The definitive guide to avoiding Penang’s tourist traps – Zafigo.com, February 8 2018

colour-1298862_1280 (1)As a cultural melting pot, foodie hub and historical hotspot, Penang has become a major tourist destination for both Malaysian and international tourists. However, with so much to do here, it comes as no surprise that the island’s main landmarks can be crowded 365 days of the year. If you’re staying a while and are sick of the hustle and bustle, try this list of alternative activities:

BEST VIEW

Skip Penang Hill

See Muka Head Lighthouse

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The stunning views of Penang’s coastline. (Photo Credit: Amy Lewis)

Gazing down at the twinkling lights of George Town from the peak of Penang Hill is certainly worth ticking off the list. However, if you’re seeking something a bit more tranquil and wish to avoid the crowds, head to Muka Head Lighthouse at Penang’s National Park. It’s not easy to get to – prepare for a sweaty hike through the forest! – but the stunning views of Penang’s coastline will revitalise a tired body and mind. Climb up the twisting staircase to the top and perch yourself on the balcony to watch white-tailed sea eagles soar and be soothed by the sound of the crashing waves below.

BEST BEACH

Skip Batu Ferringhi

See Gertak Sanggul

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This small fishing village is the epitome of a lazy afternoon. (Photo Credit: Amy Lewis)

When you have eaten double your weight in Penang’s famous hawker food, what better place for an afternoon doze than the beach? Batu Ferringhi is Penang’s most popular beach and while it’s beautiful, you will likely have to battle for towel space on a busy day. Head to Gertak Sanggul instead. I stumbled across this beach during a drive around the island and found it to be the perfect place to digest both my thoughts and my food. Nestled along the southern coast of Penang at the edge of a quaint fishing village, it’s rarely frequented by tourists and so, is the epitome of calm. Come here with a good book and watch the boats and your worries float away.

BEST MARKET

Skip Batu Ferringhi Night Market

See Hin Sunday Pop-Up Market

Support the local artists and craftspeople at Hin's Pop Up Market. (Photo Credit Hin's PopUP Facebook)

Support the local artists and craftspeople at Hin Pop Up Market. (Photo Credit Hin Pop Up Market)

Every Sunday, the grounds of Hin Bus Depot spring to life with a small artisan market brimming with local crafts and trinkets. Handmade batik garments, natural cosmetics, mouth-watering food and statement jewellery are just some of the treasures on offer at this weekly affair, which sees new stalls springing up each week. While you won’t find the same offering of cheap clothes available in Batu Ferringhi, you will come across plenty of unique gems unavailable anywhere else. What’s more, by buying something here, you are supporting local artists and craftspeople. For the perfect Sunday, take a yoga class at nearby Wholey Wonder and peruse the market stalls before crashing on the grass at Hin Bus Depot to tuck into a tasty lunch.

BEST FOR A COFFEE AND CATCHUP

Skip Starbucks

See The Alley

Skip the staple branded coffee houses and spend an evening at a local shop instead. (Photo Credit: The Alley Penang)

Why go Starbucks when you can have churros at The Alley? (Photo Credit: The Alley Penang)

Let’s face it: I can go to Starbucks anytime. Despite having a three-letter name, they can never get mine right! If I’m in need of an afternoon energy boost or want somewhere to chill with friends, The Alley at Stewart Lane is my top pick. Why? One word: Churros! The small and simple café is famous for the warm doughy delights, which offer crispy skins and fluffy centres in good, equal measure. Paired with a selection of sauces (try the salted caramel) and a steaming mug of coffee, it makes for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The only downside of going with friends? Having to share.

BEST BAR

Skip Love Lane

See Magazine 63

(Photo Credit: SM Butler)

A true speakeasy bar, Magazine 63 is quite a challenge to find, but oh so worth it once you do. (Photo Credit: SM Butler)

Walking through Love Lane at night feels a bit like being in a bizarre video game – you have to dodge and leap over dozens of pushy bar promo staff to get to the power up i.e. a refreshing cocktail or mocktail at the end of a busy day. On top of that, the crowds and noise continue to swell as the night goes on. Ditch the hectic nightlife and head to Magazine 63 on Jalan Magazine instead. Nestled behind an inconspicuous doorway, it’s quite a challenge to find; but trust me, it’s worth it. Behind its shabby exterior sits a trendy speakeasy dripping in vintage class, with a unique cocktail menu to boot. Add to that cosy seating, regular live bands and DJ sets and you’ve got yourself the perfect watering hole. A word of warning: at bars this trendy, drinks don’t come cheap.

BEST UNIQUE PHOTO SPOT

Skip 3D Trick Art Museum

See Penang Avatar Secret Garden

(Photo Credit: Flickr / ShangChieh )

The mini forest comes to life with dazzlig lights. (Photo Credit: Flickr / ShangChieh)

Trick art museums have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. If you’re hoping to get some unusual snaps for the ‘gram, head to Avatar Secret Garden at Tanjung Tokong before sunset instead. When the daylight fades, the mini forest is transformed into an enchanted land that is alive with dazzling lights in myriad hue. A near replica of the mystical land of Pandora in Avatar, this hidden gem is sure to take your breath away.

