Vendor in Kuching



Durian.... Some said its the King of all fruits, some love them and some not. If you love them, you will be hooked by it smell. Like me, I was tempted by the smell and its lead to me Ah Yong's Durian store at first corner shop of Main Bazaar near waterfront when I drove by his store to get to Black Bean Coffee.

Ah Yong sell ABC & Kantong when Durian are not in season. He jokingly said that ABC & Kantong will not be available for few month probably after Chinese New Year. I bought some Durian from Ah Yong which then we chatted and he told me the durian are from a village after Serian Town. Then I asked him something which I've been wanting to document since a year ago. So I asked "Can I follow you tomorrow to photograph while you collecting Durian from the vilagers?" He look at his wife then answer me "Yes you can but we are departing to destination at 4.50am). What a wildcard moment for me!!! we exchange number so I can call to arrange where to meet up the next morning.


The next day (Tuesday), I woke up at 4am get prepare and had a quick breakfast! We meet at the designated spot and heading to the location once refueled.He was accompanied by his wife Ling.



Along the way, I couldn't resist to snap a few shot of this driving journey so I pull out me camera and swap to wide angle lens to get a pic of the street lights while driving. Truth is, don't try this while driving... :)




DAWN! Sign that we're almost there as I remembered Ah Yong said will get there around sunrise. Passed Serian Town as we were driving along Pan-Borneo highway (pic below), traffic wasn't bad and we were greeted with amazing skies.




Reached the village after driving for about 85km from Kuching and Ah Yong directly stop at the first collecting point. He checked each of the Durian by size, smell them, check if got warm by looking for sign of hole and ext... He then offer the total amount in Ringgit to the Durian owner. If he agree, Durian will be loaded to his van else make some small negotiation again.

From this trip, I learned that he has been selling Durian since 1978 and since has been collecting Durian from different location like this to sell everday when Durian are in season. He really is a professional in his trade and know his Durian and villagers whom he collect the Durian from. He stress that he usually only collect Durian from the same villagers every morning who will wait for him either at the house or at the spot pre arrange between them.







As I slowly discovered his trade, I really appreciate what he has done for the community and especially to the villagers from whom he bought the Durian from. These villagers are depending on the Durian season to earn extra money for daily living. Pic below, the elder in the pic got his foot amputated duel to accident whose source of extra income are from the Durian collected in his farm.





Yong's checking the Durian (pic above) and grade them. He told me that the Durian front her plantation really awesome. To my surprise, she ask Yong if got other villagers collected her Durian at another plantation of hers? "No" was his answer and told me that that durian tree produced good durian with thick and awesome deep yellow flesh. I can only imagine that. Ling (Yong's wife) told me that this lady lost her husband and need to work at nearby pig farm to make ends meet and she got a daughter living together. Thus, not enough time for her to take care of her Durian plantation. No wonder she ask Yong's regarding the Durian at another plantation of hers. She happily offer us to try the Langsat which she picked, we all agree that its still got bit of sour taste and need another week to mature..







We moved to another location further into the village, here we were greeted by dogs. Not afraid to strangers like me at all and happily greeted Yong & Ling. I can see why as they have been here everyday during Durian season. From here, we had a basket with while collecting Durian from house to house. Though, he is not the only Durian collector who come collect at this village. Those that had been dealing with him over the past years will only sell to him. After making each purchase, we load the Durian into the van which were slowly filling up. I on the other hand was amazed to see the interaction between them.













Pic above : Typical house inside the village. Pic below : Help carry the basket to the van.



Yong seen checking and collecting Durian at this house. The owner were camera shy and hiding behind the door. While going from house to house, villagers would ask Yong "Is he (me) your son?" He would said "No, he a friend from Kuching. followed me just because he want to document the durian collection process as a personal work". Sometime I would answer before he can as I can see he was busy calculating.





The young girl (pic above) had a teary eyes when we come collect. Her grandma told us that she cried because her mum don't allow her to go to Serian Town.



The flower around this house just look awesome in the morning light.
This cat is 15 year old. He is Toothless..



Ducks romp freely.


Child & puppy staring at me while I snap a pic of them.




This man waited for Yong at this location then out he come bringing the Durian which he just collected. By now we had been collecting Durian at least from 7 families. I lost count seriously! Pic below : I askeed If I can take a photo of him with his empty basket.

3 of them have been waiting for Yong at this location whom's Yong wife told me they refer to as "Ah Ma" or in English grandma. Yong said they have great tasting Durian which he directly packed them into plastic. Ling told me they have donated their son's UN-used clothing and shoes to this grandma for they had known each other for quit sometime.

Pic below : The kid is playing with the worm dueling in the Durian.




Great Durian are directly packed into plastic bag.


Getting filled up slowly.



I was unprepared when this grandma said to Yong "I want to paid you back the RM20 I borrowed from you yesterday (with money in her hand)". "No need to paid, its my token of appreciation" Yong replied. I got a bit of teary eyes myself then and there. She said thank you over and over again. Ling told me that grandma relatives come few days ago(on weekend I presume) and taken 30 good size Durian back with them and she left only a few small one to sell.




Old wooden house with soil floor.


A basket full of Durian to be loaded into the van.


Ling loading the Durian into the van.


Yong's smelling the Durian. He can tell the taste just by smelling them.


This kid just got back from Durian Plantation further into the village.


Reflection. This family were happy to see Ah Yong and bring out the Durian before he get to her house.


She said today not much durian. Maybe due to raining. I always thought that Durian falls when raining.


These Durian were from 2 family. He would still buy them even only 1 or 2 durian.


Receiving money for his share of Durian.


Van almost loaded with Durian.


Lady with 1 eye. She was shy ask I wanted to photograph her in her "Sarong"


This kid help his grandma collect durian at the durian plantation during the school holidays. Love his smiles.


Good and money change hand. Guarded by the dog :)


Another routine at different family.


Heard a Hawks calling and a check, found this in the cage. 3 month old, I told them to free
this bird as it will be hard to survive in small cage.


Some durian already open up at the bottom.


Langsat tree fruiting.


Rambutan


Bamboo for fencing and farm used.


Another another family. These are great durian.


He saw Ah Yong coming and then only he take out the Durian.


Portraits of this uncle.


At free time, he does handcraft. Ah Yong did collect durian from him earlier.




House at the village.


Yong said today Durian at this family not as many as yesterday. Awesome taste for this Durian.

















This lady sitting by the door weaving a handcraft basket.






Last Haul of the day before heading back to Kuching where Yong & Ling would rest, bath and had lunch first before
going down to open his store.


Villager spotted with basket heading to farm.



Back to Kuching, Hui Hui & I went to Ah Yong store after lunch as I needed to snap a few images of his customers buying & eating durian at his store. We bought a eat a few there as well :) Spend 1 hour there, saw customers that are really appreciating what he does best and a few customer who complain that its expensive (I don't want to mention there are from where). RM 5 for a decent size wasn't expensive for me especially after what I had witnessed myself today while documenting his profession.

At first I thought would involved lots of hassling on price but not! Ah Yong and Ling are 2 really kind heart-ed people.  Durian season will be until Chinese New Year, so you know where to head to if you are looking for Durian. Look for Ah Yong, if you dont know how to pick a good Durian, ask him to pick for you but don't rush him.

This customer bought 10 Durian.


Another looking at the piles of Durian.


Customers come, pick and eat Durian.


Enjoying the Durian.

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