Luwus is unmistakable as you zip northwards on your normal tourism activities around Bali.
Suddenly you’ll pass a durian stall and feel your adrenaline start pumping. But don’t slam on the breaks – soon you’ll see another durian stall, and another, and another, and another, and then you’re in Luwus and there are durians freaking everywhere.
Luwus has no tourist attractions. No temples or gardens or even quaint streets to wander.
It’s a strip of shops along the highway where public buses stop to let passengers smoke cigarettes and push rice into their mouths with closed fingers. Some of them eat durian too.
But not as much as you will. You’re not stopping in Luwus on accident or because you want to smoke. It’s all about the durian. Yes, the precious.
Durian Restaurants of Luwus
Most durians in Bali are sold off the back of a truck or a from a woman squatting behind a pile of fruit on the ground.
Luwus has those too, but what makes the strip of stalls unique is that many of them offer seating. The tables and chairs kind of seating. Like little durian restaurants.
I was looking for the durian restaurant in this video by two Swedish brothers who ate there last season. We found it right away – I could tell by the green umbrellas.
It’s not actually a durian specific restaurant, like they have in Malaysia. It’s a cluster of small restaurants, a convenience store, a batik clothing store and a juice stall (they sell durian smoothies for 7,000 IDR) where you can sit at wooden tables in the shade of those green umbrellas while you eat.
It would be the perfect place to visit on Saint Patrick’s Day, as not only is durian in season then but the green umbrellas tinges the white durian flesh a delicious emerald green. It adds to the alien-like appearance of durian, but not in a bad way.
Here’s a shot of the “durian restaurant” from across the street.
I’m actually standing at another durian stall as I’m taking that photo, and you can’t see it but there are nearly identical durian stalls directly to the left and to the right of the frame.
There’s no shortage of durians or durian venues in Luwus. You just have to choose your style of eating adventure.
Durian stalls extend for about 1 mile in either direction from the main Luwus town. The number was so impressive I didn’t even count, but I think between the piles in store fronts and porches, hanging from small food stands and fruit stalls, they occurred about every 50 feet.
Yet somehow, it was still hard to find a good durian.
Two Durians in Luwus
I mean, the durian was okay. I didn’t have any of the type of durians so terrible I started rethinking durian as a food category (this has happened).
Except for one very exceptional stall, the durian sellers just didn’t seem to know or care much about the quality of their durians. You need to be picking the fruits out yourself here.
Most of the durian sellers told us they had only two types of durian: Lokal Durian and Bangkok Durian. Lokal durian is simply an unknown variety planted from a seed, while the Bangkok refers to varieties brought in from Thailand and planted in Bali.
Bali does have named durian varieties too. At one stall we found someone a little more knowledgeable who could point us to two new ones for my durian collection: Durian Tembaga (copper), and Durian Ketan (sticky rice).
I actually spotted this one from a few feet away, because the thorns of Durian Tembaga are so conspicuously unusual.
The thorns are not only big, they’re very long and curl slightly at the tips. It’s a durian that makes you stop and look twice.
I’ve tasted it twice now too – once in Sarawak and once in Penang, and each time those thorns caught me by surprise. The striking appearance of the thorns each time makes me think the durian I found in Bali might actually be the same as the one I ate elsewhere. Or it may just be a coincidence.
“Kuning,” the durian seller announced with pride. Yellow.
I could tell immediately that the fruit had been cut early and ripened artificially. Although the durian looked old and had obviously been off the tree for more than a few days, inside the flesh was smooth and pasty, with the cloying sweetness that always seems to develop in cut fruit.
Jonny loved it and decided to take away two more for friends (who later also loved it). Just goes to show that taste is in the tongue of the beholder.
Price: 20,000 IDR per fruit
Ketan “Sticky Rice” Durian
This durian was more my style. Although it didn’t have the beautiful yellow color of Tembaga, it was softer and creamier.
It was a large durian with squarish spikes that were green at the base. It reminded me a little of Monthong, but rounder.
Maybe I’m partial to white durians simply because I like the way it looks – classy – but I also liked the mild milkiness of this durian. It wasn’t very sweet but it had a good texture, and reminded me in a lot of ways to Durio macrantha we tasted in Australia. As Alan would say, it’s not a hit-you-over-the-head flavorful durian but “it eats good.”
We got both Tembaga and Ketan from this restaurant selling durians in front, across the street from the restaurant with the green umbrellas.
Where to Stay in Luwus
I know how your mind works. All this talk of durians everywhere and now you want to know where you can stay to bask in the abundance of durian bliss.
Friends tell me that you can stay at a small, dingy place in Luwus Town called Obosh Homestay. I didn’t see it when we visited, so I suggest having a back-up plan if arriving in Luwus late at night.
Alternatively, the closest place to stay is in Bedegul and the Lake Bratan area, about 20 km away.
How To Get To Luwus
Luwus is on the highway running from Singaraja to Denpasar. It’s about a 50 minute drive from Ubud and about 1.5 hours from Singaraja.
Many buses pass by Luwus along the highway, but it’s easiest to get your own form of transportation. You can rent a car in Bali for as little as $15 a day, or hire a motorbike for $3 per day.