A collection of short stories, essays, blog-posts and photographs from Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The Ubud Handbook « Durian ~ The King of Stink

SOFT, SUCCULENT, SPIKY and stinky, the durian fruit is canonised by some and demonised by many, many more. Known to its fans as the 'King of Fruits', it's heavily rich in minerals and vitamins and a sworn enemy of free radicals.

The thing is, not everyone's on the same page – and its critics don't pull any punches when it comes to the pong.

"Ungodly."

"Like a three-week-old dead cow in custard."

"On the third bite," says one hater, "it was as though I'd just eaten a diseased, parasite-infested animal with a bad case of rabies. I prayed I wouldn't be sick because I really didn't want to taste it again on the way back up." And from an international food critic: "Its odour is best described as pig-sh1t, turpentine and onions garnished with a dirty gym sock."

But for a durian dilettante?

The late chef Anthony Bourdain was a secret lover. Even the wandering 19th century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace went full food-writer on it in 'The Malay Archipelago', describing it as '... a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds combined with occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.'

So at least we're agreed it's edible.

Despite the durian's aggressive appearance – up to 30 centimetres long, one-to-four kilos in weight, football-sized and with thorns sharp enough to slice your skin – this royal gangster is really just a big softy at heart. Cut one open and you'll find the soft, creamy-yellow or red flesh surrounding a large seed – the colour of the pulp dependant on the species.

There are 30 recognised durian tree sub-types, nine of which produce our edible fruit. The mother tree is tall, ranging anywhere from 25 to 50 metres – and drips nectar from buttery-smelling, feathery flowers that tempts fruit bats, giant honeybees and birds into pollinating them.

However, it's not just the birds and the bees that can sniff a durian a mile off. The pungent fruit pulls in squirrels, wild pigs, hungry Sumatran elephants, orangutans and even carnivorous tigers from up to a kilometre away – the larger mammals ensuring that the trees' seeds are spread far and wide to guarantee the durian's seat at Wallace's evolutionary table.

So if they're good enough for a roving tiger, they can't be all that bad for a human... right? Get over the stench, and they're a wonder food – jam-packed with iron, potassium, Vitamin C, riboflavin, folic acid, thiamine, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorous, Vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, sodium, protein, fibre, phytonutrients, water and beneficial dietary fats.

Not bad for an old fruit.

Feeling your age? A portion of zero-cholesterol durian a day will help you turn back the clock. The fruit is busting with antioxidants – actively reducing free radicals that are intent on damaging the growth, development and survival of your body's cells. Which means less age-related tooth-loosening, less hair-loss, wrinkles, arthritis, heart disease, macular degeneration and fewer age spots.

Anaemic? Forget it. High levels of folic acid, iron and copper will swing your red blood-cell count back into the green zone. Say goodbye to high blood pressure, and give your cardiovascular system a break. By indulging in the fruit, you're lowering your risk of heart attacks, strokes and hardening of the arteries – as durian comes packed with potassium. And with plenty of blood pumping through your brain, you're also lowering your chances of developing Alzheimer's and dementia later in life.

Insomniac? You don't need to count the sheep after a dose of durian. This super-fruit is high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted by the body into serotonin and promotes feelings of happiness and relaxation. The serotonin's then converted into the hormone melatonin – which makes your body feel tired. Gastric-induced nightmares? The dietary fibre in durian stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes that help reduce heartburn, constipation and cramps.

And, surprisingly for a fruit, eating durian also lowers the frequency of diarrhoea – as its dietary fibre is insoluble.

Some words of warning though.

While a Sumatran tiger may not be watching its waistline, you might want to get your calorie-calculator out if you're dieting.

A carbohydrate-rich 100-gram portion of the fruit carries around 150 calories, and an average durian contains anywhere between 885 to 1,500 calories – or up to 75 percent of an adult's recommended daily intake. Durians are also filled with simple sugars like sucrose, fructose and glucose that will give the average person an energy boost, but won't do much for a diabetic.

