This post is from Justyna and Simon of Fit Shortie Eats Youtube fame. These crazy durian hunters have been criss-crossing Indonesia looking for all the best Ds. They’re minimalist fruitarians, know their botanical nomenclature, and fearlessly drive hundreds of kilometers into unknown places to look for fruit. I think they’re pretty cool 🙂 Look for more from them on the blog in the future and some future posts from me about some of the places mentioned in this post.
Much like many of the world’s best discoveries, Kaligesing — the durian gold mine of Central Java — was nothing but a chance encounter. In fact, when we first heard of the surprise durian season in Java this November/December (three months prior to the usual February/March main season) it was pretty much a flip of a coin between whether we should land in Semarang or Yogyakarta.
Renting a Motorbike In Yogjakarta
One taxi ride from the airport, we were at a scooter rental we looked up online only to find 4 dudes glued to computer game. They refused to rent us a scooter for any longer than a week, repeatedly saying “they don’t dare” which to this day has us puzzled.
After an hour with no progress we persuaded them to drop us at a scooter rental that did dare, AB rental motor Jogja (Google map), conveniently located opposite the train station. Once with our new ride,we were off — to get durian of course.
Finding Durian in Yogyakarta
Word had it in the evening durian dwellers gather on Jalan Magelang in front of the TVRI building. Indeed, we found six stands well-packed with durians supplying fresh D to local peeps dining on charming woven mats just behind the stalls. However, at 80,000 IDR ( for a regular kampung durian it was neither the price nor the quality we were after so we decided to head on out the next day on a hunt for fresh-off-the-tree durian. On the upside Jogja had us spoiled for choice of home stays.
We opted for a cute traditional Airbnb southeast of the town square near Kasihan village, which I hear is the equivalent of Soho set among the rice fields and popular with the art community but more importantly close to Ambarketawang Central Market where a few fruit stands stay open until midnight, which turned out a fruitarian lifesaver after the disappointment of insufficient fresh durian.
Getting to Kaligesing
The very next morning we decided to leave our fancy lodging in favor of roughing it on the road – all for the love of durian. We had a few spots on the map. First, we ticked off the Kalibawang region which boasted fresh durian on the roadsides, but even more importantly turned out to be a hot spot for red dragonfruit farmers. We ate a few pink beauties straight off the vine. After this short detour we got down to business. Direction: Purworejo.
First over the hill, we were met by rain and unexpected cold due to the sudden altitude change. Surprisingly, there were also durians. Growing at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level, they were literally hanging in the clouds — some of the most cold resistant Ds we’ve seen out there.
Going downhill we started approaching Kaligesing which is spread along the road so much you might not register it as a town per say, but boy-oh-boy will you notice the durians! Literally every household had its steps paved with freshly fallen kampungs (unnamed seedling varieties).
All around us people were trafficking durian baskets on their backs, by scooter or by truckload. It was clear we’d reached the durian hot spot! Huge durian trees, 50-80 years old, hovered above the road, all loaded with durian. “Thank heavens for the helmet!” I thought.
There was no end to our debauchery that night. We ate durians at every stand till completely stuffed and then folded in for the night in the neighboring city of Purworejo (a 25-minute drive away).
The following morning we went back up to Kaligesing, ate as much durian & mangosteen as we could, and then headed north to Wonosobo. Why? To this day it beats me. I mean we had all the durian abundance one could wish for and still we left the next day, thinking everywhere in Java will be loaded with durian in the same manner. Were we wrong!
Returning to Kaligiseng
Over the next 10 days we did a clockwise loop around Central Java: got caught in a freezing downpour at Dieng Plateau, rested in beachy Jepara and saw Borubodur thru its thick fencing — yet that is not the subject of this post. You can watch it all on our Java playlist on Fit Shortie Eats Youtube. After 10 days on the road we admitted defeat (durian season against us 1 vs 0) and humbly returned to Kaligesing.
Easier said than done. Do not take any of the mountain roads suggested by Google maps from Borobudur to Kaligesing — those roads do not exist yet or anymore, we spent the whole day hanging onto our bike while it slid down the cliffs edge.
Where We Stayed
The main challenge about a Kaligesing-based duriothon however is that there is no way to sleep in Kaligesing. We asked countless locals for a homestay, and many of them opened up their homes to us, but you won’t find a single “commercial” homestay. There is a couple of bungalow-style Airbnbs in the mountains above Kaligesing which looked very attractive until we actually drove there and realized it is so cold there one starts dreaming of ski-wear. (Try Kampung Watu Blencong Guesthouse, $15 USD/night or Tlogoguwo’s Village, $57/night)
Hence, the only way to do Kaligesing is either on a day-trip from Yogyakarta, or drive past Kaligesing to Purworejo. Once again we opted for the latter.
First night there we stayed in a room without a window or fan or AC so stuffy it could bring to tears even the toughest of vagabonds. To make up for the hardship, the next day we moved into the Suronegaran Hotel, no less than an uninhabited wedding hotel where we took residence for the next week (175,000 IDR for a fan room, 375,000 IDR for AC).
Over the next days we engage in a blissful routine of driving to Kaligesing, picking up a landslide of durian & mangosteen and eating it at the water’s edge. We’re so spoiled for venues to eat its crazy. Our favorite option is just stepping down from the road at any point in Kaligesing and eating at the river’s edge, where we also bathe daily, sometimes accompanied by local ladies doing their laundry.
