Category: Ireland

St James’s Gate Dublin

This will be my last entry on my trip to Ireland ‘cos I’m sure people are tired for reading my travelogues by now.


You know you’ve become a grown up when you got the chance to go to Disneyland and you’re like "Meh."

But when you knew visiting the Guinness Brewery, suddenly your mouth starts watering and you find yourself anxiously counting down to the day you can finally step foot in the famous St James’s Gate Brewery.


Guinness is no doubt Ireland’s oldest and most famous export to the world.

Nothing else even comes close to the legendary Irish beer’s popularity. Not even Bono, Bailey’s, O’Brien’s sandwiches or some stupid dance show by Michael Flatley.


In Ireland, almost everyone drink Guinness.

Just go to any one of over 1,000 traditional Irish pubs in Dublin and you’re guaranteed to see Guinness Draught faithfully served on tap, and at least one person holding a pint of black stuff in his hand.


The Irish people’s love for Guinness extends beyond the boundaries of their pubs.

In almost every souvenir shops around Dublin, there’s bound to be Guinness-branded merchandise rarely found anywhere else in the world.


Starting with the obligatory Guinness T-shirts.


To Guinness-branded bar paraphernalia like towels, magnets and stubby holders.


To watches (telling you what time to drink Guinness ), wallets (to tell you to spend money on Guinness) and sunglasses (so all you can see is Guinness).


And then there are some weirder ones like Guinness-flavoured marinade, chocolate bars and toffee fudge (which I tried, and tasting nothing like the beer.)


I was told that in Ireland, even doctors prescribe Guinness to women to boost their iron levels after they give birth.

Can you imagine that? Free beer after giving birth!

Makes me wanna give birth too!


People who have followed for a while would know that Guinness is my favourite stout beer (no, this is not an advertorial. See it doesn’t have “ADV” on the title?)

It’s my drink of choice whenever I’m out at a place that serves it on tap. So you can understand why I’m so excited to visit its original birthplace.


This is my pilgrimage.

To me, it is as exciting as Christians going to Jerusalem or Muslims going to Mekkah. I was as happy as a fat kid outside a Krispy Kreme store giving out free donuts.


Guinness was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, making this year its 250 year anniversary. He took over St James’s Gates after signing a 9,000-year-old lease, paying only 45 pounds (RM 250) a year.


How the hell he managed to get such an incredible deal, I have absolutely no idea.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he dipped the mayor into a keg of Guinness before asking him, “Nah! Just sign here. No need to read lah, too much words.”


The Guinness Storehouse is the only part of the brewery that’s open to visitors. Tickets to the storehouse costs a hefty €13.50 (RM 64.80).

But I reckon it’s entirely worth it because it’s still cheaper than Disneyland.


The seven-storey building showcased the process from how the ingredients are harvested, to how the beer is brewed, shipped and marketed.

Part of the brewing process involves a strict quality assurance process by a panel of inspectors.


These people have the best jobs in the world.  They’re getting paid to pretty much just sit around, do nothing and drink beer all day.

Then they’re gonna come back to work the next day with the BIGGEST FRIGGIN’ HANGOVER IN THE WORLD.


There’s one entire floor of the brewery is dedicated to some of the most classic and memorable Guinness advertising created all throughout the world. One of which involves this very familiar face from the 90s.


What happened to George Lam 林子祥? He used to appear in every single movie coming out from Hong Kong.

After walking through the entire Storehouse, I finally ended at the Gravity Bar on the top floor of the building.


This is the best part of the tour.

Here I was served a free pint of Guinness while treated to a breathtaking 360° bird’s eye view of Dublin.


As I lifted my glass and took the first sip of my favourite stout, I knew I was drinking the freshest, most perfect, most original and most expertly poured pint of Guinness Draught. And I wasn’t disappointed

This was the best pint of Guinness Draught I have ever had in my life.


The Guinness I drink in Malaysia were perhaps only 92% as good as the one I had at St James’s Gate. And the 8% makes a huge difference.

The bartenders in St James’s Gate knew exactly how to pour it, when to stop and how to give it a good head. They are so good that not only do they know how to draw a shamrock on the foam head, they drew a HARP on my beer.


I was so impressed. My life is complete.

The best part about having a blog is that there’s always somebody in anywhere in the world happy to take me around. After I left St James’s Gate, I headed back to Temple Bar and had dinner with Kurt Low’s sister, who’s actually working as a doctor in Dublin.


The girl is an absolute bundle of laughs despite looking at blood and gore all day everyday. I have no idea how she does it.

Along the way, we stopped by a busker who sings so well he puts most American Idol winners to shame.

And that concludes my trip to Ireland, definitely one of the most rewarding and fulfilling journeys I have made.

The next morning, I flew budget airlines RyanAir (€23 or RM110) back to Manchester and re-united with the rest of the Mister Potato team, where we witnessed this atrocity at Old Trafford Stadium.

A disastrous end to an excellent holiday.

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West Side Of Ireland

Dublin was great, but I knew I had to get away.