Don't sit or linger under a durian tree, as a falling fruit can kill if karmic gravity comes to collect. Don't mix alcohol with durian, because you'll turn into an unexploded bomb. And be careful where you open-carry or eat one – our new best friend has earned itself outlaw-status on Singapore's subway, Asia's airlines and every Balinese hotel from Amed to Nusa Dua.

And last but not least: there may be another very good reason not to eat a portion in public.

In Indonesia, there's a not-so-old wives' tale of tigers in the bedroom that goes: 'Saat durian mulai jatuh, sarung malah naik' – or 'When a durian falls, up comes the sarong.'

Put simply, some things in life are best enjoyed behind closed doors.

The next time you're sauntering through the market and are violated by the funk of a rabid gym sock, why not follow your nose and see where it leads?

Who knows? You may have just discovered the animal in you.


Recipe for a non-stinky, heavenly, raw-vegan Durian Smoothie:

If, like me, you still won't touch durian with a ten-foot pole but are full-on convinced of its extraordinary health benefits, then you might want to mask the taste and smell in a smoothie that your gran would drink.

Note that durian's consistency makes it the perfect lactose-free alternative to a non-dairy, ultra-creamy milkshake.

Ready?

  1. Find a local market-seller who will open one in front of you and bag it, saving on frustration and cut fingers. Or buy some ready-packed from your supermarket.
  2. Bang around 200g into a blender along with a large (peeled) banana or two.
  3. Add a teaspoonful of fresh, grated ginger with a teaspoonful of cinnamon to mask the taste.
  4. Squeeze in a small squirt of lemon juice.
  5. Get slightly funky and add a dash of nutmeg.
  6. Pour in a quarter-litre of (potable) water – or for that full rehydration package, use young coconut water.
  7. Blend.
  8. Take the sniff-test.
  9. Try a spoonful near your sink.
  10. Gobble.

And there you have it.

As Gordon Ramsay would say: "F______g gorgeous".

Durian smoothie purists don't recommend mixing in a lot of sweet citrus fruits like oranges, mangoes or pineapples.

For chocolate lovers, substitute the ginger and cinnamon with 30g of cacao, leave in the bananas and nutmeg, and add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper for the kick.

Durian ice-cream? Stick your smoothie in the freezer and wait.


Copyright © 2021 John Storey.
All Rights Reserved.

Video ~ 'The Durian Song' performed in Ubud, Bali, by the infamous rapper Johnny Freesh...


The distinctive Johnny Freesh rapping on the joys and dangers of durian in 'The Durian Song' – filmed in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.


© 2021 John Storey. All Rights Reserved.


The Last Pic

Portrait of the Day

Pre-Covid-19 Times ~ Portraits from Bali by Ubud High

Photograph by © Ubud High.


The Ubud Handbook by John Storey

© 2021 John Storey. All rights reserved.


Urban art of a young Balinese girl using a smartphone by the street artist Wild Drawing of Bali, Indonesia

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ganesha / scooter rental / covid / street art / scorpions / rainy season / hornets / nyepi / trance / balinese paintings / wellness and yoga / snakes / dengue fever / bali spirit festival 2022


The Ubud Handbook

The Ubud Handbook

THE UBUD HANDBOOK ~ Your free guide to living in Ubud and Bali in an online nutshell.

Religion Matters

The Tale of Ganesha the Globetrotter ~ Bali's Elephant-Headed Hindu God

A young Lord Ganesha writes a chapter of The Mahabharata with his broken tusk at a stone-carver's shop in Batubulan, Bali, Indonesia

‘First stop on Shree Ganesha's round-Asia tour was a spell in Buddhist Tibet with its strong tantric leanings – a convenient spot to re-invent himself as Vinãyaka, and then as the dancing red Nritta Ganapati – before a full-blown alter-ego revamp as the scarlet, twelve-armed Maharakta Ganapati. Now, Maharakta Ganapati was unusually fond of skullcaps filled with human flesh and blood – and this we might charitably put down to a bad trip.

After all, what happens in Tibet stays in Tibet...’

.. ➤ ..


