Wonosobo durian was much, much better than I expected. Actually, everything about Wonosobo was much, much better than I expected. Call me a cynic, but it’s a rare jewel to find 9/10 durian in a jaw-droppingly gorgeous, natural, clean, super-friendly setting. My tummy was happy. My camera was happy. I was happy.
But before we Durian, just let me show you how beautiful it is in Wonosobo. You’re not gonna believe you can have your durian and see this too.
This is a long post. Because Awesomeness. BUT:
Wonosobo Durian In Summary For The Short Attention-Span Durian Peeps
- Eat durian in Wilayu Village (this post) or Krasak Village (next post)
- Beruk and Delly Durians are yummy
- Geruk Durian is also yummy
- Merica durian tastes like tiramisu according to a real-life European
- Go river tubing in Wilayu but be careful of falling durian
- Do all the touristy things in Dieng listed on Discover Your Indonesia. Just do it.
- Eat Carica papaya pickles
- Try Purwaceng even if you don’t have man-parts
- Use the map at the bottom of this post ↓↓↓
About Wonosobo and the Dieng Plateau
Wonosobo is a Javanese regency on Central Java’s high northern plain. From the city, you can see the slopes of two volcanoes, Gunung Sindoro and Gunung Sumbing.
Most tourists, if they come at all to this out-of-the-way place, head an hour north of Wonosobo City to the Dieng Plateau. I decided to go too, even though I knew the Dieng Plateau is high, chilly, riddled with sulfur swamps and bubbling, steaming calderas, and completely bereft of durian (?). But since it was so nearby, I thought it was worth the detour.
Our hotel in Wonosobo arranged a motorbike driver to take me for 150,000 IDR roundtrip ($11 USD). We left at 3:20 AM to catch the sunrise over the volcanoes from Sikunir Hill (photos in the next post) and were back by 9AM with appetites rearing to go D-hunting.
True, there was no durian, but at 3:30 AM I didn’t really mind. As the driver flew around the dark curves winding up and up from Wonosobo, I wrapped my raincoat tight around me and wished I had gloves. Wonosobo itself sits at about 900 meters or 2,900 feet elevation. As we neared the Dieng Plateau, the Milky Way shone bright above us in air that became unquestionably cold.
After all, the Dieng Plateau is more than 2,000 meters, over 6,500 feet, above sea level. No durian there. It’s brrrrr. ❄❄❄
As if durian could handle this much sulfur anyway. I mean durian likes a little sulfur in the soil, but the Kawah Sikidang Dieng Crater is probably a bit much.
I could feel the heat of the volcanic earth through my shoes as we stepped over steaming vents and tiny bubbling pools.
In America, this whole area would have been cordoned off with boardwalks to protect people from burning themselves with steam. Here, I could have roasted a marshmallow (or barbecued a durian) over the steam vents and nobody would care. They’d probably just take a selfie with me.
Some researchers theorize that the increased volcanic activity in this area is what scared away the first inhabitants. They’re the ones who built the crumbling temple complex.
The Arjuna Temple is older than Borobudor and older than Prambanan and older than anything in Bali. It was built in the 7th century during the Kalingga Kingdom and is the oldest known structure in Java.
It’s pretty tiny, but for the 25,000 IDR ($1.83 US) it seemed worth a history lesson. At 7 AM, there was nobody there but us.
Then it was back to Wonosobo for a durian hunt on a drive that took my breath away. All the dark loops and curves we had sped through in the wee hours had become endless vistas over potato fields and stocky Carica trees.
I was in love with Wonosobo before I even ate its durian.
Wilayu Village Durian
Wilayu is famous for durian. It’s in the village mission statement, painted as an acrostic in Javanese along the rock wall.
W for Nice people
I for Beautiful Village
L for Gently speaking
A for Calm and Security
Y for a place to yearn for
U for durian so yummy!
The sky was slightly overcast, the temperature cool and pleasant as Pak Sarjano, Tri Anggono, and Kresna showed us around the handful of streets that make up the village.
Almost every vertical surface was covered in cheery Easter-hues of paint and artsy Javanese-inspired murals. As we stood in the street, watching the children watch us from the top of walls and around corners, a herd of ducks rushed by followed by their duck-herder.
The village was so cute it was almost eerie. “Where are we?” I whispered to Sasha.
In durian heaven, apparently, just a short drive down the mountain from Wonosobo City.
The roadsides on either side of Wilayu were thick with durian stalls. On the main road, just across the street from the village entrance, was a durian wholesaler who collected the villager’s durians and sent them off to the larger cities, mostly Banjarnegara or Yogyakarta, to be sold.
We passed it on the way to visit Pak Sarjono’s durian trees. On the way we crossed over a river, where a group of young men were just getting out of the river after an afternoon of tubing.
Wilayu wants to attract tourists, so they’ve begun offering river tubing for just 50,000 IDR ($3.75 USD) per person.
It’s best to go river tubing in the morning, before the late afternoon rains begin. The boys said that if it’s raining, the possibility of flash-flooding makes tubing too dangerous.
As we stood on the bridge watching, one of the tubers noticed a durian bobbing and tumbling against a rock. Pak Sarjono said it must have come from somewhere upstream, because it wasn’t his.
He ties his durians on to the tree (explanation coming, keep reading). Otherwise, he’d probably lose a lot to the river, which would be a serious misfortune because one of his best durians ever leans out over the water.
It’s called Durian Beruk.
Pak Sarjono’s Wonosobo Durian Stall
Pak Sarjono led us to his stall just on the other side of the bridge. I’ve pinned it in the map below for you ↓↓.
The stall was small compared to others we saw along the roadsides, the durian almost sold out. But since we were VIP guests, Pak Sarjono sent a climber up the tree to get more durian for us.
