My Unforgettable Squid Jigging Experience
I was invited by Tourism Malaysia Terengganu in mid April 2014 to join the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2014 together with Malcolm (@MalcolmSunny) and Yuki (@IAmYukiNg). It was a trip I was looking forward to, as it had been 5 long months since I last travelled with Malaysia Tourism and I totally missed those fun times with my Gaya Travel friends and Yo! Traveller production crew! We had to take an hour flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by a 10-11 hour overnight (butt-aching) bus ride to Kuala Terengganu. If you are wondering where is Terengganu, it is in north-eastern Peninsular Malaysia, and is bordered in the northwest by Kelantan, the southwest by Pahang, and the east by the South China Sea. Several outlying islands, including Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Kapas and Pulau Redang, are also a part of the state.
Stories about the origin of the name of the state: “Terengganu”
– terang ganu meant ‘bright rainbow’ in Malay.
– the name evolved from taring anu, which means ‘fang of something’ in Malay. According to the ninth Sultan of Terengganu, Baginda Omar, a party of hunters from Pahang referred the area of what is now southern Terengganu as the place where they spotted a big animal fang. When asked the source of their riches, they replied, from the land of taring anu, which later evolved into Terengganu.
– Terengganu was called Trangkanu (Thai: ตรังกานู) by the Siamese when it was under their influence.
– the name was derived from ‘Tilanggana’, name first given to the land by a group of immigrants. The name eventually became Terengganu according to the dialect of the local people.
– The traditional Chinese name for Terengganu has been “丁加奴” (Pinyin: dīng jiā nú), a direct transliteration of the Malay name. However, in recent years, the Chinese community in Terengganu has raised objections to the name, citing that the characters used loosely translate to “giving birth to a child who will become a slave” (Chinese: 添丁加做奴). Therefore, they successfully petitioned the regulatory commission for Chinese language in Malaysia to change the Chinese name for the state to “登嘉楼” (Pinyin: dēng jiā lóu), which can be loosely translated to “aspiring/stepping up to a higher level”, in September 2004. It is worth noting, however, that the new name has been in unofficial use by the state’s Chinese society for at least 30 years before its official adoption.
What is Squid Jigging?
I guess all of us know that squid jigging means fishing for squid. But before the trip, I thought Squid Jigging will be carried out in a kelong (a form of offshore platform built predominantly with wood), where we fish for the squid with some baits, ya know, chill and relax, no worries. But I WAS WRONG! Big Time! Before I start on my “colourful” narration, here’s more facts and info! Squid Jigging is one of Terengganu’s main tourism products. The Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2014 was held to introduce squid jigging as a viable leisure activity for tourists, while at the same time highlighting Terengganu’s diverse marine and underwater treasures; its islands and longest coastline in Peninsula Malaysia. This festival is participated by more than 200 participants from 22 countries with China sending the highest participation of 34 people. The rest are from Chile, Australia, Brunei, United States of America, Canada, Hong Kong, Iran, Spain, United Kingdom, Estonia, Czech Republic, Finland, India, Indonesia, Italy Iran, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Singapore (Yea! 3 of us + another 2 magazine reporters), Thailand and Malaysia.
The festival was splited into 2 days. Participants were divided into small groups of 5 with more than 44 boats flagging off from Jeti Fikri, Setiu to Pulau Chepu, Setiu (Chepu Island; 1st Day) and from Riyaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa Jetty to around Pulau Kapas, Marang (Kapas Island; 2nd Day). And all 3 of us were assigned together with another 2 media from Malaysia. (See our happy and carefree smiles? It’s because I didn’t know what I was really in for then!) Every boat is different and unique in its own way. Some has a little roof top where participants can sit, while in some boats, people have to take their seats either in front or at the back of the boat. Besides the bus, the boat or ferry had been the trip’s main mode of transportation. On my first trip out to the sea (for squid jigging), I thought it would be just like the many journeys to our destination. All the participants have to put on a life-vest and the boat (photo below) I was in on the first day, has this little platform where none of us got to sit on. 🙁 I wasn’t too worried when I saw the small boats initially. On the contrary, I was quite excited to be able to take a “real” boat finally. However, I had to eat my words half hour into the boat ride. This is NOT exciting at all! I managed to snap a picture (above) before the wave got too strong and I start fearing for the safety of my beloved iPhone 5S. You might think there is a cabin inside, but it is actually the engine room! The “captain” was actually navigating the boat by sitting on the top platform and with his leg inside the engine room. With the guy in orange standing up, you can roughly gauge the size of the boat. @.@ After more than an hour of jerky sail, we finally reached the deep sea. The sea was wavey and unlike sitting on a ferry to Batam, our boat was like a tiny plank of wood in the middle of the sea more than an hour away from the shore… It was only then when I realised that there’s NO WHERE for us to go TOILET! *scream*
Jigging for squids
We were all given a set of jig (as seen above). Jigging is the practice of fishing with a jig, a type of fishing lure. A jig consists of a lead sinker with a hook molded into it and usually covered by a soft body to attract fish. The head of a jig can consist of many different shapes and colors along with different features. As there was language barrier between the Malay Game Marshall and me, I could only imitate what he did when he demonstrated the method to throw the jig into the sea and let the nylon string run until it stop. When it reached the seabed, we were supposed to raise the string in jerky motions (just like how you do weight lifting). Squid Jigging as a tradition has now become synonymous with Terengganu’s waterfront destinations, besides being considered as a leisure activity suitable for all ages not only among locals but foreigners as well. Every year in the months between April and June, the stretch of coastal area from Besut to Kemaman is made vibrant by rows of lights coming from the boats that engage in squid jigging, likening it into a festival in its own right. I thought squid jigging will be like fishing, where I just had to wait patiently for the fish to be lured in (a book and some cocktail perhaps?). However, it felt more like a mixture of a gym session in the middle of the sea and a game of “blindfolded Tikam Tikam” (Tikam = Guess in Malay). Why so? On my first squid jigging trip, I did not know that the squid are usually hiding near the sea bed. I spent hours (from 4pm till 9pm) by the boat, not sure what exactly I’m supposed to do besides moving the jig up and down. Instead of jogging near the seabed, I thought I was “smart” to try to fish for the squids in mid-sea (secretly hoping to catch any squid floating by).