An American Calonarang ~ Trance & Possession on Bali

Balinese-Hindu offerings of rice, money, sweets, holy water and flower petals at Sebatu Springs, Bali, Indonesia

‘To cut an all-night story short, the mask was donned by a dancer who fell into a deep trance. But instead of staying in the temple, he began to run. And run. He became violent and uncontrollable. He ran for four kilometers down the road – the crowd scrambled after him. He ended up in a cemetery just past my house, and in the dead of night began to do frenzied battle with unseen foes...’

.. ➤ ..


'Nyepi' ~ Bali's Hindu New Year, and the Day of Silence ~ Melasti, Ngerupuk, Ogoh-Ogoh & Manis Nyepi

Balinese-Hindu devotees pray as sacred temple objects are bathed and cleansed during a Melasti ceremony before Nyepi on Pantai Purnama in Bali, Indonesia

‘If previous New Years' Days have seen you waking up with a crippling hangover trying to remember what you did the night before, maybe it's time you headed to Bali in March. Nyepi – the Balinese Day of Silence, and the start of the Hindu Saka New Year – is a day, a night and a day you'll never forget....’

.. ➤ ..


'Kajeng Kliwon' ~ A Very Bad-Hair Day on Bali

Film poster for Indonesian horror film 'Kajeng Kliwon: Nightmare in Bali'

‘Kajeng Kliwon is the kind of day when anything that can happen will happen. It invariably does.

You have been seriously warned...’

.. ➤ ..


Personal Stories

Diary of a Market Girl

Photo-realistic urban art by an anonymous street artist of a 1930s market scene in Bali, Indonesia

“When I had my sixth and seventh babies at the hospital – my twin girls – the doctor ordered me to have a Caesarian. And without asking me, he tied my tubes off as well.

I think he thought I'd had enough babies...”

.. ➤ ..


Food Talk

Durian ~ The King of Stink

“On the third bite,” says one hater, “it was as though I'd just eaten a diseased, parasite-infested animal with a bad case of rabies. I prayed I wouldn't be sick because I really didn't want to taste it again on the way back up...”

.. ➤ ..


Culture Bites

Cinema Paradiso ~ Bali's Seat in the History of Indonesian Cinema

1932 Virgins of Bali Thirties nudie-cutie bare-native film poster 1930s Bali, Indonesia

‘Boobs and political censorship have never been far from the Silver Screen – in Indonesia, they're its bedrock. The silent flicks of Thirties' Bali sucked hungrily on the island's bare-breasted cabinet-postcard image that encouraged so many gilded tourists – and dodgy film-stars like Charlie Chaplin – to visit its sultry, forbidden shores...’

.. ➤ ..


Getting Around ~ Bali 'Biking

Surviving Bali on a 'Bike

Motorbike accident victim being treated for a leg-injury in an Ubud clinic in Bali, Indonesia

“For me, some of the most dangerous people on the road are white people. I avoid them like the plague. You can tell the ones who are going to hurt others – the fixed grins, the hunched over the handle-bars, the wobbling around corners and shouts of indignation when they finally hit someone – because they have absolutely no idea how life and the road works around here...”

.. ➤ ..


It's Silly Season Again ~ Renting a Scooter, and Crashing it, on Bali

A monkey tourist crashes his scooter in a road accident in Bali, Indonesia

‘She tears into the traffic. She can't stop. She narrowly misses hitting a car head-on, swerves past a mum on a 'bike and slaloms across the road. Before she hits anyone – it's a miracle she doesn't – she falls in a bad-sounding heap of bent metal and smashing plastic. A group of Balinese rush to pick her up before the cops see her...’

.. ➤ ..


The Other Side of the Coin ~ Just Another Motorbike Accident on Bali

Mural by an anonymous street-artist of a crashed, burned-out Honda 70 scooter in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

‘She starts sweeping and I notice that she's limping. There's a spreading bruise and an angry graze running past her knee and down her calf. She wants to carry on cleaning – I sit her down and ask her what happened.

She's shy; I press...’

.. ➤ ..


