Itinerary Travel

A Weekend Solo Travel Guide to San Juan, La Union

I knew I wouldn’t be having a party on my 18th birthday so I asked my parents if it’s possible we celebrate it at least at Max’s Restaurant; they laughed at me. My father just gave me a few hundred bucks to shut me up. It did, but it still made me sad. I promised myself that when I finally start earning my own money I would celebrate my birthday every year. I started by organizing a party on my 27th birthday just to make up for a childhood frustration. Years passed and I have quickly lost interest in balloons, booze, and karaoke. Now I just want to travel and the tradition began just last year when I rented a small island to celebrate my 33rd birthday. This year, I wanted to do it alone so on the weekend after I hit 34, I took a bus that goes to La Union.

Sundang Island: Your Island for a Day

Getting There

At around 6AM, I went to Partas bus terminal in Pasay and paid PHP 665 (USD 14.29) for a seat on a first class bus that goes to Laoag. The price nearly gave me a heart attack considering the information that I got from my friend whose province is La Union. She told me that bus fare is only around 400 bucks.

Later on, I realized she may be referring to Partas Cubao station, in which case it would be understandably cheaper. When I saw the layout of the seats inside the bus—the seat is big, comfortable, with wide leg space—it made me feel okay that I had to spend a little bit more. At least I got my money’s worth. The bus started moving at 6:42 and I was happy to be seated by the window because it made sleeping easier. Travel time took 6 hours with three rest stops.

Flotsam and Jetsam

I booked an overnight stay at Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel located at San Juan. You can see it on the side of the road along McArthur Highway. I assumed that the bus drivers know where it is based on some blog posts but it was not the case on the bus that I got on. Thankfully, my phone’s network works well in San Juan so I was able to rely on Google Maps. I suggest that you use it if the driver or the conductor is not familiar with Flotsam and Jetsam, or you can look on the left side of the street when you reach San Juan. Just watch out for the hostel’s signage.

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Flotsam and Jetsam is called an art hostel and indeed there are some art pieces on display in their in-house restaurant, but to call it as such seems inappropriate to me. In my experience, party hostel is more a fitting description with all the noise that they made that Saturday night. This doesn’t mean I hated the hostel, well I won’t go as far as say that I loved it but it was okay. I liked the ambiance and the fact that it is quite close to the beach.

Booking.com

Check-in time is 2PM, I was about an hour early so they told me that I could hang out and wait in their restaurant. I did, I went ‘round the back and found the restaurant that faces the beach. My friend who went to La Union recently met new friends and hang out a lot there. He described the crowd as young and hip, the rich kids from the city. When I saw them I realized what he was talking about. They looked to be around their teens or early 20s, with beautiful skin, and speaking either in English or Taglish. Most of them drove with their own cars and they didn’t sleep in the kubo dorms but in the building with air-conditioned rooms.

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I stayed at the kubo dorm (PHP 780 – USD 16.76) that has four bunk beds. Towel is provided and there is also a locker where you can keep your personal belongings. Each bed has a pillow, a blanket, and a mosquito net. There are also some mini fans to use if it gets too hot. It was comfortable enough for me that the only thing that ruined my sleep was the noise coming from the party that night.

Click here to save $24 on your first airbnb booking

If you stay at the kubo dorm you can only use the shared bathroom and toilet. I didn’t mind because they were clean and spacious. You can buy from the reception for toiletries but I suggest that you just bring your own bath essentials to eliminate unnecessary expenses.

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There is free breakfast from 7-10 AM. It’s basically just coffee, banana, cereal with milk, and some toast or pandesal with different kinds of spread, such as butter, peanut butter, and fruit jam.

Nice Eatery

I didn’t buy anything from Flotsam & Jetsam’s restaurant because the menu is ridiculously expensive. I don’t mind indulging a little but this is not one of those times. I talked with some locals and they recommended this bulaluhan place that is cheap but offers delicious food. I went out some time in the afternoon to search for it.