Somebody wanted to kill me.

No lah, Dublin was truly fantastic. But I knew I was not getting a true taste of Ireland if I merely stayed within the confines of the city. So on my second day in Ireland, I decided to leave the city and explore the Irish countryside, on my rented red Volkswagen Polo.


Hiring a car in Ireland is cheap. At just €17 (RM80) a day, it’s a real bargain.

Getting around however, is not cheap. In Ireland, the petrol prices are around €1.10 (RM 5.20) a litre. That’s more than double the price in Malaysia. It’s so expensive it could easily cost me over RM 250 just to fill up a tank.


No wonder petrol station in Ireland is EMO!

So I drove from Dublin on the east side of Ireland, all the way to Galway on the west.


The journey along the highway was largely boring and uneventful.

There was nothing see at all. Except for a river. AND IT SUCKS.



I was relieved when I finally reached Galway after three hours on the road, and promptly checked myself into this cozy romantic Bed & Breakfast called Petra House (€50, or RM240).


Petra House was quite possibly the most charming B&B I have ever stayed at.

The house is like a cottage straight out of fairy tale book and is run entirely by a friendly husband-and-wife team. My room was spotlessly clean and they served the most deliciously awesome breakfast I had during my entire stay in Ireland.


Gotta love those ceramic ware. Anyway, I’m most definitely bringing a future girlfriend here with me next time, whenever that may be.

The natural landscape of West Ireland is a completely different creature altogether from the big smoke that is Dublin.


As touristy as they may be, the west side has the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever seen in my entire life.

The highlight of the trip, however, was this jaw-dropping sight.

Cliffs of Moher

This the Cliffs of Moher, the most spectacular destination in County Clare.

I did not have plans to visit West Ireland initially. And then, I saw a picture of it on a tourist brochure and promptly told myself I have to go there no matter what.

That’s how gung-ho I was. That’s why I drove 3 hours all the way to the West. And I was not disappointed.

Moher Tower

It took me a whole day of driving and I arrived at the Cliffs of Moher shortly after sunset. It’s a good thing though. By then, the hordes of tourists have already departed, and I have the whole place all to myself.

There, I sat on the grass in solitary, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing, breathing in the fresh air of the Atlantic Sea and enjoying the sheer majesty of the 210m high cliffs.

I was at peace.

Cliffs of Moher

Pictures do not do the beauty of the place any justice whatsoever.

Never before have I seen a seascape this amazing. Not even Great Ocean Road in Australia or Halong Bay in Vietnam can compare to how impressive the Cliffs of Moher are.

My only regret is that I didn’t bring a tripod. As a result, the only picture I had of myself with the Cliffs is this stupid photo.

Cliffs of Moher

Spoil the picture only.

I love it that the Irish knew how to preserve their natural landscape and chose not to erect any barricades to protect people from falling. The downside is, a lot of people have died after accidentally falling over the ledge.


But hey if I had a choice, I’d choose die there as well. It’s too beautiful to leave.

Of course, there are other things to see in West Ireland.

The Burren

Like the stone-covered barren landscape of The Burren.

Kylemore Abbey

The Kylemore, a Christian monastery that looks more like a castle.

Lake by Kylemore Abbey

And in general, just endless stretches of postcard-quality sceneries that made me felt like I was living in an entirely different planet.

The Emerald Isle is truly a gem.

Serene lake

Sure, it was lonely travelling alone.

At the same time, it was also very therapeutic for me to drive around on my own in my rental car, listening to Irish bands like Boyzone and Westlife on the radio.

Boats by the lake

My luck in discovering “hidden gems” away from the usual tourist routes continued when I stopped by a little town called Cong.

There was nothing special about the town itself. But I was drawn in by the sight of this derelict church by the roadside.


The church was clearly abandoned and now used as a graveyard. Tombstones were littered all over the church floor.

As I explored a bit, I stumbled across a back gate which leads to the beautiful but hauntingly quiet Cong Woods.

Cong Woods

Already I felt calm and relaxed just looking this picture. I don’t even need Enya.

It was raining and there was not a single soul in sight. Something just tells me this place is magical.

I guess if fairies were real, then this must be where they live.

Cong Woods

This was more than just a sightseeing trip to me. It was also something spiritually and emotionally fulfilling.

Being alone in the quiet woods, I found myself having the space and clarity to think about things I never had time nor concentration to think about back home. Things like where I want to go in my life, what I want to do with my career and so on.

Fallen Tree Over Cong River

In that sense, I think I’ve found what I was looking for before I set out on this trip. I drove back to Dublin feeling much refreshed and energized.

One thing I definitely noticed while driving around the Irish countryside was how exceptionally friendly the rural folks are.


When I lived in Perth, I was already used to smiling and saying “hi!” to strangers if I was walking on the streets. But in rural Ireland, they took it a step further.

Apparently, if you are driving along a stretch of road and another vehicle passes you in front, it is customary for you both to lift your fingers up, as if to give each other a bit of a “hi!” through the windscreens.