My First Seasick Experience
The reason this trip had been unforgettable was because it is the first time I had seasickness. I never thought the term will be linked to me in anyway. I was sitting next to Malcolm, feeling really sleepy and listless from the hours of bobbing up and down, while listening to him talk about random stuff. Suddenly, I had the urge to “burp”, which I thought will help make me feel better once the gas was out. I patted my chest, and all of a sudden, I transformed into a merlion! Literally! Vomit started flowing out of my mouth uncontrollably like a fountain and I was so surprised by the whole incident. If you find this disgusting, wait till you see what I am going to tell you next! Another boat where my fellow Yo! Traveller friends were in, actually managed to catch some squid at areas where their team mates vomited and peed at. When I got to know that all the catch from the competition were barbecued and served to us for dinner. *Gulp…*
After the first trip’s embarrassment, I obediently took the seasick pill on my second trip out into the sea. I don’t exactly know how the pill will help, but knowing that it take at least half an hour to take effect, I decided not to take the risk. In the end, I felt worse than the first time. The seasick pill actually didn’t take the nauseous and giddiness away. All it did, was to make me not able to vomit, which felt bad! While I lasted for at least 4 hours before feeling sick on the first day at the Pulau Chepu, I was on the verge of crying 15 minutes out in the sea. The boat we had on the second day was smaller than the first one, and the waves were actually crashing onto us, making us drench even before reaching the destination. Before the second trip, I had planned to take more photos and videos of the whole experience so that I could write about it. But 15 minutes after stopping at our destination to start the jigging contest, I was already raising my *imaginary* white flag and crawling into the mini cabin to lay down. When I was laying on the wooden board, I recalled the moment when my dad drove me to the airport and told me to be careful. Tears were on the verge of rolling down, and my over-imaginative brain started making me wonder what would happen if the waves overturn our little boat… and (at the same time) I was making a note in my mind to suggest Apple to do some waterproof function for the iPhones so that if this ever happens again, I would not be so worried about my phone. I thought I was being really cowardly for having all these emotions, but upon reaching the jetty, I got to know that there had been speedboats sending contestants who were ill, back to the jetty. On the last day of the trip, prizes were awarded to contestants who vomited the most number of times and in the shortest time! Well, the record time for the second trip was 15 minutes out into the sea (Dominic was the record holder and he won a 2D1N hotel stay!). So… I’m not exactly That weak! 😛 Pukey stuff aside, squid feed mainly at night and are attracted to light. Hungry squid lurk in the dark fringes near patches of lighted water and then dart into the bright area in pursuit of food such as young herring and other small fishes. All the squids were caught by the Malay Marshall himself (on day 1) while we all caught nothing (Yes, nothing despite me vomiting :P)
The Squid Delicacy VS The Squid Love Story
If you are wondering how these squid are cooked in Terengganu (besides barbecuing), they are actually made into Ketupat Sotong versi Terengganu, where squid is filled with glutinous rice before being cooked in a rich coconut milk gravy doused heavily with local spices. Despite my love for glutinous rice, I was really hesitant to eat any squid due to the influence from my all-time favourite Thai movie “First Love”. The story goes like this: Once a upon a time, there were two squids. They had traveled until they met each other. Then, they fell in love. They became a couple. Finally, they got married. On the day of marriage, squid priest told them to hold hands. So, they held each other’s hands, held the hands, held hands, held hands, held hands, held hands… It wasn’t exactly this story that touched me but the movie itself, but I can’t help but remember the movie plot when I saw numerous sotong (squid) dishes we were served daily!
Experience The Waves For Yourself?
Despite my unforgettable “merlion” experience, anyone who wants to experience squid jigging (especially fishing enthusiasts) or seasickness is still encouraged to visit Terengganu! Of course, squid jigging is only one of their many “attractions”! I will be sharing more about the other fun stuff in my future post! Pssst! I heard that Air Asia offers direct flight from Singapore to Terengganu, so NO MORE 11 hour butt-aching overnight bus rides!