Seven mile of running will make you hungry, especially when the run ends along roads lined with durian trees. As we stretched by the car, we knew it was time for #teamdurian to refuel at a Sibu durian orchard.
Our first morning in Sibu, I ran from our hotel along the riverfront, near the Central Market. I was happy it was my shortest run of the week.
If there’s one thing I miss about the USA, it’s running.
In American cities, there are sidewalks flat enough and clear enough that you don’t have to run on the street.
There is less air pollution. There is less traffic. In America, every single person who sees me charging down the road in my hot pink shorts doesn’t stare like they’ve spotted at a purple triple-headed moose. In my part of America, joggers are as annoying and inevitable as traffic lights and roadkill.
So on my long run for the week, Lisa (@lisaveganista) and I decided it was time to get out of Sibu and go for a run in the countryside. In particular, in the area southeast of Sibu with durian orchards called Sungei Stubau.
Where we ran
On our way north to Sibu, we’d driven along a road lined with old durian trees, but had been too full from the last durian haul to stop and investigate.
The area looked nice — shady and green, maybe quiet, dotted with small tables of durian set just off the road.
So hoping to avoid running in Sibu’s traffic, we drove 20-minutes outside the city back to where we had spotted the durian trees and the small roadside stalls, an area called Sungei Stubau. I used Googlemaps to locate a side road that looked long enough for a 7-mile run, and parked the car.
If you want to see exactly where we ran, you can check this run on Strava, a social media platform for runners and bikers. I upload all my runs to Strava, so if you need ideas for where to run during your travels in Southeast Asia maybe this will help.
Just for fun, I also take a photo at some point during every run. Check out this morning’s shot of a cemetery at dawn.
Mr. Kong’s Durian Stand
When we’d finished running, the first order of business was durian. Not rest. Not water. Durian.
It’s hard running through orchards without having durian on your mind.
We saw a number of small stands on the side of the road, but stopped when we saw a man in a large straw hat wheeling an entire wheelbarrow full of durians to the table in front of his house.
He said his name was Mr. Kong. His parents own the house and orchard, which had some pretty old looking trees.
I would guess the tree in the photo below, which is located just to our right in the photo above, is at least 50 years old.
Mr. Kong said his family had owned the land since the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, when they immigrated from China. I don’t know when they planted the orchard, since Mr. Kong’s English was limited and my Hokkien is negligible.
He was selling his durians for between 1RM each for the small ones and 5RM for the big ones.
Tell hungry runners that durian is 1RM each and what do you think happens?
Especially when the durians were so fresh, sticky and ambrosial that they immediately began attracting tiny black bees to lap at the sweet flesh?
Yup. I estimate 7 miles to equate 3-4 of these durians. Or at least that’s what I told myself.
All his durians are kampung, meaning the trees aren’t named varieties like D24 or Musang King or any of the familiar brands in Peninsular Malaysia.
That seems common, because all the durians at the next durian stand we visited were kampung too. (You didn’t think we’d visit just one did you? Come on. How long have you been reading this blog?)
Mr. Sia’s Sugar Cane and Durian Orchard
I actually stopped for the sugarcane juice on the table just behind where Mr. Sia is standing in the picture above. Durian can make you pretty thirsty, and there’s really nothing tastier after a run then fresh sugar cane juice. He was selling it for just 6RM ($1.35)for a 1.5L bottle.
But I didn’t have the right change. And Mr. Sia didn’t have the right change.
“Just nevermind,” he said. “Take it.”
I was taken aback. “I owe you 6 ringgit, Mr. Sia,” I promised. “I’ll be back.”
I keep my promises. Plus, we wanted to try his durian.
The next morning, I stopped the little car on our drive to Kanowit.
“Oh!” Mr. Sia said. “It’s you!”
He helped us edge the car off the main road and into the grassy shoulder, and then invited us back behind his stand to the shade where he keeps his sugar cane juicer.
Then, while we stood around and ate his durian, he fired up the machine.
Making Sugarcane Juice
When he was finished, he started to pour off the thick green-white head that had bubbled over the surface of the thin green-brown liquid.
“Oh no!” I said in dismay. “That’s the best part!”
As a child, I would shake my can of soda repeatedly in order to slurp it in the form of foam. Fresh sugarcane juice has a head like that, but better.
When it’s fresh, sugarcane juice is tastes sweet and floral, almost like the juicer had residue of lemongrass or jasmine flowers. But it oxidizes quickly and turns brown, flavorless sweet, and sometimes a little sour. It’s why really fresh sugarcane is such a treat.
I commented on how good it was, and Mr. Sia pointed down the road toward the thick green patch of reeds along the roadside. He grows it himself.
Mawang (Mangifera Pajang)
As we started to get back in the car, packing up our bottles of sugarcane juice and extra durians, he picked up a huge, brown dinosaur-egg shaped fruit.
It was one of the largest mawangs I’d ever seen. We’d been eating them, on and off, all along our road trip. Normally they are stringy and a bit sour, but I really love their slightly savory, slightly tomato flavor.
“Take it,” he said.
We ate it later, for lunch, sipping sugarcane and sitting on the Kanowit pier. It was the sweetest mawang I’d ever had, with a flavor like the mango-tomato soup beloved by all my vegan homies.
The sugarcane was still fresh and floral, and the his durian was sticky good.
In some way, I felt like we had bonded with Mr. Sia over a bottle of sugarcane juice and a promise.
I’ll be back, Mr. Sia.
Getting to Sungei Stubau
Both durian orchard are located on Jalan Kong Yit Khim, about a 20-minute drive from Sibu on the road towards Kanowit.
I used Googlemaps to pin the location of both of durian stands.
Use this map to find Mr. Kong and Mr. Sia’s Sibu durian orchard, or navigate to other places of durian interest and the blog posts.
To see where we ran, follow me on Strava. I run 6 days a week and upload a photo from every run.