I thought that was a pretty cool culture to have.

The good news is, Malaysians are beginning to catch up.

I remember last time I was driving along the North-South Highway. This driver in a modified Kancil overtook me and greeted me the Irish way as well.


Except he forgot to lift his four other fingers up.

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Sailing Across The Irish Sea

If I get the chance to return to North Wales again in the future, I’m definitely spending more time in Snowdonia National Park.


I had planned to spend a day just hiking through the Welsh countryside, but on both days that I was in Conwy it was either raining, snowing, or both. Nigel advised me against hiking in Snowdonia, considering 4 hikers have actually died this year due to the mountain’s unpredictable weather.

For the record, this is what Snowdonia looks like on a good day.

Instead of hiking, my host drove me through the scenic routes of Snowdonia, passing by many quaint Welsh villages to take me to the ferry terminal.

Along the way, we stopped by to see more castles.


More sheep.


More thousand-year-old ruins.DSC_7632 


And picked up a leaflet featuring Gandalf the Wizard with a suspicious-looking boner.


Look at how happy he is stroking his boner! That perve.

About an hour later, we arrived at the port town where my ferry to Dublin (£28 or RM147 one way) departs.


The town has a very amusing name – Holyhead.

This must be the place where Holy Molly, Holy Cow and Holy Shit come from.

Too bad I didn’t have time to wander around.  But according to what I read, Holyhead is also where the first Church of Jedi Knights in UK is established.

No shit.


The Force is strong in Holyhead. So much so that almost half a million people in the UK officially list their religion as “Jedi”, surpassing even Buddhism.

I believe they have an important day coming up on the 4th May.

May the Fourth be with you.


After two days having the luxury of a local bring me around, I am finally on my own. So I bid Nigel (and the sheep) in Wales goodbye, hopped on the ferry and set forth for Dublin.

The “ferry” I boarded is not a ferry. Ferry to me are like the ones crossing Georgetown and Butterworth.


The ferry I boarded in Holyhead is so huge, I thought it should be called a cruise ship. Like the Titanic.

I had to suppress my urge of holding a stranger from behind while Celine Dion sings “My Heart Will Go On” in the background.


The 100km journey across the Irish Sea took two hours to cover.

Apart from some rough waves, it was a pretty comfortable ride. There were casino machines and a movie theatre on board to help pass time, but I chose to get some shut eye.


When I finally arrived in Dublin, it was dark, cold and wet.

Truth to be told, when I got off the bus in the city centre, I was quite disappointed.


On the surface, Dublin looked almost exactly like any other Western cities I had been to. Dublin looks like Melbourne, which looks like Auckland, which looks like London, which looks like Sydney, which looks like… well, you get the idea. The centre of Dublin city is pretty much just rows and rows of old-school Victoria style buildings along the river punctuated by a skyscraper or two every now and then.

There wasn’t anything different or interesting. In fact, I thought Dublin was boring.


However, that was just the cosmetics, the superficial outer shell of the city. As I scratched a bit deeper, my impression of the Emerald Isle changed dramatically.

Indeed, the true flavour of Ireland lies not in its buildings or architecture.

It lies in its people.


I was given the perfect orientation to what Irish people are like when I walked into Hard Rock Cafe looking for my first pint of Guinness.

Beer was going at €4 (RM 19), which is extremely cheap by Dublin’s standards. As a result, the bar inside Hard Rock Cafe was madly bustling with people. I was standing as close I possibly could to the bar for 20 minutes, and still they hadn’t taken my order. Frustration began to grow.

It certainly didn’t help that I was the only Asian guy there, and everyone else was at least 2 feet taller than me.


Suddenly, a young local bloke came up from behind me and just started talking to me. A strong smell of alcohol escaped from his breath alongside his thick Irish accent (which made him sound like Ronan Keating).

Irishman: GEEZUZ! Is there a fucking queue here?!
Kenny: Yeah! I’ve been here 20 minutes and still haven’t got served.
Irishman: TWENTY MINUTES?! GEEZUZ! *raised his head to look at the queue* Ahhh forget it! Listen, I’ve smuggled a bottle in here. Why don’t you join me and my mates for drinks over there?
Kenny: *shrugs* Sure, why not?


And just like that, I found myself drinking with the locals after just three hours in this country.

We were cracking jokes and having a laugh till the bar closes. Even I surprised myself with how fast I managed to settle in. Who needs a travel partner when you can just come in here and befriend the locals?


This must be what they called ‘craic’ – a distinctively Irish word meaning fun times, good laughs and great company over a couple of drinks.

Irish people are among the friendliest, funniest and sociable bunch I have ever met. They are so approachable that you could just walk into a bar, talk to strangers and have drinks with them.


We don’t have a lot of that in Malaysia. When was the last time a total stranger invited you for drinks? The only time they would do that is if they wanna get into your pants. Or sell you insurance.

I think we oughta learn to be more Irish.




Let’s start with the fashion.

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