sprawling leviathan of 15 million people, it’s like L.A. on crack. Hordes of
motorcycles pour down the streets, winding between cars and spilling over onto
sidewalks, where they dodge pedestrians and potholes. The air smells slightly
deadly, a mixture of car exhaust and blue-gray barbecue smoke from the many
food carts and outdoor restaurants. It’s
nicknamed “The Big Durian” for a reason, but unlike the fruit I can’t
get past the smell.
|Durian Belly maybe?|
Overwhelmed by the
sheer size of Jakarta and its jankety public transportation system, Rob and I
turned to couchsurfing.com to find a durian guide. We were answered by Sabar, a
local businessman and folding bike enthusiast.
Café, a posh foreigner’s hangout place near Jalan Jaksa. From the soft orange
lighting, wicker chairs and dark ambience, Rob and I could tell upon entering
that the pricing was going to be beyond our budget traveler’s means.
|These guys need new shirts|
pictures of his bicycle club’s recent trip to Warso Durian Farm near Bogor. He
rides an expensive hand-made bike with mini wheels, which he ordered from a
company called Bike Friday in our hometown of Eugene, Oregon! What a neat coincidence! Apparently there are folding-bicycle clubs all over the
world, and Sabar had enjoyed group tours in a variety of countries.
looking for a guide in a durian search, I expected an answer from someone who matched our enjoyment of the fruit. A real Jakarta durian enthusiast. Sabar shares no such gluttonous desire. He
said that when he was young he could eat 3 durians all by himself, but now he
eats only 3 pieces. And he really did. I think we may have pushed a 4th
or 5th seed at him, but he had very good self-discipline. We asked
Sabar if he was worried about his cholesterol. He said no, that only ignorant people thought durian caused cholesterol. He was more worried about its alcohol content.
|Me and Sabar. Check out the happy munching family behind|
the Chinatown of Jakarta, a street called Manggu Besar. It means the Big Mango in Indonesian
(which is where you buy durian…?). According to Sabar, the Chinese have a
stronger passion for durian than the local Indonesians, and so Chinatown is
lined with durian stalls. We watched a Chinese family at a nearby table happily
devour durian, the little boy shoveling fist-fulls of goo into his mouth with
both hands and his mother licking the cream off his forearms and cheeks.
|Mangosteen is sold alongside the durian in Chinatown|
durian in Manggu Besar was from Sumatra. They called it Medan durian, although Rob and I
now know that it is from one of the villages near Sidikalang (maybe from the
farm I visited in Tinggalinga!). Sabar remained cool and reserved as he ate his three
pieces of durian. I think we may have bored him a little with all our durian
area called Kalibata, which was quite far from Manggu Besar. I found this area
more intriguing than the glaringly bright Chinatown. Dark and seducing,
Kalibata had more durian stalls than I could count lining the street in both
|The durian stalls go on and on|
It also displayed more varieties, including the enormous Monthong
durian, which loomed above the other fruits like an obese cousin. We decided to
try the Durian Petruk, a variety from the Jepara region that Sabar recommended.
He said it was the most popular variety in Java. It had a distinct flavor; like
lemon butter. Sabar shared an intriguing detail about its name: Petruk is also
the name for a clown character in traditional Indonesian puppet shows. He asked
us to try to discover the connection between the Durian Petruk and the puppet
Petruk. So if anybody knows why these two dissimilar objects share the same
name, please let me know and I’ll pass it on to Sabar!