The home of the little red rambutan, Surat Thani, beckons fruit-lovers to the South this month for an eleven-day fair, from July 19 to 30. If you’re wondering why a small fruit merits a province-wide celebration, just know that it’s part of Surat Thani’s slogan: roy koh, ngo aroi, hoy yai, khai daeng, laeng dhamma, which means hundreds of islands, delicious rambutan, oysters, salted eggs, and the land of Buddhism.
The rambutan was first brought to the province in the 1920s, and it flourished. Today, the fruit, which is roughly the size of a lychee, can be found in fresh markets across the country. It looks gnarly, but the green and red spines are actually soft to the touch. Apply pressure to the shell to uncover opaque, jelly-like flesh wrapped around a seed (don’t eat the seed — you’ll regret it). It’s sweet, juicy, and refreshing, but never cloying.
The highlights of the fair include parades, a tour of a rambutan plantation, and, of course, the “Miss Rambutan” beauty pageant. In between activities, enjoy shopping for local goods and sampling scores of fresh fruit. On a lighter — and more absurd note — there will also be a coconut harvesting demonstration put on by trained monkeys. There are lots of carnival games and contests, too, so bring the whole family. And don’t leave without a few bags of rambutan for the road.