La Union

– La Union (February 20-21, 2016) –

La Union is one of the popular surf spots in the Philippines. It’s located in the Ilocos region of Luzon, about a 5 to 7 hour drive away from Manila depending on stopovers and your luck with traffic. You have to be strategic about your visit since traffic may vary depending on time and occasion. We left the city at around 5am and arrived at the resort around 12nn. This includes a stopover at a gas station where we had breakfast, and a couple of shorter stops for bathroom breaks. There weren’t any special holidays that week so La Union wasn’t as crowded. It’s great to just catch a break from the office, don’t you think so? Go weekend warriors!

Group picture1 -randomrosette.jpg

To be honest, I’ve always been scared of deep waters (because of whatever I might encounter down there). I wasn’t exactly too keen on the idea of surfing. I’m sure there are a lot out there who feel the same way…But not to worry! The area where we surfed wasn’t deep at all. The waves can be intimidating at times, but if you train your mind to be calm, have a good hold of your surfboard, and keep good communications with your instructor, you’ll be fine.

Overcoming this fear and trying something new was so fulfilling. I hope that those who are afraid also get to overcome their fear and just go for it (of course, with safety in mind at all times). Make sure you are in good company and hire an instructor per hour for 200php so you know someone’s got your back in case anything happens. Let your instructor know your level of comfort in the waters, and always let someone in your group know that you’re heading out to surf.

Now enough of the lecture, let’s get down to business. Time to break down the costs and logistics of this trip:

Accommodations

We were deliberating between two main contenders: Flotsam & Jetsam vs. San Juan Surf Resort. There are probably a lot more options, but these 2 are the ones that have been recommended to us.

I’ll list down the things we were looking for in our accommodations and score both resorts accordingly in the table below. You could also use this technique in choosing which accommodation would best suit you and your group.

Criteria Flotsam & Jetsam San Juan Surf Winner
Accommodate 9 people in 1 room? Yes

* Dorm type (8 pax + 1 additional bed)

No

*They had a VIP ocean view room which would have fit all of us, but it was already booked. I’m rating this based on the only available rooms left, which were the 3 premium rooms (1 double bed + 1 extra mattress)

F&J
Private bathroom No

*Shared bathrooms but only Flotsam guests can use them. Outsiders cannot use these bathrooms.

Yes

* The plus side of booking 3 separate rooms would mean 3 bathrooms available for our use!

SJS
With breakfast Yes No F&J
With air-conditioning No

* fans only

Yes SJS
Near the beach Yes Yes Tie
Price (see breakdown below) 880php/person 827php/person SJS

And the winner is: San Juan Surf! The location, service, and ambiance were all good.

We were eyeing the VIP Ocean View room in San Juan Surf, but that was already taken. We were lucky that there were still 3 premium rooms available, which are for 2 people but could accommodate 1 additional person each. This would be perfect for our group of 9 and allow us to have 3 bathrooms too. See price breakdown below:

ACCOMMODATIONS – SAN JUAN SURF RESORT
Premium (2 pax) 3 rooms 5,940.00
Additional bed (3) 1,500.00
Grand Total 7,440.00
Total per person (9) 826.67
Requested for rooms at the 3rd floor with view – c/o Remj or Ranjit

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Transportation

After finally booking our accommodations, the next logistical problem we had to face was how to get there. It came down to looking for “volunteers” in our group who would be willing to bring their own cars versus renting a reasonably priced van service.

Of course, commuting was also possible, but we preferred having control of our departure time and having a car available in case we wanted to go wander around the area.

I contacted a few Grandia van rental services found in OLX and decided to choose the one below:

Grandia Contact Edward Joseph

0915-233-3128

Trip Details
Date Feb. 20 (4am) – Feb. 21 (2pm)
Pick up time 4:00 AM
Grandia’s point of origin Pasay EDSA
Pick up points We requested for 3 different pickup points and they were kind enough to accommodate our request!
Passengers 9 pax
Destination San Juan Surf Resort, Urbiztondo, San Juan, MacArthur Highway, San Fernando, La Union
Exclusive Diesel, Toll, Parking, Meals
Van details
Driver Jay Harina
Cell # 0917-820-5095
Van Grandia – White
Plate # AKA 5609

 

 

Renting a van was so convenient; all of us had time to rest and bond without needing to worry about directions or convoying. Some were sleeping so soundly that they didn’t notice we were taking pictures of them. For the sake of our friendship, I will not post any of those sleeping pics. Haha!

On the way back, we kept playing sassy songs that we sang along to. We also brought snacks and water for our group and the driver for our ride going to LU and back to MNL in case we got hungry/thirsty. It was really fun!

Note: We had a really good deal with Edward on the transportation, so just contact him and work out the details of your trip. Consider which option would be best for your group in terms of price and convenience. It’s possible that commuting would be best for other groups, while others prefer to bring their own cars instead of hiring a van. As they say, “kanya kanyang trip!” (Rough translation: To each his own!)