BEST CAFE WORKSPACE

Skip Co-workingspaces

See BEAN Sprout Cafe

Fancy working out  of a quaint little heritage building? (Photo Credit: Nomadic Notes)

Fancy working out of a quaint little heritage building? (Photo Credit: Nomadic Notes)

Co-working spaces certainly have their place and I’d be the first to praise them for their reliable Wi-Fi and endless networking opportunities. However, when in Penang, you might as well soak in the atmosphere while getting some work done. Enter BEAN Sprout Café. Set in a beautiful two-storey heritage building, this relaxed coffee shop is a good spot to escape to when you need to get stuff done and dusted. If the rustic décor and chilled music fail to inspire, sit and work from the balcony which offers great views of the hustle and bustle of George Town. Failing that, their delicious coffee or tasty brunches should be enough to set the brain cogs into motion.

BEST CITY CENTRE OASIS

Skip Armenian Park

See Garden at 23 Love Lane

Who knew such a serene little corner existed on Love Lane? (Photo Credit 23 Love Lane)

Who knew such a serene little corner existed on Love Lane? (Photo Credit: 23 Love Lane)

Who knew that such a serene oasis existed along hectic Love Lane? Well, it does, and it’s in the form of this boutique hotel’s stunning garden courtyard. It’s the ideal place to escape the mid-afternoon sun and catch up on some reading over a refreshing drink. Non-staying guests are welcome to enjoy the garden courtyard provided they purchase something from the hotel bar. Coffee al fresco amid restful settings? Who can say ‘no’ to that?

(First published on Zafigo.com on February 8 2018. Available online at: http://zafigo.com/stories/zafigo-stories/guide-avoiding-penangs-tourist-traps/)

 

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Rosslare jellyfish influx leads to red flag during sunny spell – Gorey Guardian, September 3 2016

Sunbathers in need of some cool relief during this warm spell are unable to take a dip at Rosslare Strand as reports of Lion’s Mane Jellyfish forced lifeguards to raise the red flag.

The red flag has been flying at Rosslare Strand since Thursday August 25 due to a large increase in jellyfish numbers. Water Safety Development Officer with Wexford County Council Tom Doyle said that Rosslare Strand is receiving a much larger amount of the creatures compared to beaches elsewhere in Wexford.

‘This is new for us. We have never experienced this quantity of jellyfish in Rosslare before,’ he explained. ‘They are quite unusual on Wexford beaches. It is more common to find a type that just gives a mild sting.’

According to Mr Doyle, bathers are being warned to stay out of the water in Rosslare for the foreseeable future. He also said that the lifeguards have received basic first aid to treat anybody who has been stung.

This summer, only several incidents of stings in Rosslare Strand have been reported.

Earlier this summer, warnings about the jellyfish were issued by Irish Water Safety following reports that they had been spotted in waters around the country. The creature delivers a painful sting which has been known to cause anaphylactic shock in certain people.

Irish Water Safety advise those who have been stung to go to their lifeguard when possible. To treat the sting, it is advisable to rub the affected area with sea water and seek medical attention if the pain persists.

(First published in the Gorey Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/news/rosslare-jellyfish-influx-leads-to-red-flag-during-sunny-spell-35004778.html)

Brave Wexford women take a dip in aid of the Hope Centre – Gorey Guardian, August 27 2016

‘Girl power at its best’ is how organisers of this year’s Dip in the Nip described the recent event which saw 248 women bare all and make a splash at Rosslare Strand.

The event was the biggest of its kind ever to be organised in Ireland, beating the previous record by 48 people. Along with serving as an empowering social event for women, the dip aimed to raise money for The Hope Centre and at time of writing, over €13,000 had been raised.

‘It was a very emotional event for a lot of people. There was plenty of tears and plenty of laughter,’ explained organiser of the event Eileen Rowe. ‘It really was girl power at its best. Some women told their stories and those who didn’t got inspiration from others.’

Crowds of women sporting their finest dressing gowns gathered on Rosslare Strand in the cool morning air before the dip. Emotions were high for all, particularly for the many cancer survivors who came along to brave the swim.

Now in its second year, the Wexford dip attracted double the participants compared to this time last year. Many people took the icy dip in memory of those who they have lost to cancer. Meanwhile, other swimmers saw the event as an opportunity to celebrate an occasion, such as a hen party, a 50th birthday and a 30th birthday. Dawn Foley from Mayglass took the plunge in a veil and garter just two weeks before she is due to walk down the aisle with fiancé Conor Casey.

‘My sister Christine suggested that we did it as one last thing before I got married,’ said the Mulrankin native. ‘I would recommend it to everyone. You don’t realise what other women have gone through until you see them coming together and showing support for each other.’

The experience proved to be life-changing for Dawn, who said that it has made her look at her body in a different way.

‘It’s not that you are looking at each other but when everyone was running into the water you get that sense that every woman is beautiful in their own body,’ she said. ‘Beforehand, I would have been very self-conscious about my body and scrutinised myself in the mirror but now I am enjoying who I am as a woman.’

After the dip, which Eileen said ‘sent screeches up through the village’, all of the participants gathered in Rosslare Community Centre to pop open some prosecco and enjoy a well deserved feed.

In the coming weeks, the final figure will be officially announced and Eileen expects it to exceed €15,000.

‘We have about €13,000 so far and I know so many people still need to hand in their sponsorship cards in the coming days,’ she said.

(First published in the Gorey Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/lifestyle/brave-wexford-women-take-a-dip-in-aid-of-the-hope-centre-34986256.html)