Part 1 of 3 ✨ OMG. How do I begin to tell you this story? Should I tell you its the best durian we've ever eaten? Or that its an entirely different durian species we never knew existed? Or that no other durian took so much blood, sweat & tears to retrieve from the depths of the jungle? ✨Always on the lookout for waterfalls, Chippy found this footage online of a nearby waterfall recorded years ago by a local on his Nokia phone. We set out to find it. We drove thro cornfields, remote villages, rivers, hills, but google maps said one thing, every local pointed us to a diff direction, roads were almost non-existent and after an hours hunt we were ready to give up. In that very moment a dude dressed in black appeared out of nowhere, and with the motion of his hand told us to follow him. One hell of a ride later we were at the top of a waterfall - we could hear it. This was by no means a tourist 'entrance'. There was no path there, to get to it, we had to treck downhill thro rough & muddy terrain, spiky dry shrubbs digging into our feet, bear in mind all that being done barefoot. Fifteen minutes later and a hundred of mozzies trying to eat me alive, I was ready to call it quits when I saw that to go further down our new friend had to plough thro man-high thick undergrowth while going down a 75% inlcine of a mud slope. We agreed that Simon will follow him further (the waterfall was just underneath us at this point) while I will stay atop & fight the mozzies. The rest I only know from Simons account. They went further downhill, saw the waterfall, took a few pics, when BAM! something fell right behind them. In the jungle this sound is music to our ears - it could only mean DURIAN! Simon looked back and saw a fluorescent green ball rolling towards him. He lifted it and couldnt believe his eyes - the green colour, the long spikes, the nauseating smell - it was clear this wasnt durio zibethinus. It was like oxyleanus supersized with the peanut butter-praline smell of graveolens. His new friend made a make-shift knife of a split bamboo shoot & opened the durian. Simon tasted it and went crazy. With tears in his eyes he started telling this dude that he only eats fruit...
Part 2 of 3 ✨He started telling the guy we live for finding unknown fruits in the jungle and that this is the BEST THING he ever ate. Next thing I know I see Simon running up the slope at hyper speed, putting his hands over his head, his lips motioning 'FUCK!' as he looks up at me. He tells me this unbelievable story, but he doesn't need to say much - I can smell this incredible durian on him before I see it. Suddenly it all makes sense, the dozens of mozzie bites all over my body are worth it. We walk all the way back up, Simon cannot shut up with excitement. Once at our bike - he takes out the durian for me to taste it. I cannot believe how beautifull it is - the color flourescent green. The spikes, big & small in turn are prehistoric in appearance. The smell - MINDBLOWING, it screams 'eat me!' My hands shake as I try it. The only thing I can compare it to is durio graveolens, but ten times stronger. It has the peanut butter & praline taste of graveolens but the soft flesh & colour of zibethinus - the best of both worlds. It is much stronger than graveolens tho, intense like the finer things in life - brandy, cigars & truffles. The fresher parts taste like pralines, the mature pods are like Irish coffee. Now I can understand Simons hype. I cannot stop eating it. The thing is, the tree is dropping and there was 30 more underneath it (!) so we cannot let them sit there ya know? But how to retrieve them up such a steep muddy slope?! Simon grabs a bamboo mat we find in a farmers pagoda and goes back down whilst I wait at the bike with our mystery friend. Minutes of waiting seem like hours, but finally I see Simon emerge back from the jungle with 30 kgs of spiky balls on his back. His load is bigger than him and he collapses in front of me from pure exhaustion (but with a smile still on his face) We drive back home in pouring rain that we dont even notice, completely mesmerized by what has just happened. People at the nearest village show no recognition of the durians strapped to our bike - they had never seen them before. We are tickled pink excited, what is this durian? A hybrid? A jungle species? A mystery?