 

Toll fees (In no particular order)

Tip: You can collect a certain amount of money from each person from your group then place it in an envelope or a separate wallet to serve as your “common fund”. Then just divide the money amongst yourselves if there is any left after the trip. Or someone could cover all the expenses temporarily and everyone can just pay that person after the trip. These prices are based on our Feb 2016 trip, so prices may or may not have changed since then.

  1. NLEX Plaza: Balintawak-OS
Toll 40.18
VAT 4.82
Total 45.00
  1. Manila North Tollways Corp (Caloocan City)
Toll 154.56
VAT 18.54
Total 173.00
  1. Manila North Tollways Corporation (Class 1. Entry: Mabalacat; Exit: Tarlac)
Toll 92.86
VAT 11.14
Total 104.00
  1. TPLEX (Tarlac Urdaneta)
Toll 192.86
VAT 23.14
Total 216.00
  1. NLEX Plaza: Bocaue Barrier-OS
Toll 50.00
VAT 6.00
Total 56.00
  1. Manila North Tollways Corporation (Class 1. Entry: Tarlac; Exit: Mabalacat)
Toll 92.86
VAT 11.14
Total 104.00

 

Food

We really didn’t have to worry about food since there were a lot of restaurants around the corner of San Juan Surf resort. San Juan Surf also has its own restaurant/café so if you don’t want to wander around, then just order from there.

We checked out Tripadvisor for some recommended eats as well. Not everything lived up to the hype, but maybe that’s just me. You’ve got to try it out for yourself to find out. Let me know in the comments section if you find some good ones!

 

My expenses Establishment Amount Verdict
Chicken sandwich San Juan Surf 215.00 Not a fan
Iced mocha San Juan Surf 55.00 Not a fan
T-bone steak Gefesis 380.00 So-so
Aloha vanilla ice cream with banana topping Aloha 55.00 So-so
Mai Tai Caraffe + nachos (sharing) Surf Shack 250.00 So-so
Army Navy breakfast Gas Station on the way to La Union 195.00 So-so
Flat white El Union Coffee (near Monaliza surf resort) 100.00 GOOD
Grilled cheese sandwich El Union Coffee (near Monaliza surf resort) 150.00 GOOD
>> additional bacon jam for grilled cheese sandwich El Union Coffee (near Monaliza surf resort) 30.00 GOOD
Grilled chicken kebab San Juan Surf 275.00 GOOD
Iced flat white (dirty white) El Union Coffee 120.00 GOOD
My Total   1,825.00

 

Surf

Of course, I need to share what it was like to surf for the first time! I remember being slightly nervous but incredibly excited. I watched some “surfing for beginners” videos before going on this trip (I like to be prepared, at least mentally), so I was so psyched and ready to hit the waters when we got there. I don’t know where I got the courage from, but it didn’t matter. I was gonna take advantage of it before I chicken out. Even if I’ve watched the basics already, I still made sure I listened to the instructor intently and did my best to execute the correct form while we were practicing  with our surfboards on the sand.

Surfboard rental is 200php and Instructor fee is 200php per hour.

Steps:

1st – Surfing 101 c/o Instructor

Learn about terminology, surf board, techniques

2nd – Practice with the surfboard on the sand

3rd – Hit the waters!

I walked with my instructor holding the surfboard until the water was waist deep. I was then asked to get on the surfboard lying down on my stomach. At this point, more advanced surfers would paddle towards the deeper water, but my instructor just pushed the board forward while I held on to the board whenever there were waves crashing towards us. He was also the one who told me which waves I could ride. I liked that he told me when to get ready (position my hands flat on the board beside my chest, ready for a “push up”) and when to stand up. I must say, I think yoga has greatly helped me with my strength and balance, which are both needed in surfing.

1 guess who2016-02-27 11.40.12-6
Guess who?
2 2016-02-27 11.40.12-14
Balancing…
3 2016-02-27 11.40.12-5
Success!

 

Ending Notes

After a quick stop to order takeaway coffee from El Union Café, we set off for Manila at around 2:30pm. When we arrived back, it was around 8pm. We were all tired but extremely happy to have experienced a serene and enjoyable break at the beach just a few hours from our regular bustling city life.

I think it’s important to commit to taking time off from all the hustle and bustle of life. Otherwise, you will just continue putting off your vacation to some other time in the distant future. “Next time na lang” is gonna be a norm and before you know it, you’ve missed out on one of the best weekends you could have had. So what are you waiting for? Time to go! You don’t even need to file for a vacation leave to get on this trip.

Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share from your own trip to La Union? Have you guys tried surfing in other areas in the Philippines like Baler or Siargao? I’d love to hear from you guys too. Just share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Random Rosette

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