Reporter: This is the world’s smelliest fruit, and this is an unsuspecting tourist trying durian for the first time. Durians are banned from public transport and hotels in many parts of Southeast Asia.
Reporter: This is Thomas Fuller, the Southeast Asia Correspondent for the New York Times. I’m in the minority of foreigners who finds durian a wonderful and delicious fruit but my efforts to convince others of durians' unique texture and complex taste have largely failed. They’re put off by the stink.
A tourist: “It smells very bad. It smells very, very bad.A tourist: “Do we really have to try, or not?”
Reporter: Feeling out-numbered I needed some hefty durian lovers on my side. I decided to travel to Northern Thailand where I delivered the fruit to an animal renowned for its sense of smell. If any creature should be put off by the world’s smelliest fruit, it should be elephants.
Reporter: Not these elephants; I gained a newfound respect for the giant beasts when I saw them devouring every last part of it…even the painfully spiky husks.
Reporter: To fill in my knowledge of durians, I traveled to a very special orchard two and a half hours north of Bangkok where I hoped I could taste rare varieties. I was not disappointed. Chartree Sowanatrakul owns the orchard. It’s a Durian lover’s shrine.
Chartree Sowanatrakul, Durian orchard owner: “When you taste different types of durian you will fall in love. So I watch it grow, I feel its majesty. The smell and taste cannot be measured by technology. I’ll put it this way: it’s an engrossing fruit.”
Reporter: Seven decades ago Chartree’s father collected seeds from trash cans of the rich in Bangkok. The result was a seed bank of durian trees; two dozen varieties, some of which have disappeared from commercial orchards.
Reporter:The air is oppressively hot and humid here and the smell of durian, pervasive. Yes, durian stinks but as many people in Southeast Asia believe: durian is the king of fruits. If only I could convince the rest of the western world.