Part 3 of 3 ✨We get back home and feast on 10 mystery durians for dinner. We debate if they could be psychoactive - they get us both ridiculously high, happy drunk on the durian. We research what could it be & come up with nothing. Lindsay @durianwriter is quick to identify it - its durio lowianus! A jungle species only found on Sumatra & mainland Malaysia + south of Thailand. We cannot contain our excitement - a whole new durian species?! You see all the different durians available to buy out there like musang king, monthong, puyat and hundreds of others are durian varieties that make up the one big durian species: durio zibethinus. This one here is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DURIAN SPECIES. There is 27 durian species altogether out there. What percentage of them is edible is a subject of debate - some dont have enough flesh around the seeds to consider them edible, in other cases the taste of them is the subject of debate. Lindsay suggests 11 durio species are edible & we'll stick to that version. We have already tasted durio zibethinus (regular durian), durio graveolens, durio oxyleanus, durio kutejensis and a hybrid - Tenom Beauty, but never did we think we'd taste another species anywhere outside Borneo. Now we can add to this list durio lowianus, one that we didnt know existed until yesterday. With all certainty I can say its my fav durian in the world - marrying the best qualities of graveolens & zibethinus, I love its intense praline taste & smell. The next morning we woke up antsy to eat the rest of them. Unlike zibethinus, this durian tastes better if it lays a while, its easier to open and the tastes and aromas deepen even further. Dressed in our most mozzie-resistant long sleeve outfits we're going back in for more, nothing in this world can compare to this stuff!
If you're craving durian - swipe left at your own risk ✨We've been to many places where mountains of durian abound, but sometimes its not as rosy as it looks in the picture. The durian could be cut & unripe making it inedible (like in Thailand). It could be cut & sold at various stages of overripe (Philippines). It could be consistently good but too expensive to monomeal en masse (Malaysia) Or it could be sold days-old, which is the case almost anywhere in Asia. Here in Tigalingga there is mountains of durian and there is NO CATCH. Its all tree-fallen, fresh from the night. At an average of 12000 idr per durian (0.88$) - and some of them are pretty big circa 3kg - we can buy 15 durians a day and only eat the best ones. Lastly, the best thing about the durian here is its diversity. Sold in huge piles on the ground, for lack of better nomenclature we call it all kampung, but the diffrerences between each durian are as dramatic as between a Musang King and an XO. The durians we ate in Kaligesing were homogenous, all white, moist with a main note of white chocolate and the occasional chemical cleaner or numb. Here every durian is a mystery. Can be white or yellow. Can be thick or thin skinned. Mild or sweet or bitter. The durian trees here are gigantic and so is the valley itself. There must be a huge genetic diversity in this durian valley to produce such an unbelievably diverse crop!
Dozens, dozens of truck like this one leave Tigalingga every morning. Im happy to report all durian shipped away is fresh, fallen in the night. The excess durian that doesn't fit onto the trucks rots locally or is converted to durian paste by entire families of women sitting on the porch and opening durians and converting them into durian paste in gigantic plastic buckets.
Welcome to Tigalingga part 3. Morning time is when the party's at in Tigalingga. Every family brings forth their durian catch from the night onto the front porch of their house. Trucks drive by and fill up at each port and then drive away to distant locations in big cities. It seems like the whole main street of Tigalingga in the morning is peeps loading durian trucks. By 10am, most of the durian is gone. Thats where we come in - we try to come around and get our pick before the trucks clear everything out. No worries tho - theres so much durian dropping, most households have a second batch this size when they do their afternoon round...😅
Welcome to Tigalingga part 2. Not many Westerners reach this town. Our presence here is met with giggles from teenage girls everywhere we go and theres no end to selfies. However, after a few durian-buying rounds and everyone getting to know each other, we are now part of the local durian scene and can proceed with our durian picking business as usual.