Wait a minute before you get all fussy about harvesting durian and check this out. This ain’t Thailand.
The Durian Beruk tree stood on a narrow raised berm between a rice field and the river. Can you see both the climber and the river tuber in the photo above?
You can also see the red ropes in the tree, which are actually plastic strings tying the durian onto the branches.
When a durian drops, instead of tumbling to the ground or being lost in the river, the durian is caught short, swinging as it dangles off the line.
Then the climber carefully cuts the line, not the durian stem, and lowers the fruit to the ground.
We watched from the comfort of the stall as the climber ascended what must have been 100 feet and returned, bearing a snarled load of durians.
It was a daring feat that made me feel a lot more appreciative of the coming meal, which was, by the way, completely amazing.
The first durian Pak Sarjono shared with us was his Delly Durian, named for the small convenience shop across the street from his property.
Delly is an old seedling tree, called a kampung in Malaysia, that has gotten kind of famous in the area.
Delly was good, super fresh and sweet, creamy and milky. I almost wanted to joke that it was a Dairy durian. But it was just our appetizer before we tried:
The last durian they shared with us was Merica, (pronounced Mareecha), which means “paper.” It was a small, white fleshed durian that was sweet and buttery and good but didn’t leave much of an impression on me, because Durian Beruk was coming and that completely snagged all my attention and tummy space.
But I would become interested later on, because it turns out that Merica is completely confusing. Read the next post on Wonosobo to find out why.
And last but not at all least, the star of our Wilayu Durian experience was Durian Beruk.
The Beruk is a round, medium-sized durian with thorns that turn yellow even when it’s super, super, just-fell-off-the-tree fresh. I don’t know what’s up with that.
The name means “baboon,” because it’s round like a baboon’s bottom.
It’s a bitter durian, just what I like. It’s so good, it deserves two pictures instead of just one.
Although the ivory-colored flesh is not super thick, it was my favorite texture — smooth, sticky, dense texture, like chilled cream cheese. You could lick around the seeds while your tongue watered with the intensity of burnt-sugar and coffee.
Slight wrinkles nodded to the tree’s old age. Pak Sarjono said it was already producing fruit when his parents were children.
Maybe that’s part of the magic of Wilayu Village — just how long everyone has lived there and eaten from the durian trees.
Wilayu Durian Forest
I realized as soon as we walked down the path behind the village that Wilayu has been there a long, long time. Maybe even as long as the Arjuna Temple Complex, who knows.
Pak Sarjono could count back to his great-grandfather, who had been born in the village. One tiny elfin grandpa, Babak Sartomo (above) who was busy digging holes for fertilizer when we walked up, told us he was at least 100 years old, probably around 110, because he could remember World War I (not II, I) and the Dutch colonies.
This place should be in the Blue Zones Book, I thought. Maybe it’s all the durians.
The trees there belong to individual families, but there’s no markings or fences to tell whose trees are whose. In the deep shade beneath all those old trees, it just looks like jungle.
But you can tell that the trees have been in touch with humans, because under their layers of moss and lichen are deep grooves cut into the trunk.
One of the old uncles, Babak Nursalam, showed us how he climbs and paused to let us take photos.
They climb without ropes, without safety harnesses, in their barefeet, up and up into the canopy to cut down durians tied onto the branches.
And this is one of the things that has changed in Wilayu Village. They told me that the custom of tying the durians to trees was only started around 10 years ago, so they’ve only been climbing for about 10 years.
Some things do change, but hopefully Wonosobo and Wilayu Village will always stay a beautiful place with nice people and yummy durian.
Side note: Wilayu also grows the biggest mangosteens I have ever seen. They were as eerily perfect as the village, without a hint of bitter yellow sap or crunchy translucent bits. Just pure sweet-sour mangosteen juice in every enormous bite.
I had such a nice time in Wonosobo, it still weirds me out.
Where We Stayed: Griya Krakatau Homestay
Since Wilayu Village currently doesn’t have any homestays or hotels, we had to stay in nearby Wonosobo City, 10 km or a 20-minute drive away.
Actually, we ended up staying about 5 km north of the city, along the road leading to the Dieng Plateau.
This suited us fine because we
a) had a car
b) loved the view of Mt. Sindoro and
c) were content to be completely spoiled by the Dwi Hartono, the owner, who personally took me to Dieng at 3:20 AM.
Even if we didn’t have our own transport, I think Dwi, Tri, or Kresna would have been happy to ferry us to durian land.
The rooms cost 300,000 IDR for two people, plus 50,000 IDR to add an extra bed. It was a little cramped with three of us, but I loved the traditional woven walls, which allowed for a lot of airflow, and the general decor.
And the verandah just outside the room helped us feel less cramped. While I was away in Dieng, Sasha (@omnomfruit) said the sunrise over the volcano was spectacular just from the veranda.
There are way more hotels close by to the Dieng Plateau, including the nice-looking Kresna Hotel, but if you’re durian-hunting you’ll want to stay closer to Wonosobo, like we did, or maybe by the time you’re reading this post Wilayu will have started offering a Durian Homestay.
There’s also quite a number of Airbnbs.
Contact Dwi at +62 821-1424-1776 to book a night, or email me at [email protected] if you need help setting up a trip to Wilayu and Wonosobo.
How To Get to Wilayu Village, Wonosobo
Wilayu Village is located 10 km south of Wonosobo, off Hwy 9 leading to Banjarnegara. It’s about a 4 hours from Yogyakarta. Don’t believe Google Maps, which will tell you it’s only 3 hours. Google Maps is a liar in Java.
Use the map below to see all the durian spots mentioned in this post, or find durian hotspots around Indonesia.