Health Matters

Let's Get Wet ~ The Rainy Season on Bali

Blue sky pokes from behind a gathering of stormy monsoon clouds over Bali, Indonesia

‘Rule number one on a monsoon day? Don't get wet.

You may not realise that getting caught in a cloudburst or shower on Bali – particularly if you're on a motorbike – is the tropical equivalent of walking naked outside during a Prague Winter after a lukewarm bath.

It'll really slow you down. The shivers, hot-and-cold flushes, a chesty cough, diarrhoea, sneezing, stomach pains, a belting headache and aching bones are all at the top of the list...’

.. ➤ ..


Scorpions, Mosquitoes, Hornets, Poisonous Caterpillars... And Other Strange Tails on Bali

‘Nowhere is free from the tax of life. We all have to pay for our slice of Bali paradise – and this often comes in the shape of our biting, stinging, crawling, flying insect-cousins.

It's the downside of environment-sharing...’

.. ➤ ..


Holidays from the Jungle

The Heads of Trunyan

‘Agricultural, and unpractised in the dark art of handling international tourists, the aristocratic farmer-people of Trunyan have acquired a damaging reputation for aggression. Their unique tourist draw – a jungle-cemetery where bodies are left in the open to disintegrate underneath a magical banyan tree – is regularly shunned by travellers on the time-sensitive tourist circuit...’

.. ➤ ..


Lombok ~ A Line in the Sand

‘Ten meters away and the young man finally looks up – an inane, animal-like grin taped across his face as his girlfriend grips his porcelain butt and grimaces towards the empty blue sky. They disengage like street dogs, utter an invective in Russian, and stare...’

.. ➤ ..


Tourism & Self-Enrichment

Eat, Pray, Self-Love

I love-heart Ubud, Canggu, Seminya, Sanur and Kuta in Bali, Indonesia

‘My concentration's shot to pieces. The spaghetti keeps falling off my fork. She's on her third large beer now. She starts to say 'facking' even more, and is speaking so loudly that people passing on the street have begun to look her way, and she's spitting bits of ciabatta bread and tomato and fish into her friend's dinner...’

.. ➤ ..


From Ubud With Love

Will you marry? in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

‘I'm staying at a cute, family-run bed-and-breakfast – a homestay – on Ubud's trendy Jalan Goutama. A young member of the homestay's family tours her compound, blessing it with incense and rice and flower-petal offerings in little hand-made palm-leaf boxes.

All is well in Bali's spiritual capital...’

.. ➤ ..


A Dutchman Goes to a Gypsy Fortune-Teller

‘A Dutch boy in Holland goes to a gypsy fortune-teller who tells him that he is, in fact, Balinese. Afterwards, his uncle visits the Island of the Gods and brings him back a wooden carving of a bare-breasted lady.

Lucky for him it wasn't one of those funny-shaped wooden bottle-openers that looks like a cock...’

.. ➤ ..


The Land of Self-Healing and Snake Oil

Yoga-wear for an Ubud yogini manifesting her abundance, exploring her Divine Feminine and inserting a Jade Egg at The Womb Temple near The Yoga Barn in Bali

‘Shake out those Kundalini Awakenings with some HoopYogini™ and Bhakti Boogie® at the Yoga Barn. Celebrate The Divine Feminine with a splash of Shakti Dance. Puff up your lungs in a Sacred Breathwork Immersion Workshop®, insert a Jade Egg for luck at The Womb Temple™ and polish it off with some tantalising Manifesting And Abundance.

You know you're worth it...’

.. ➤ ..


Urban art of a young Balinese girl using a cellphone by the street artist Wild Drawing of Bali, Indonesia

Search Ubud High

Popular search terms:
ganesha / covid / scorpions / scooter rental / trance / yoga and wellness / hornets / nyepi / balinese traditional paintings / rainy season / snakes / 2022 bali spirit festival / dengue fever


And finally, the weather

Today's weather forecast for Ubud, Bali, Indonesia ⇨

Fake styrofoam clouds over the main 'Cloud' stage at the 'Plastic-Free Gili Air Music Festival' near Lombok, Indonesia