From the 2nd untill 7 June 2015, Terengganu held the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival (TISJF) again for travellers to learn about squid-jigging, including what the wondrous state of Terengganu has to offer.
Now in its second year, the festival gathered 122 local media from over 22 countries such as the United States of America, Spain, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey and Indonesia, including Malaysia. It has also become the platform for media practitioners from around the world to experience squid jigging first hand while being mesmerised by Terengganu’s beauty. Most of this year’s participants visited Terengganu for the first time in their lives, therefore they were all excited, especially when a number of last year’s participants’ also raved about the event.
Upon arrival, participants were ushered into the Rajawali Hall 1 at Duyong Marina & Resort for a welcoming dinner and introductory briefing. All 122 media attentively listened to the presentations led by representatives of Tourism Terengganu, the Fisheries Department and Gaya Travel Magazine as the media co-ordinator. The participants were encouraged by the organisers to use #SquidJiggingTgg, #TourismTerengganu, #Terengganu, #Malaysia and #GayaTravel hashtags to promote Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015. Do check out these hashtags in your social media account to see what happened during the festival, including the microsite www.gayatravel.com.my/terengganu-international-squid-jigging-festival-2015 or on our social media platforms.
Day two began with a one hour and a half ferry ride from the Shahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu to the shimmering blue waters of Pulau Pinang, one of the islands that is part of the Redang archipelago. It would be a sin not to jump into the water when being on the island since Pulau Pinang is located within a Marine Park, replete with beautiful corals and marine life. Snorkelling and diving gear can easily be rented. However, for those who prefer to remain dry, they may explore the island and feast their eyes on its pristinely tropical landscape.
From Pulau Pinang, the participants were taken on another 15-minute ferry ride to get to the Laguna Island Resort, where we will be spending one night on the island. The moment we arrived at Redang Island, we knew it was a love at first sight. The white beach, crystal clear water, and everything in between, made us wander: “is this what you call heaven on earth?”
While Pulau Pinang was beautiful, Redang island took the standard several notches up, leaving almost everybody speechless. It was a jaw-dropping sight to behold with its powdery white and sandy beaches surrounded by crystal clear water and lined-up with coconut trees – a tropical island idyll at its best.
Squid Jigging (Part I)
Once we finished admiring the view, we readied for our first squid jigging trip. After one-hour journey from the Laguna Island Resort Jetty, we reached a spot on the open sea and everyone started to jig for squid. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and the sea was unusually rough that most participants were eventually hit by seasickness. None of us managed to catch any squid during the first round. Despite the rough sea conditions, we arrived at the jetty safely.
The tiring four hours in the open sea fail to deter participants to dress beautifully in accordance to the theme for the dinner, which was ‘Beach Party’. Following the theme, dinner was held at the Laguna Island Resort beach and Acen, a blogger from Indonesia as well as Azlina, a journalist from Malaysia, managed to grab the ‘Best Dressed’ title and won themselves free stay vouchers at Laguna Island Resort. The fun-filled dinner was indeed a consolation for all participants as compensation for the hard time at the sea earlier.
After spending one night at Redang, we headed back to Shahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu before continuing the journey to Setiu, the venue for Setiu Cultural Fest at Pantai Peranginan Rhu 10 for lunch by the beach and get up close and personal with Terengganu traditional games and activities. Participants were entertained by the demonstration of traditional Malay martial art called the silat, tumbuk emping (pounding of rice flakes), fruit decoration, and the captivating flying top-spinning, which is one of the most popular games among the locals, only to be played by adults as one spinning top could weigh up to five kilograms and require skill and experience in handling them – definitely not a child’s plaything.
From Pantai Peranginan Rhu 10, a 10-minute drive brought us to Kampung Mangkuk where 30 boats were already waiting to take us to the Kuala Baru estuary for mussel-picking. All participants got out of the boats and treaded into the water and started digging into the muddy bed in search of mussels. Amazingly, the amount of mussels caught by the participants was impressive, considering all of them did it for the first time and had great fun doing so. After a tiring yet fulfilling two-hour mussel-picking session, we were brought to the Primula Beach Hotel in Kuala Terengganu for dinner together with the mussels that we caught, of course, which was served as part of the menu. Everyone was happy being able to eat his or her own catch earlier that evening.
Fourth day in Terengganu called for another fun and wet day! We headed to Kenyir Lake in Hulu Terengganu for exciting games and water activities. Arriving at Pengkalan Gawi in Kenyir Lake around 10:00 a.m., participants were all energised and excited to play local games such as congkak, batu seremban, giant clog and running with water balloons. The participants were then taken on a 15-minute boat ride to Poh Island in Kenyir Lake where the new Kenyir Water Theme Park is located. Kenyir Water Theme Park, popular among locals, is a new attraction in Kenyir Lake that offers Malaysia’s first outdoor inflatable floating water games that are suitable for the whole family to have fun.
Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village (KECV)
From the Kenyir Water Theme Park, the participants then took a 10-minute bus ride to the Kenyir Elephant Village (KEV). Built on a 256-hectare land, KEV is a well-constructed conservation place for elephants. We had to walk through a 500-metre canopy walk – which gave us the chance to observe the elephants from a different angle – before arriving at the main area where the shows are held. Unlike most ‘conservation village’, KEV takes good care of the elephants as each one of them has its own mahout (person who works and tends the elephant) who cares and loves them like their own baby. The elephants here are trained to understand simple instructions from the mahouts, which evidently comes in handy when communicating and conducting educational shows. Visitors are also welcome to bathe with the elephants. The mahouts took the elephants down to the river and the participants were able to touch and bathe these gentle giants. Readers who are interested to partake in this activity should bring extra clothes.
After a full day of playing under the sun, the participants of TISJF 2015 headed back to Kuala Terengganu to join the Opening Ceremony of the Terengganu Peranakan Festival 2015 held in Chinatown. The term Peranakan refers to Chinese who were married to locals and adopted many parts of the local culture as their lifestyle. Despite having Chinese blood, the Malay influence is more dominant in the Peranakan culture. This is proven as most Peranakan descendants speak Malay and eat Malay food. The fusion of the local and Chinese culture embodied by the members of the Peranakan community makes them unique. In conjunction with the opening ceremony, Chinatown turned lively with lanterns hung in between old shop houses, lion dance performances with their loud drums, and various kinds of Peranakan food being sold along Chinatown street. Seeing pretty Peranakan ladies wearing kebaya everywhere and speaking Malay with their unmistakable Terengganu dialect gives a new dimension to Kuala Terengganu, tourism-wise.
A trip to Kuala Terengganu is never complete without visiting the Pasar Payang (Payang Market), which is definitely the right place to buy souvenirs and various local handicrafts such as batik, songket, silk, brassware, but also local’s food and snacks.
Terengganu State Museum
Terengganu State Museum is known to be the largest museum in South East Asia, covering an area of 23.33 hectares. Visitors can walk around through the nine main galleries; Islamic Gallery, Textile Gallery, Royal Gallery, Historic Gallery, Craft Gallery, Petroleum Gallery and Natural History Gallery that exhibit interesting and educational exhibits. Don’t forget to have a look at the original Terengganu Inscription, which can be seen at the main entrance of the museum, giving proof that the state received the arrival of Islam in 1303 A.D., earlier than the Melaka Sultanate.
Islamic Civilisation Park (ICP)
If you have been dreaming of seeing the Taj Mahal of India or the Sacred Grand Mosque of Saudi Arabia (Masjidil Haram) but never have the chance to go, then a trip to the Islamic Civilisation Park is recommended to satiate your wanderlust. The park is home to 21 replicas of major Islamic monuments and architecture from around the world built on the scale of 1:8 of the original size, complete with corresponding intricate designs that blow visitors’ minds away. This interactive and educational park is the right place for those who are into Islamic architecture and history.
As its name suggests, the Crystal Mosque is made from crystal-shine glass and steel that stands majestically by the Terengganu River. The mosque has become one of the landmarks for Terengganu as well as Malaysia due to its unique architecture.
Once visiting the Islamic Civilisation Park and Crystal Mosque lies along the Terengganu River Cruise route, the participants were then ferried over to the Duyong Marina & Resort by the river cruise in preparation for the second round of squid-jigging.
Squid Jigging, 2nd Part
Departing from Duyong Marina & Resort’s jetty, the second round of squid jigging had everyone well prepared, mentally and physically. To those who were prone to seasickness, they readily took the seasickness pill one hour before going to the sea. The pill would make one drowsy and less sensitive to motion, thus reducing seasickness.
After about an hour, we finally reached ‘the’ spot and everyone started jigging. This time around, luck was really on our side: unlike the first round, this time we did not have to wait long until the first squid was hauled onto the boat and got everyone excited! One after another, the participants managed to successfully catch squid, making them pleased. Those who brought along fishing rods were also well rewarded with a huge catch of a variety of fish.
Our boat managed to get up to six squid that belong to the big-fin reef squid species, known by the locals as sotong mengabang. Other types of squid that can be caught in the Terengganu waters are the mitre squid (sotong torak), sotong ketupat, sotong jarum and cuttlefish (sotong katak). Although we only managed to get sotong mengabang, to us it was a huge enough reward. The squid were then fried fresh on board and enjoyed by all participants. Without doubt, it was the most delicious squid we have ever eaten!
After being almost four hours in the sea, we finally headed back to the jetty. It was such a beautiful experience, not only because we managed to catch squid, but also because of the company. In each boat, the media members from different countries not only caught and consumed squid more than they have ever done in their lives but also and bonded and enjoyed the camaraderie.
On the last night in Terengganu, the participants were feted to a memorable closing dinner together with the Terengganu state VIPs. Winners of the contests held during the festival such as ‘Best Instagram Captions’ and others were announced. The most awaited result was for ‘Best Video Teaser’, which was won by Brian Cox from the Spain-based The Travel Vlogger. It was a stiff competition among the four entries, which were from France, Indonesia and Malaysia, including Spain. Cox entry also won the prize as the ‘Best Video’ during last year’s festival.
All in all, the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015 was a great event to introduce Terengganu specifically and Malaysia, generally. Since Terengganu is bestowed with among the most beautiful beaches and islands in Malaysia, event such as this helps to promote these gems to the world. Thank you Tourism Terengganu for such an eye-opening experience! The participants had a great time exploring Terengganu and look forward to seeing more of Terengganu during next year’s festival, God-willing.