This story about Bestala Durian is an old Bali durian post, and a post mostly about having your heart broken. It’s one that I wrote and then abandoned years ago because I just didn’t have it in me to finish. It wasn’t anything against Bestala. It’s just that durian is supposed to be a happy thing, and my day in Bestala, Bali, was sad.
But I think knowing about Bestala and its durian might be helpful to you now. Because as of writing (March, 2018), Bali is having one of its best-ever durian seasons. Probably you’ll find something awesome in Desa Bestala.
About Desa Bestala
Desa Bestala is a teeny tiny village on a winding mountain road in Buleleng Regency, in northwestern Bali. The whole district, Munduk Bestala, has a population of just over 1,000 people. It’s famous for durian.
It’s also somewhat of an eco-tourism destination, with jungle trekking tours and walks around the rice fields.
I first heard of Desa Bestala when I uncovered a list of 67 Indonesian durian varieties registered with the government. Listed in first place on top of the list was a durian variety called Bestala, from a farm called Dusun Sari in Munduk Bestala.
I highlighted the name and added it to my Google maps.
Then Mr. Suta Maryana, an officer at the Luwus Agricultural Research Station, told us that Munduk Bestala has the best durian in Bali.
So when me and him were driving back from the Banyuwangi Durian Festival in East Java, I realized that Munduk Bestala was on the way back home to Ubud.
Sorta. If by on the way you actually mean it is possible to go in that direction and continue onwards to Ubud without backtracking.
I didn’t mean on the way along the fastest route.
Because the narrow-switch-backing road to Munduk Bestala, while beautiful, is definitely not the fastest way to transit from East Java to Ubud.
I directed him off Bali’s northern coast highway and onto the road to Bestala. We would see some rice fields, eat some durian, pass by the Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan lakes, maybe get some mountain views. It sounded nice, I thought as I settled into the passenger seat. What could go wrong?
Desa Bestala is just 10km, or about 6 miles, from where we turned off the highway. Within 20 minutes we had climbed from sea level to about 800 feet elevation. The weather grew cool and misty.
We first turned left down the small road under the “Desa Bestala” arch, which led into a small neighborhood on the other side of the gorge. It dead-ended without a single durian in sight.
Then we continued up the main road. Within a quarter mile, we hit a stretch of durian stalls. Out of curiosity, I just did a Google Map street view, inching the little orange figure down the road to see if I could spot any remnant of the stall.
It’s there, frozen in time by Google’s cameras, chock full of durian just like I remember. I wonder if this lady is there too.
She was excited to have a foreigner visiting her stall.
I, of course, was excited to find durian in Bestala. There’s always a certain satisfaction in finding a thing in physical reality that just moments before was just a story. A few weeks earlier, I didn’t know Bestala Village existed. Then it was just a pinpoint on a map. And now it was a place I will always be able to see when I close my eyes.
The stone archway flanked by coconut trees and the rice terraces carved into the hillside.
The smell of coming rain.
This lady’s smile and pleasure at having me visit.
Her durians were fresh, having just dropped that morning. They smelled strong and good. She said some of her trees were over a hundred years old.
I asked her about the variety called Bestala. She didn’t seem to know it. Instead, she called all of the durian in her bunches Durian Bestala. Because all of the durian was from Bestala.
Giving up on finding a special variety, I thought it was time to at least sample one. I asked her to cut one down for me, and ran back to the car to get him.
This isn’t on the way, he said. This is out of the way. This is the worst kind of slow way.
He refused to get out of the car.
But the sweet little lady had already opened a durian for me that glowed with that special translucency of a durian that is going to be ultra-bitter-caramel. In fact, she hadn’t opened just one durian. She’d opened two.
So I sat down alone on the bench in her stall while she prattled away in Indonesian, beaming at me. On cue it began to rain.
He sat alone in the car, watching me through the windshield wipers.
The flesh was sticky and smooth, and yet I couldn’t swallow it. I could tell that it was bitter, and yet it had no flavor to me.
When he began honking the horn, I stood up. Apologizing and smiling, I paid and left the durian behind.
The next day, he flew to America. I didn’t.
Three years have passed since I went to Bestala. The little village may still have the best Bali durian, but that’s not why I remember it so clearly.
It was a day when durian, which has brought me so many friends and joy and fond memories over these years, only made me really sad.
I’ve never gone back to Bestala, but if you do, tell me if it’s the same as I remember. Tell me if the durian tastes good. And if you find Durian Bestala, not just the durians from Bestala, send me a photo.
How to visit Bestala
Gunung Paradis Retreat is just a few miles from the durian stall.
Getting to Bestala
Bestala is on a very narrow, winding road that leads from Bubunan on the northeast coast and heads inland across the mountains to the famous rice fields of Gobleg and Munduk.
If you are going there from Ubud and don’t want to take the scenic route, head straight north to Singaraja and swing a left to Bubunan, then another left up into the hills. Google maps knows the way, and I’ve pinned the stall in the map below.
Use this map to find this Bestala Durian Stall or check out other durian hotspots around Indonesia. Click on each pin to bring up a link to the blog post with more information!