Nice Eatery is a no-frills restaurant on the side of the road whose patrons are mostly the locals especially the jeepney and tricycle drivers. It offers home-cooked meals and there are a lot to choose from. I ordered bulalo because it’s what I came for. Admittedly, it was not the best bulalo I’ve ever had but for only PHP 50 (USD 1.07) I had a hot-filling meal so I’m not complaining.

El Union Coffee

There is a hip café in San Juan that the surfers frequent and it’s called El Union Coffee. The best thing about it, they serve specialty coffee so you can be sure that their coffee drinks are of quality.

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When I came to the bar I saw a familiar face, it’s Chloe, a barista who was in the coffee cupping event that I attended recently. I went over to say hi and told him that we went to the same event. He was nice and warm though I bet he didn’t really remember me. I didn’t know which drink to order so I asked for his recommendation. I wanted a cold drink, he suggested dirty horchata.

The Coffee Journey – From Crop to Cup – Cupping with Entreps

Horchata is a cold drink with rice milk, cinnamon, almond essence, and vanilla extract. They call it Dirty Horchata when it has espresso. There is something unique to the taste of this drink that separates it from any of the iced coffee drink that I had before. It was nice but could use more espresso. Somehow the rice milk dulled the coffee flavor. But it was refreshing, which is just what I needed that hot afternoon.

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The grilled cheese came with Sriracha sauce. Why would anyone put this red hot sauce in a cheese sandwich?! Beats me, but I tried it anyway to see if they are on to something and apparently, they are. For some reason it works, the sauce did something to enhance the taste of the sandwich that I finished the sandwich in no time.

At night I went back to El Union after realizing I didn’t want to get wasted at Flotsam & Jetsam. I ordered flat white and contemplated about buying their bestseller, s’mores but eventually decided against it.

San Juan Beach

After a restless night due to much noise that was coming from the all-night partying at the restaurant, I got up at around 6 for a morning stroll by the beach. The sand in San Juan beach is of dark gray, coarse grained, but not rocky. I spotted a few tents by the seashore, apparently, camping is allowed.

The waves, though not that strong had enough force for a sole surfer to play with. I watched him ride the waves several times, but the waves weren’t so impressive, it didn’t allow him to get that far. I tried surfing in Baler a few years back, it was fun but not something that I would want to do seriously. It was just one of those things I had to try at least once in my life. Hence, I was just happy watching the others do it, I had no plans whatsoever to go surfing in La Union.

There are a few cottages by the beach available for rent. It was still too early I guess for anyone to use it so I was able to stay there for half an hour without being required to pay. I like to describe myself as a beach appreciator than a beach lover in a sense that I just love staring at the sea and the waves, but not really swim in it. In those few hours I had the peace stolen from me last night by the party.

Final Thoughts

Before this, La Union, was just two things to me: one of the best surfing spots in the country and the province you pass by before reaching Baguio. Today, I have found a better appreciation of it; the kind people, the good food, and the quiet beach made quite an impression on me. All in all it has been a lovely birthday weekend.

Travel

The Self-Inflicted Disease of Finishing Nothing – Procrastination




You are about to see how my thoughts work when it doesn’t feel like thinking but it wants to write something. I’ve edited the opening so many times it’s not funny anymore. So I figured I should just write whatever it is that I want and forget about the structure just so I could produce a content.


You know what they say, that you shouldn’t bite more than you can chew, and that if you really really want to finish something and you really really want to be successful, you shouldn’t multitask but focus on just one thing until it’s over. The concept is simple, it’s harder to finish something if you are doing everything all at the same time. It’s hard to put quality into your work if you are too distracted. The problem with me though is that I suffer from a disease and you might be familiar with it.

