What is squid jigging and where is Terengganu? Two very good questions. But first: how did I get this opportunity?
I’ve been blogging for over four years at BohemianTraveler.com and occasionally I get invited to events the like the 2104 Squid Jigging Festival. But they are seldom quite as random and obscure as jigging for squid.
On the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is the state of Terengganu. It has an economy and culture indelibly linked to the sea. Fishing is a huge part of that. And squid–squid are one of the most important catches. Squid fishing is known as squid jigging.
Would we actually be fishing for the squid or would we just be celebrating the squid catch? Would we be visiting Terengganu’s outstanding beaches and beautiful offshore islands? These are the questions I wanted answers to.
I had just finished a 20-day Eurail trip around nearly every corner of Europe, a trip to Ukraine to visit a friend, and took part in a photography trip to Oman. To say I was exhausted would be an understatement. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur jet-lagged and was quickly shuttled onto the next plane for the short flight to Kuala Terengganu.
Our itinerary was packed from 7am to 11pm every day, but we managed to go squid jigging on two separate occasions, both times out into the open ocean. If I didn’t get sea sick on these trips, then I never will. While the boats rocked profusely, we cast our lines out. We didn’t use a pole, just heavy duty fishing line with a jig on the end. The jig was a two-part fishing lure we used to catch squid.
We let the line out 15-20 meters until it hit the ocean floor, then jerked the line repeatedly. No bites…until…dusk. After sunset we began to hear shouting from the other boats nearby. They were catching squid now. And soon our boat got one too. Besides the boat driver and our squid jigging mentor, we had three others on the boat. One was a journalist for a Kuala Lumpur newspaper and the other two were a team from Channel 3 News. They interviewed me on the boat about my current squid jigging experience and it ended up on Malaysia Today, the country’s morning news program!
The remainder of our tour through Terengganu was packed tight. We spent an afternoon on Lake Kenyir, Malaysia’s largest lake. Another day we toured around the capital Kuala Terengganu, visiting mosques, a weaving demonstration, historic Chinatown, and the outstanding wet market. We set teenage terrapins free at a conservation center. It wasn’t until the third day that we got a break by visiting the offshore island of Redang, with its gorgeous white sand beaches and clear turquoise water.
Perhaps the most memorable part were the feasts we had every day. Malaysians are passionate about food and I tasted dishes from most every region of Malaysia up until this point, except from Terengganu. As you might expect, the cuisine was heavy on seafood, and we had squid for nearly every meal, prepared in probably a dozen different ways.
I’ll be updating the blog with more about Terengganu, so check back here for more in the coming weeks: Malaysia on Bohemian Traveler