Pulau Perhentian Malaysia

Learning to Fish in Malaysia by Emily Luxton

It’s time for a Travel Tuesday Guest Post! Are you excited to hear from someone else? I am.

Today’s story is from Emily Luxton, a London based photographer and travel writer, who’s currently dreaming of and planning her next ’round the world trip. From her own travel and photography blog – Emily Luxton: Explore.Dream.Discover. – she writes, “There are 196 countries in the world at the best count, and so far I’ve only made my way into a measly seven of them. My quest is to change that dramatically.” And she plans to do so by the end of 2014, armed with a TEFL certificate and a Pound-heavy savings account.

Ideally, each Tuesday I’ll publish a story from one of my fellow travelers. Their tales will be about something they’ve learned, or something they’ve taught, while on the road. It might not be a traditional classroom setting, as often these experiences are not when we’re exposed to a new culture, but hopefully they’ll inspire you to book that plane ticket you’ve been dreaming about, sign up to teach English abroad, or simply give you a new blog to enjoy.

If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, contact me here.


Meet Emily


Pulau Perhentian - Harbour Malaysia

Richard, our taxi-driver-turned-fishing-teacher, ushers us into the little blue motor-boat that is livelihood with a whiskery smile. As we speed away from Pulau Perhentian’s movie-set backdrop of ice-white sand and lush, emerald jungle, he announces he only has one rod.

He nods at Sam with a broad grin. “We’ll use our hands.” The image of my not-overly-manly boyfriend snatching fish out of the sea Bear Grylls style makes us both laugh, and Richard joins in heartily. “You know how to fish?” he asks, and I shake my head. Somehow, the confession makes me feel guilty in this island paradise where everyone – even boys of six or seven dangling pieces of line from the edge of home-made rafts – knows how to fish. But life is slow and sleepy here, and we have time to learn. All the time in the world.

I wait in the boat while the men head to Richard’s house to get the fishing gear, and watch the silent village from the ocean. Everyone is out at sea, hard at work. Ghost-like stray cats and grey lizards shuffle cautiously through the dusty streets. The endless time this paradise has to offer seems to unfold around me, just as it has throughout my stay here.

Out at sea, where the breeze is welcome relief from the Malaysian heat, the learning begins. I feel worse than useless: inexperienced, squeamish, weak. Richard rolls his eyes as I fumble with a blunt knife and some stinky bits of near-rotten squid. Soon my hands are covered in goo and Richard, exasperated, is skewering my indistinguishable, gutty pieces onto hooks on my rod for me. I hope baiting five hooks at once might give me slightly more chance at catching something.

It turns out using his hands means Sam gets a piece of line dotted with several hooks – no rod. We both drop our cast off; which according to Richard is as easy as dropping the line directly alongside the boat, although it doesn’t feel entirely professional.

Learning to fish at Richard’s pace is a pleasurable experience, relaxed and unhurried. We sit and wait, holding our lines gently, listening to the mismatched instructions our teacher randomly throws out whenever they occur to him, dotted between jokes and stories about other useless tourists. It all seems quite peaceful, and I start to think that maybe I could get the hang of this fishing lark.

Pulau Perhentian - Richard Malaysia

Richard, the fishing teacher.

Until my line jerks. Following what Richard has told me, I reel it in to find two shimmering red snappers, and start panicking. Richard shouts bilingual instructions at me crossly as I fluster with the strangely rigid, flapping fish, struggling to work the hooks out of their gasping, twitching mouths. I can’t work Richard out; suddenly he seems to hate me. Or is this his sense of humour? Still, though, he is kind enough to help me with the breathless fish, and the next time my line twitches I’m ready for it. Soon the fish are flying off my line and into the bottom of the boat, and I’m barely grimacing as the cold, scaly bodies flap in my hands. Richard, as it turns out, is a fantastic teacher. His naturalness with his subject and gruff confidence make me eager to please, and I’m trying harder than I have at anything in a long time. Which is strange, because this is supposed to be a holiday.

Soon the bottom of the boat is covered in gasping fish, glinting red and silver bodies, and even – our trophy – a small barracuda. The sickening, salty-sweet reek fills my nostrils, and I’m sweating from the heat and hard work. But on the whole I’m feeling rather peaceful: the weather is perfect, the view is incredible, and I’ve caught more fish than Sam. In one day, I’m a sea-fishing pro. More or less! The sun is setting as we speed breezily back to land, and I lean back, feeling pretty good about myself and my newest skill.

Take me to Emily Luxton Travel Blog – Explore. Dream. Discover.

Or follow Emily on Twitter and Facebook.

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  1. Vid says:

    Sounds like a brilliant experience – I would go out in the sea any day, only to escape the heat if for nothing else 🙂

    “Everyone is out at sea, hard at work. Ghost-like stray cats and grey lizards shuffle cautiously through the dusty streets” – That painted quite a picture for me.

    Very well written. Loved it 🙂

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you so much for having me, Jessica! And thanks Vid as well, for your lovely comment 🙂


  3. Jennifer says:

    Fishing is always one of the most favourite activity among visitors coming to malaysia.

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