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This trip around the world was indeed our honeymoon, but it did not often feel like it. Days spent on buses, coated in dirt from foreign lands, rummaging through markets to find food that would not destroy our stomachs– long-term travel is anything but glamorous. About halfway through, we realized that we wanted a proper honeymoon to break up this backpacking travel, budget be damned. So it came about that we made our way to Vietnam, booked our stay on the lovely Phu Quoc island, and, a trip out squid fishing.
Yes, we are aware that most people don’t celebrate their union to the partner they love with a night boat into the waters off coastal Vietnam to practice a form of fishing we’d never tried. However, I think we’ve also made it clear at this point that the way express our love to one another is anything but traditional–starting our honeymoon off in Jakarta, Indonesia, may have given it away. We did not mean for the squid boat to happen, but, like most things in travel, when it was suggested to us by the staff at the hotel we were staying at, we shrugged our shoulders and said yes.
After a quick drive, we arrived at the dock for our squid boat tour.
The concierge had been on the boat before we arrived, hanging fake flower garlands of all shapes and colors along the ceiling of our floating open-air dining room. A dozen roses sat simply arranged in the middle of our table across from a selection of drinks and a bottle of prosecco. It could have felt cheesy and silly but it didn’t, it felt more simple and sweet.
We climbed aboard and set off. After motoring for a short 15 minutes or so, the boat anchored off shore of a small island amidst a fleet of small private fishing boats scouring the waters for that night’s catch. We watched the sun burn all it’s oranges and pinks into the sea as it set along the horizon and the sky slowly darken.
The squid fishing started soon after.
Holding wooden poles in one hand and a plastic reel in the other, the fishermen/boat crew got to work. The process looked much like fly fishing — a long cast, a slight tugging of the line as the hook sank, and a continued pull back to cause tension in the line as it was slowly reeled in. We watched as we sipped prosecco at our long, very oversized, table for 2, our stomachs beginning to react to the thought of the fresh seafood lurking in the waters just outside our boat.
After reeling in the first two squids of what would turn into many, they disappeared for a brief moment to prepare our first dish. Minutes later they returned, carrying a plate of boiled squid sliced in horizontal pieces with a small bowl of lime wedges and another of salt and pepper. We selected a horizontal slice, squeezed the lime juice to coat in, and dipped it into the simple spices. It was delicious, and likely the freshest seafood we’ve ever had.
Turns out, we love boiled squid.
There was no need to dress it up with a sauce or fancy cooking technique–boiled squid was not a phrase I would have normally thought of as appetizing–but it didn’t need it. The flesh was tender and delicate, the lime, salt, and pepper adding a subtle tang to it that did not detract from the flavor of the squid itself.
Soon we were standing alongside the crew, quietly casting in the darkness, our lines getting maybe a third of the distance as theirs did when we cast. Bright lighting beamed down from the boat into the water, a tactic for luring our dinner to the line. For a while, the only noise we heard was the quiet lapping of the water at the bottom of the boat and the hooks when they hit the water. After our dreams were dashed of having a natural knack for squid fishing, we gave up and watched as the more experienced of our crew pulled in squids of all sizes and even a few fish.
Sitting back down, they continued to serve us courses of our seafood feast. Boiled prawns, again with the simple lime, salt, and pepper bowls came next. Noodles sauteed with cuttlefish, octopus, and vegetables and a giant bowl of seafood congee (my absolute favorite food of the night) hit the table. After we had finished gorging ourselves with as much seafood as our bodies could handle, we nibbled on a fresh fruit platter to the background music of crappy smooth jazz covers of pop songs.
After dinner, we decided to spend the rest of the trip alone.
We climbed to the top deck, and the two of us watched the night sky decorated with stars bright enough to be visible in spite of the boats’ lighting. Eric Clapton played and we danced. We laughed a lot, drank all the prosecco and moved on to the beers, tried in vain to communicate with our boat crew in gestures and broken English, and loved every bit of it.
Ok, ok. I KNOW how corny this is. It’s embarrassing to write it. But to be honest? I don’t give a damn. I loved celebrating my marriage, and I loved celebrating it in this super cliché ridiculous way.
After docking on the shore, we drifted off the boat onto land laughing, arm in arm, a bit drunk off the booze and sea air, and just in love. It was a moment that finally felt worthy of how we feel about each other, and one we will not be quick to forget.