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Travel Bug

Travel Bug Series 13 – Arni Nauleau

There are only two bloggers in this world whose post I’d certainly read regardless of the topic. One of them is Arni Nauleau of Travel Gourmande. I started reading her 2 years ago (if I remember it right) and have remained her fan ever since. She writes simply but with passion and her stories are quite engaging I wished many times that I was in her shoes. She traveled in destinations I could only dream of and had a job I would have wanted to do if only I were good in math and drawing. You can say that she is one of my role models and I am hoping that someday I’d get to meet her in person. Now Arni is living a simple, but exciting life on an island with her family. Get to know her and her nomadic lifestyle in this Travel Bug Series feature.

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Philippines Travel

Why You Shouldn’t Go to Taytay Falls on a Weekend

This title is not a click-bait. I didn’t use this to fish for curiosity, make you wonder why you shouldn’t visit a certain place but in reality, I was really telling you to go visit it. I am telling you for a fact that it is a terrible idea to go to Taytay Falls, at least on a weekend.

Few months ago, I went to see the famous Hulugan Falls in San Luisiana, Laguna. It was magnificent beyond words that if it weren’t for the many tourists, the experience of seeing it would have been perfect. Mother Nature has blessed Laguna with these beautiful and wild rapids and so after seeing Hulugan, I thought that I should check out the other waterfalls too.   

[Getting To Hulugan Falls Is Not Easy But Here’s Why It’s Worth It].

A former officemate mentioned Majayjay Falls (the other name for which Taytay Falls is known for). She said it’s beautiful but the trek is not as difficult as the one that leads to Hulugan. Few months later, I had an opportunity to see it for myself after attending the Pahiyas Festival in Quezon with my friends.

There is an entrance fee of PHP 35 (USD 0.75). There are many people at the jump-off point but that’s to be expected because it was a Saturday.  

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True enough the trail is easy. The path to the falls is wide and made of concrete. I noticed some people carrying picnic paraphernalia; big pots and Tupperware, and plastic bags that contained either utensils or food. My friends and I continued our walk with ease; no need for trekking poles or great balancing skills.

While we were walking I heard some of my friends contemplating about taking a quick dip. I didn’t dress the part so I dismissed the idea; I just wanted to see the waterfalls. But nothing could have prepared me (or my friends for that matter) for the scene that awaited us.

I meant, this...

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Booking.com

Everywhere we looked, there were people.

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I was stunned beyond words; there are people swimming, people who put up their tents, people eating, people showering, people taking selfies, people people people.

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Seriously, what is this an evacuation center?

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To the best of my ability I still tried to get closer to the waterfalls to take photos. No doubt that it’s beautiful, but it was hard to appreciate it when too many people obscured the view.

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Disappointment fell over our group. I thought Hulugan Falls is crowded, obviously, I’m wrong. Was there a holiday of some sort, or is this how it really is on weekends? I truly wish this is not always the case.

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I think there should be some way to control the number of visitors if only to avoid destroying it. Garbage is thrown recklessly; truly a disheartening sight.

Just to be on the safe side, and if you don’t want to deal with the crowd, do not go on a weekend. That, or go very early so you have time to appreciate it sans the crowd.

I told myself that I’m never coming back to Taytay Falls again upon seeing the “swarm,” but on second thought, maybe I should, just not on a weekend. How about you? Have you been to Taytay Falls? How was your visit?

Coffee Events

The Coffee Journey from Crop to Cup – Cupping with Entreps

The name of this blog alone should already clue you in on one of my favorite things in life; coffee. I cannot live without it. Sometimes it takes a cup of a joe or a lack of it to set the tone of my day. It’s likely I would be suffering from a terrible headache if I don’t get my dose of coffee. But my love for coffee, for quite some time, stayed in just the aspect of consuming. I don’t really possess an in-depth understanding of what it is about and the whole process of turning it into this brown liquid drink that I claim I cannot live without. Then I heard about an event called, Cupping with Entrep, a short session that involves talks about the process of making coffee and the actual cupping. I’ve been entertaining thoughts of having my own coffee shop of late; learning about coffee is a step toward this goal.

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