If you don’t have the means to venture out into the mountains of Kaligesing every day, there is also plenty of durian to be found in Purworejo City. Throughout the day, the durian hotspot is Jalan Purworejo-Salaman. In the morning you can find a lot of durian at Pasar Suronegaran (mostly old durian) whilst towards the evening you can head to the corner of Jalan Pemuda and Jalan Purworejo-Salaman.
As for the durian, we were spoiled quantity-wise. When we returned, it was peak season and we could pick and choose, the price per durian dropping to 20-25000 IDR per piece ($1.90 USD). This is not as cheap as 10,000 per piece in main season but keep in mind that this month Kaligesing has the monopoly on durian supply in Central Java as the only region that has almost all trees fruiting in off-season.
Quality wise, it was hit and miss at first until day three when after trying out a different durian-selling household we finally found the one selling 10/10 durians every time. Classic kampung taste, it was white chocolate with a hint of coffee or a surprise mint finale, many of them so fresh they left our mouths numb. Which is what I suggest you do – find your favorite – but if you wanna know ours – it’s stashed in front of a purple door on the map below ↓ ↓
Durians Behind The Purple Door (A Brief Interlude From Lindsay)
On Justyna and Simon’s recommendation, I traveled to Kaligesing, found the purple door, and met the family (and the durians) behind it.
Ayin and his family live in Kaligono Village. It’s just around the corner from the noodle shop with the purple door located on the main highway. That day, Ayin was selling durians he’d purchased from someone else as well as his own tree’s durian. His durians were definitely, obviously better.
As we were munching and chatting, a group of local tourists came and bought his entire pile of durian. If we’d arrived 15-minutes later, Ayin and the durians of the purple door would likely have been gone.
Luckily for us, it meant Ayin was now free to spend the afternoon with us. He invited us to his village to see his family’s orchard.
Their durian trees are up a steep set of rocky stairs behind the village. It’s a very traditional set up, similar to how I’ve seen durian being grown and harvested in Borneo.
As we walked up, a flow of people bearing baskets of durians were coming down. We were here about two weeks after Justyna and Simon, and while they thought the season would be ending here soon, it appears not. Purworejo was filled with signs announcing a durian festival this weekend (December 9 and 10th, 2017) the same dates that we are already promised to attend the Majelengka Durian Festival further west.
Ayin’s family has managed this plot of land for many generations. They don’t plant the trees anymore, but simply harvest what has been left to them. Even the mangosteen trees were some of the oldest I have ever seen, older even then the 100-year-old ones we sometimes find in Thailand.
And the size of these mangosteens…they were absolutely massive. The biggest I have ever seen, and nearly perfect inside. But we were lucky to even taste them — after seeing the absolutely astonishing piles of mangosteen on Justyna’s Instagram, the trees were nearly bare of fruit.
During the durian season, Ayin’s mother spends her nights in a small shelter waiting for the durians to fall in the night. When she hears them thump to the ground, she runs out to collect them before returning to the safety of the hut. Ayin says one of these old trees can drop over a hundred durians per night, and a thousand during the season.
That’s all from me. Just thought you’d like a little background info on the durian situation.
And now back to Justyna…
Other Fruits in Kaligesing (Mangosteen and Kepel)
Unlike Simon, I cannot eat just durian for very long so for me the biggest treasure of Kaligesing was an overwhelming mangosteen season – it was the first time in my life where I could monomeal the queen of fruits for days on end, we’d go through 18kgs of mangosteen a day, but with prices as low as 8000 idr per kilo (0,59 cents) who wouldn’t?
To put the cherry on top, we found 5 kepel trees (Stelechocarpus burahol) fruiting in the jungle. I’ll let you look this one up, lets just say its an endangered fruit that makes all your bodily fluids smell of violets.
Waterfalls In Kaligesing
On the days we feel a little more adventurous we visit some of the dozen waterfalls in the area. You can choose between more popular ones like Kedung Pedut with “selfie spots” (places where you’re advised to take a selfie believe it or not!) or go for a local one like Curug Siklotok (which also hosts Curug Silangit a little further upstream along the same path). Here, after a short trail & no admission fee you will probably spend the whole day all alone in this multiple-waterfall paradise.
Perhaps our best discovery yet was Taman Sedandang — not so much for the bathing opportunities but for the bounty above it. If you’re into foraging adventures you cannot miss this opportunity: the hill above the pagodas is lined with super-old durian trees dropping some of the very best numb-fresh durians we tasted in Java!
As I write this, the evening prayer from the numerous mosques reminds us another day has gone by in Purworejo. Sad to say but the surprise Kaligesing durian season, sudden and heavy, is disappearing as unexpectedly as it appeared. Luckily for us, word has it the season is just starting across the pond in Sumatera. Curious to see what we’ll find there? Follow our daily hunt on Instagram @fit_shortie_eats or Youtube Fit Shortie Eats and if you’re new, give us a P.M. and say hi!
<3 you Justyna and Simon! Keep up the hunt. I am stalking you on Instagram like everybody else 🙂
Kaligiseng Durian Festival
The durian festival is being held this weekend, December 9-10th. It’s an all-you-can-eat kind of buffet more than a festival, with 50,000 IDR entrance fee. Go for it! And tell us all about your adventure in the comments below 🙂
Indonesia Durian Map
Also see the Malaysia Durian Map.