I used to stay at an Airbnb apartment near Taman Foh Sang. I walked through the triangle of shops every day on my way to the gym, and every day on my way back, but because I always went in the late morning or early afternoon I never saw any durian there.
That’s because the durian magic of Taman Foh Sang comes out only at night.
About Taman Foh Sang
Taman Foh Sang is a Kota Kinabalu’s “Chinatown” — a bustling 3 blocks of traditional Chinese reflexology, pharmacies, shops, traditional coffee shops, and famous local Chinese cuisine.
It was built on an old rubber plantation of the same name — Taman literally means a garden or a small plantation — during the surburbanization of KK in the 1970’s.
The block has been on the #sabaheats foodie trail for decades — each slightly disheveled kopitiam dishing out one local specialty after another — wor tip dumplings, sang nyuk mee (pork noodles), and more.
The mornings are filled with hawkers selling local cakes and fruits.
The evening streets are lined with durian.
Anthony Bourdain would have loved this place.
Recently, Taman Foh Sang has been in the news for its collection of street art too.
The Foh Sang Street Art project was completed in September, 2019, by 25 local artists who transformed the old shops both inside and out into a dynamic living art gallery.
If you’re hunting durian, make sure to arrive early so you have enough light to see all the murals.
The durian stalls begin popping up around 5pm — a truck here, a beach umbrella strung with white lights there — which gives you about 1 hour of light to munch and gaze at the same time.
Our first visit to Taman Foh Sang, we arrived around 6pm just as a vendor was arriving and unpacking his Hilux. Unable to wait for this numb-smelling Chanee, we begged it off him and munched it on the street corner while the street lamps flashed on one by one.
The Hilux was one in a row of fruit and durian vendors stretched out along the street. We’d arrived during the peak durian season in August, so there were around 5 vendors selling durian.
But when we returned in December, to a strangely delayed season, there was only one vendor.
More Durian = More Vendors
Less Durian = Ah Sung
Ah Sung’s Truck
Ah Sung began selling durian out of the back of his truck in 1980 – 40 years ago!! This makes him the guy who has been selling durian the longest in KK.
Everyone who eats durian in KK knows Ah Sung.
He’s there at his truck most days of the year — peak durian season, low durian season — if there’s any durian at all anywhere, he’ll be at Taman Foh Sang at 5.
And he’s good at picking out durian. Don’t let his assistants get your durian — insist on one from Ah Sung himself.
Unlike many other sellers in KK, Ah Sung doesn’t just buy and sell durian. He grows it too, on his own farms dotted around KK.
Many of the durians on the truck are his — and they’re fresh!
But not all — he will import from Pahang on Peninsular Malaysia for those Musang King addicts who can’t be convinced to try anything else — and those are decisively NOT fresh.
One of the nice things about buying from Ah Sung is that you can sit down with your friends to munch here. The kopitiam behind his truck allows Durian Customers to use the tables and chairs, so it’s more comfortable.
After our tingly, bitter D123 Chanee experience, we moved on to Ah Fong’s rickety card tables strewed with interesting durians.
In particular, this unusually short-thorned D. oxleyanus caught my eye.
I’m wondering if it could be some kind of hybrid, because the thorns were so short and the flesh was a deep, sticky yellow. Usually D. oxleyanus has very soft to watery flesh, that doesn’t keep well. But this tasted much more like yellow D. graveolens.
Always more to hunt and discover! Even in the surbuban jungle of Kota Kinabalu.
How to get to Taman Foh Sang
Taman Foh Sang is about 3km inland from the Waterfront in KK where most tourists stay.
In KK, the easiest way to get around is by using the Grab App on your phone. You can type “How Lee Coffee Shop” in the App to find the right street. It costs around Rm10 from the Waterfront to Taman Foh Sang.
Use this map to navigate to other Durian Hot Spots around Malaysia, or check our other Durian Hunting Maps!