#Elyu – It’s been too long since I enjoyed the beach with friends. Fortunately, that was put to an end with a semi-spontaneous trip with friends to San Juan, La Union in northern Philippines. This was my third time here but the first time for a beach trip. The first two times were for a field work in college. Outcrops and all.
The coast of San Juan, La Union faces the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Its seas are also good for surfing because of the huge waves. For geologists, you’d find a pretty long stretch of uplifted corals by the shore such as the one I’ve seen in Pangasinan (a province south of La Union).
I never really write about a trip as soon as I get back home so this trip I’m talking about was 2 weekends ago when the weather was great. I don’t think that time was officially summer here yet. Official according to the weather agency, if you wanted to know. But the sun shone so bright and the sky was clear that weekend so it was perfect to spend at the beach.
We had to commute as we didn’t have a car that would fit 6 of us. We planned to leave Manila at 2 AM but guess what, we didn’t plan enough to know that we were at the wrong terminal. We were able to leave for La Union at 4:30 AM. That was the first obstacle for the trip as I had a very long Friday beforehand – for work and a musical. I got to the Florida Bus terminal in Cubao first and there was literally nobody else except for the bus driver and me. If you know a bit about the streets of Manila at night, you’d be as creeped out as I was. Fortunately, my five friends got there as soon as I called them.
Travel time to La Union was about 8 hours. That would be halved if you were riding a private car and decided not to do any stopovers along the way. The second obstacle was the bus getting a flat tire. I feel like we stopped twice (for an unusually long time) because of that but I’m not sure of the first one as I was probably still dreaming when that happened. Anyway, we got to our hotel at around 1 in the afternoon. At last!
This was the name of the place we stayed at. It isn’t by the beach but it’s just across the road so we had no problems. Don’t worry, if you really prefer hostels by the sea, you’d have no problems looking for one. There are a lot!
The room we got was for 10 people so it was really spacey. There are bunk beds, twin and double beds. Towels, a couple of toiletries, and complimentary water are available, too.
They have a pool if you just want to chill for a bit before heading to the surfing area, too. Childish as we are, we had fun playing at pool with the echoes from its shape. Some kind of physics or engineering magic. Haha. The best part, tho, is that they have free breakfast! Not all resorts offer that.
They are a bit strict about the checkout time but the staff were nice for letting us leave our stuff at the storage room since we wanted to spend a couple more hours at the beach before heading back to Manila. They also allowed the use of shower rooms even after checkout. You’ll just have to talk to them beforehand.
They have a Facebook Page. Just search them there to see the rest of their facilities. Their contact details are there, too.
We had lunch at this “carinderia” along the highway. This was recommended by one of my friends who have been on a La Union trip recently. Their food ranges from Pho 60.00 to about Php 150.00. Rice meals are on the ~ Php150.00 level. Most of what we ordered was worth their price. While they say that each item on their menu serves 1 (basically just because of the cup of rice that comes with it) you could totally share a meal and just order an extra cup of rice – if you want.
In our case, my friends and I ordered 1 or 2 meals each. I specifically ordered pork sinigang that comes with a cup of rice and vegetable omelette. While I wasn’t so elated with the veggie omelette, the sinigang (sour soup) was delicious. I even had to order another cup of rice. Their adobo also tastes great!
The beach and the sea
I told you the waves were perfect for surfing. But if you want to just peacefully swim around there are relatively calmer and shallower parts where you could do that. There are patches of uplifted corals along the coast, too, so that might be a bit uncomfortable for just hanging around. The waves in front of the Flotsam Hostel were a bit harsher than the rest of the vicinity. I wasn’t able to swim far as the waves were huge and I’m no expert swimmer. I didn’t surf that time but my friends did.If you want to do the same but you’re without your surf boards there are a lot of surf rental kiosks along the beach just choose one. For non-experts or beginners, you could hire a trainer for an hour or so as well. I believe renting a board with a trainer could cost you about Php 400.00 an hour.
Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel
While we didn’t book our accommodations here, we just had to visit this infamous beach party place. At around 6 PM, this place would get packed with tourists watching the sun set, and maybe even drinking beer. As the night gets deeper, the place gets livelier. Party ends at 1 or 1:30.
We also had dinner here while drinking. Don’t be shocked but food they serve were a bit pricy for a budget traveler. The cheaper burger which I ordered was Php 200.00 -ish. They also serve pasta, pizza, rice meals (?) and appetizers. Oh and a can of soda is Php 70.00. Nevertheless, I liked it. I like burgers and I like Coca-cola. Haha.
A bucket of San Miguel Pale Pilsen is Php 340.00 and a bottle of Jose Cuervo (don’t ask me which one, I’m not an expert on alcohol) is about Php 2,000.00 complete with a plate of lemon and salt, if I remember it correctly. I didn’t have any of these at that time but my friends were enjoying so who cares. Lol. That night was pretty eventful. Deep conversations. Famous actors. A couple of dancing but I wasn’t there when the full blast of the party was supposed to happen. I had to leave earlier (~10:30) because of a number of circumstances I better not disclose. But still, it was fun. I’d totally go back.
They have an instagram account: @flotsamandjetsamhostel if you want a preview of their place.
We then had a super late lunch at this place – like around 4PM. It’s pretty famous that you could just google about it. Haha!
They don’t offer a wide range of food in their menu but the food they serve are also interestingly yummy. They are also a bit cheaper than the ones served in the food places I mentioned earlier. I liked their food I even ordered a second meal – a hot noodle soup even though it was pretty hot that afternoon.
El Union Coffee
After our late lunch we headed to this shop for dessert and/or coffee. We had smores along with our drinks, which costs about a hundred pesos each.
Anyway, what I liked best about this coffee shop was its ClAYGo Policy and it’s environment-friendly cause. I didn’t see any straw when the served the drinks and the glasses they use were reusable not the single-use plastic cups. It’s also open-air so less carbon footprint.
This shop is the front of a “food park”. When you go further inwards, you’d find other shops and restaurants and the deck, which is a great spot for watching the sunset and just reflect about life.
Heading home was pretty easy given that Manila-bound buses pass by the coffee shop or any shop or hostel along the national highway. Just wait for a south-bound bus in one of the waiting sheds then you’ll most likely be able to find a bus with a vacant seat in no time.
We were six people so not everyone was able to sit immediately. Good thing was that a number of passengers got off at the next town that’s about 15-20 minutes away from San Juan, La Union. Once everyone was seated, we continued on to our 7-hour or so ride back home.
If you want to know the fare, note that it’s a bit different for each bus company. Our northbound bus ride cost us Php 450.00 but this homeward bus ride was for about Php 390.00.
Home sweet home
That’s the end of this pretty eventful weekend. I mean, we got back in Manila at around 1 AM Monday, even though we unofficially started the trip at 1:30 AM Saturday.
Writing about the experience wouldn’t give justice to it so if you want to see the wonders of the La Union’s beaches and foods, then you better head there soon. It might get packed, tho. I think Summer has officially started.
This is it! At last. Work hard. Play harder. Travel more. Haha.
I’m also gaining a bit of confidence with every experience. Hence, the photo below. Haha! I posted a similar photo on my personal instagram to join a global contest for the love magazine with the hashtag #LoveMe20. You can follow me there and tell me if you want a follow back. Lol!
All photos featured, except for the last one, were taken by me using an iPhone then edited with the Photoshop Express App.