It’s the end of durian season here on Bali, and the durian pickings are getting slim. Balinese who don’t care for durian tell us that durian season is over, although those in the know tell us its still a good time for the fruit.
Our first stop was Ubud Market, a cluttered labyrinth of shops with fruit vendors scattered among the colorful tourist trinkets. We found a few ladies selling durian, coconuts, and flowers. Made, the woman in the red blouse below, told us her durian came from the two trees behind her house in Payangan, a village about 30 minutes north of Ubud.
The next day the sky looked fairly clear, so we decided to go to Payangan.. There is little public transportation in Bali, an unfortunate result of tourism, so we rented one of the local mini-buses. This was surprisingly a lot cheaper than hiring a taxi!
Rob and I were excited to see durian piled along the roadsides as we entered the town. It was only 1 PM, but still I was surprised that there was nobody hanging around the durian piles. The driver dropped us of at the market place, which was almost deserted. It seems most market activity takes place in the wee hours of the morning here, and is over by 8 AM. Since there was no durian in sight at the market, Rob and I walked back down the road toward the shops with durian out front. I was just hoping to find someone who spoke english!
An old man with sagging jowels met us with a huge, single-toothed grin. He tried to help us pick a durian, by tapping on the shells with the back of his cleaver. I was really excited, since its been awhile since we had seen so many durians! The stems of the durian were light colored and moist, which denotes a freshly fallen durian. A lot of the durians we have seen around so far have had shriveled dark brown stems, which means the durian has been sitting around for a long time.
His picks had no flavor or sweetness, so we rejected them and tried to go by smell. Almost none of the durians had any odor. We found two with a slight durian-fragrance and bought them for 10,000 each. They were only slightly better than his odorless choices.
Looking in the backroom, which was full of more durian, I noticed that all of these durian had long stems, as if they had been cut off the tree. The thin indent where the fruit would naturally break off the tree was visible about halfway down the stem. I wondered if the reason the stems of the fruit out front looked so fresh were because the vendors were whittling them down and cutting them off to look like the durians were ripe! Tricky.
|Durian stockpile. There’s another pile against the wall closest to the camera.|
We tried to ask the old man where the durians came from, using one of our few Indonesian words: “pohon,” which means tree. He pointed across the street at a few durian trees. We thanked him, and walked across the street to check them out. To our surprise, there was a man in one of the trees, with a long pole. Was he harvesting durians?
The tree was inside of a traditional Balinese compound. We walked through the gate, where women lounging on a porch and cooking in an outdoor kitchen greeted us with puzzled expressions. We pointed at the tree behind the house, and pointed at my camera, making picture-taking motions. They smiled and beckoned us into the compound.
There were many different fruit trees inside. A smiling young man in a red tank-top showed us around. Pointing at the trees, he named them for us: Duku, lychee, rambutan, durian, mango. Maybe the reason there isn’t much fruit in the markets here is because everyone has their own trees!
We also saw some cute little pink piggies, and the largest pig I have ever seen. I had no idea pigs could grow so large! It was being walked out of the yard on a leash when I spied it, but looked more like it was leading than being led.
But alas for our durian tree: the man was actually up in a wani tree! He was thumping unripe wanis down to the ground with his pole. Our smiling tour guide gave Rob three huge fruits as a parting gift, so now I have to put up with them, and Rob’s hideous wani breath. Darn wanis!