Welcome to Tigalingga part 1. This is what all roads leading to Tigalingga within a 10km radious look like. Our first thought was 'oh dear, I hope we're not too late for the party?!' Mountains of durian shells line the side of the road making us realize just how much durian is in the region. We must have passed 20 dumps like this one before we reached the town. At first, we thought they eat so much durian in Tigalingga itself, but the population of the tiny town is far too small for the consumption of all the durian in the valley. The giveaway was the tissues - you can see that all the durian in this dumpster is mixed with pink tissues so the rubbish is defo from a durian restaurant, and defo from out of town, pink tissues are far to fancy for this place. Here is what happens. The Tigalingga durian supplies much of Medan's durian, goes all over Sumatra, even to Jakarta. When they drop the new durian at its destination, they pick up the durian shells from the previous day, drive it back all the way to Tigalingga and drop the rubbish here. Not sure why, maybe they use it as biofuel, maybe they only feel safe ditching it on their own turf. Lets just say the smell of fermenting durian shells is inscripted into living here!
Are you thinking about going to Central Java for a durian feast next year? I know that with the abundance of durian, mangosteen and waterfalls we experienced there - I am! Good news - we've written a tell-all blog post about our fav area in Central Java - Kaligesing - on @durianwriter's yearofthedurian.com. How to get there, where to sleep, what to visit, everything. Whats even more exciting is that Lindsay herself went to Kaligesing a week after we left. Remember how we bought our durians at the purple door? Well Lindsay opened that door so to speak and 'did' Kaligesing her way - found 'the hand' that planted these 100 year old durian trees, met the family, saw the trees! Want to read more about the secrets behind the purple door? (and go down the rabbit hole of the biggest body of durian knowledge online Lindsay compiled here) Click link in my bio!
I think its fair to say we have arrived. Arrived with a capital 'A' as we'd say in polish. Finally we are at our destination. Tigalingga. Add this place to your durian map my friends. Its remote, two days of driving from Medan thro some challenging roads but so worth it. We're in a valley where every freaking tree is a huge-ass old durian tree, each one loaded with hundreds of fruit. Trucks keep shipping it away to other towns and yet theres so much durian its rotting on the streets. Entire households of women are opening up durians and making durian paste out of it because theres so much durian they dont know what to do with it. Mountains of durian shells enough to fill several rooms are piled up high in front of each house. Asked price for a big durian = 15000 idr (1$). All durians tree-fallen, so many diff tastes and colours, this one in the picture - my favorite kind: bitter and numb as fuck 🙌 THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!
Durian spotting on route Medan > Bukit Lawang. Sadly, this tree is an exception, theres still some super old durian trees left around households, otherwise the stretch is sadly 100% palm oil. Bukit Lawang is an eery town. Located at the edge of Leuser National Park, it neighbors the third largest stretch of primary jungle in the world, home to some of the worlds last orangutans. Until recently there was a feeding point in Bukit Lawang where tourists lured the orangutans with food to get them to come closer and snap a picture. However, as people gradually started getting closer to the orangutans, shaking their hand, hugging them, resistant human viruses from international tourists started passing onto the orangutans. Add to that Im guessing the orangutans were fed super-stimulating cooked food to have them coming back for more. Unfortunately the viruses & the food had the orangutans dying out at such a rate, two years ago they decided to close the feeding point altogether. Nowadays you have to hire a guide for a jungle treck to chase the orangutans. The guides are forbidden to offer them food but of course they do as how else would they lure them to come closer? The fate of the orangutans is doomed. The palm oil plantations are destroying their natural habitat so fast the orangutans will die out in 15-20 years time. Both Simon and I felt weirded out at the idea of doing a jungle treck and invading their last natural habitat just to snap a picture before they die out. This was completely unheard of in Bukit Lawang however, everywhere we went, we were followed by guys on scooters insisting they become our guide and show us orangutans, after an hour of beeing followed it felt like we were hunted down by the guides. Even our airbnb hosts tried every trick in the book to 'guide us' to see the orangutans. One hour in town and we were weirded out, peopled out. So why did we come to Bukit Lawang? It had epic jungle huts at the river so we figured that with a decent fruit supply it could have been a fruitarian paradise. Having found only passionfruits there, we made 3 monomeals of passionfruits and left this strange town. Direction > durian!