Enjoying durian while kayaking down Semadang River
Fleshy and creamy, durian can be easily found in this part of the world, especially when its in season. Whether you love it or hate it, that time of the year has come again and no one can escape the overpowering smell of the king of fruits.
On December 4th, led by a local kayak tour guide, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) organised a media day out and what better way to enjoy a Friday than kayaking from Kampong Bengoh to Kampong Semadang on a rare – almost sunny day – during the rainy season.
Tucked away in the peaceful and charming Bau-Padawan area, the Semadang river connects more than five villages together. This area is popular among local people and also tourists especially for its kayaking activities, but during the durian season which usually falls in December, there is the lingering scent of durian in the air as you paddle along the river.
Greeted by the sight of lush, green landscape of trees and mountains along the river from Kampong Bengoh to Kampong Semadang, durian can be seen almost everywhere either floating unclaimed on the river or high up in the trees.
And while December may be the wettest month of the year, which can be depressing for those who love outdoor activities, this time of year certainly has it advantages as it opens up the opportunity for durian lovers to buy and sample these thorny fruit from the kampong area.
Starting from Kampong Bengoh to Kampong Semadang, and stopping at Kampong Danu for lunch, the 11 kilometer kayak journey took between four to five hours to complete.
Along the way, we stopped for a while to make a short visit to Aruang Pi’ at the Trusan Mini Waterfall before continuing the journey. We also got to see a unique limestone formation in which which one has a particularly defined facial shape resembling that of an ancient Roman soldier.
As we paddled farther, the scenery changed from jungle to orchards where villagers grew their own vegetables, fruit, and corn. After collecting their own food crops from the garden, it is a common sight to see the villagers collecting their harvest from the orchards.
This season, the most abundant thing to be collected from the orchard were durians. Along the way we saw a few villagers waving to us near the river banks as they took their rest from loading a heap of durian into their small boat.
According to our tour guide, as the durian trees are planted by the villagers themselves, it is considered property and part of their inheritance passed down from generation to generation. It is illegal for anybody to collect them without the owner’s permission, and offenders face paying a fine of up to RM500.
Luckily for us on this trip, we were fortunate enough to meet one of the villagers who just came back collecting durians from his orchard nearby as we made a stop at Kampong Danu for a home-cooked lunch provided by the kayak tour guide.
Sturdy for a 73-year-old man, villager Jabo Langon was seen unloading some durian into a basket on his shoulder from what looked like a mini mountain loaded in his blue sampan.
According to Jabo, he can easily collect about 200 durians in one outing, where he would sell them in bulk. In one season, he said that he can gather up to 3,000 to 4,000 durians.
“But I also grow other fruits such as jackfruit, and rambutan in my orchard,” he added.
Looking at his freshly collected durian with thick, juicy, creamy flesh, it was hard for any durian lover to resist.
Jabo cracked open some durians for us to sample. Freshly collected, they were exceptionally delicious and fleshy.
After the lunch break at Kampong Danu, we continued our journey to Kampong Semadang, but not before making a short stop to swim and enjoy the last few durian some us managed to buy from Jabo.
While we may have gotten sunburnt, weather beaten by heat and rain and our shoulders sore from paddling, (not forgetting that my kayak partner and I nearly capsized when we accidentally hit a large rock) it was definitely a thing that everyone should experience when they visit the charming Bidayuh village.
And if you are lucky enough to go there during the durian or any fruit season, eating out in nature tastes even better than when you are in the city.