Since the 1950s, Lim Hock Lai worked along with his dad in a durian farm in Karak, Pahang, Malaysia. As education in those days was a luxury, he spent most of his days in the farm awaiting the harvest season under the huge canopy from the aged trees, he and his friends will gather in groups to play with marbles and hopscotches to spend their days.
Over the years, Hock Lai was able to differentiate the different breed of durians by just the appearance of it. There were multiple small-dark spots on his wrinkled skin, which was evident he stood outdoors most of the time.
When being asked the most common question, “Do durians really have eyes such that they will not drop on people’s head?”
Passing down the baton, Mr Say Lai (a.k.a Ah Lai) stand strong on the grounds of Bukit Panjang in continuation of the family’s tradition.
It was certainly a difficult year for Ah Lai, as the covid restrictions not only confined his regulars to their homes, it also meant that he had to spend his New Year, which often he most looked forward to, away from his hometown. “I open my shop on the first day of Chinese New Year, the whole street was very quiet. I had to call up a few of my regulars to tell them I am selling durian, if not my durian cannot sell then lose money. In Singapore also dont have relatives to visit, might as well open my stall.”
With that being said, Ah Lai knew that he would need to tap on the strength of e-commerce to spread the reputation of his stall. In year 2021, had his own domain set-up, www.ahlaiduriandelivery.com.sg .
“I insist the designer put my face on the website, people recognise me and know me through my face. I have been here for so long already. Only those people who do embarrassing thing to their customer scared to show their face. But I am not.”
As a durian lover himself, he have seen the frustration of consumers getting overpriced durian in the market, He wishes to leverage on current courier businesses and online platform to bring his fresh durians to a larger pool of consumers.
In the recent years, they began a new stall in Mei Ling Market, which delighted the residents as they have been yearning for a legitimate vendor for such a fruit.
It was not too long that they observed there were many pioneer generations within their premises were living in single-room units and many of them, despite huge cravings for the fruit, were not able to afford it. Hence, they started a “giveaway drive” and distribute complimentary durians every weekend for the elderly who holds the Pioneer / Merdeka card. [Post taken from Zeng Zu Fu’s Facebook Page]
We went over on one of the weekend as an undercover to look at their charitable drive. To our surprise, there was already a queue forming at 2:30pm even though they advertised that the giveaway will commence at 3pm!
Queue was forming even before the durian distribution.
A recent follow-up with the kind-hearted descendants revealed that they will be moving their set-up to Upper Thomson this year. This is due to dine-in restrictions in their previous location – Mei Ling Market.
When probed the reason for allowing dine-in to happen, they shared that they would like to re-enact the old times [the days when they were in Malaysia Farm] of interacting with the customers who visits their stall and dining in, instead of simply just “taking-away”, which made them felt that hospitality was lacking in the business.
“We hope the residents in the area will like us, we are just minutes away by foot from the iconic Upper Thomson Udders.” At the end of our exchange, we concluded that this year, we could either savour their best fruits in their stall, or have it at the comfort of our own homes via their Durian Delivery Service.