If I were to list the smells of today from most to least to pungent, the scent of durian would outrank any fish market, flower stall, or smoldering incense. Such a list would falsely imply that I neither liked nor ate much of the fruit, of which I did both. I did discover a certain “durian threshold;” I reached a limit which not even my aversion to food waste could overcome. I did enjoy the garlicky-custard taste and texture of the fruit. Some did not. Still others would, in my personal favorite review, call the flavor “cheesy onion gunpowder.” Eating durian was a fitting end to a day of other strong, but not unpleasant, smells and sights and tastes.
We began the day in Little India, traveling first to the Tekka Market, where one could find everything from enormous tiger shrimp to small sharks, to black-skinned chickens to dried stingray, to wax apples and turmeric roots. Colors and textures abound; the Market is simply an awesome experience, while it is important to remember that this market is not really all that exotic to the people who make their livings and their suppers here on the daily (also good to remember: always ask before taking photos.)
Exploring the rest of Little India was no less indulgent. Henna tattoos were applied, good-smelling beauty products were perused, and a Hindu temple honoring Kali, goddess and destroyer of evil. The temple was beautiful and made me realize that I need to learn more about Hinduism, a diverse religion to which over 1 billion people belong.
I only regret not buying any gulab jamun, a fried dough ball soaked in rose syrup and honey which my friend Khushali’s mother would always make for us, even sometimes sending them to school with her daughter. I did have excellent chicken briyani, naan, and mango-flavored bean curd.
Post-lunch we all split up, some going back to the hotel, others doing more exploring. I went, for the 2nd time, to the Botanic Garden and wandered much further than I had during my first visit. I wandered through the rainforest garden and through some koi ponds, finding a small, hilarious statue of a naked boy holding a turtle in the process. After discovering sunburns blooming on my shoulders, it was time to head back, to prepare for a durian dinner