How we survived a spontaneous trip to the beach

To those of you who know me can agree that I suck at planning anything. I spoil my own surprises and I don’t have a fixed plan on a Friday night. I am a very impulsive and spontaneous person – and that makes my life more fun and entertaining, even for me. Here’s what you need to know and what I need to remind myself whenever I go on a spontaneous trip again.

San Juan, La Union | 2018

To those of you who know me can agree that I suck at planning anything. I spoil my own surprises and I don’t have a fixed plan on a Friday night. I am a very impulsive and spontaneous person – and that makes my life more fun and entertaining, even for me.

So, there was a long weekend where I didn’t really know what to do with my life and I have just been stressed at work. I asked my friend Eric if he wanted to go to La Union with me. It started as a joke (Sorry E, but it was half-meant!), but then we ended up going. That long weekend was one of the busiest summer weekend in the Philippines so all the beaches are packed and hotels nearby were booked. We didn’t have a plan – we just looked for the bus trip schedule, packed our bags, met up and went on our way.

Here’s what you need to know and what I need to remind myself whenever I go on a spontaneous trip again.

Research about bus trips

Okay, so we did research about what time the buses will leave Manila. From Manila to San Juan, La Union, you can take the Partas bus going straight to San Fernando, La Union. But we took the Laoag bus (if I remember correctly, it’s going to Ilocos) and told the conductor to drop us off at Sebay, right in front of the beach area. The trip would take about 4-6 hours, depending on the traffic. My research ended there! LOL.

Anyway, so when we decided to go home at 2 o’clock the next day, we didn’t really know how to. It was 2 in the morning, and the first trip of the bus would be a little bit later than that, and we would have to travel from San Juan to San Fernando – where the bus terminal is located – and it was a twenty-minute trike ride. We had another choice, which is to wait for a bus – coming from Ilocos and it may or may not be full of passengers – just outside the beach area. It took us an hour of waiting before we got on a bus.

Check for possible hotel accommodations

We arrived at 2 o’clock in the morning. I kind of overestimated the travel time. We left Manila at 10pm and we arrived in LU around 3. It took us shorter than 6 hours, obviously. Before we left, I told Eric we can just sit by the beach and have beer while we wait for the sunset, we’re probably gonna arrive at 4. But no we did not.

Upon arriving, we tried to look for a nearby hotel where we can check-in. There wasn’t really a good phone reception for internet, so we can’t search and book online. Plus, it was 3 in the morning, so we were not really expecting to find anything. So we just decided to go with the plan of taking some beer by the beach. Also, since it was 3am, most of the stores were closed and we had to take a tricycle to the nearest 7Eleven.

We found an accommodation and it was a 20-minute walk from the beach.
We had to walk back because kuya driver was not replying to us by 6am. Guess he fell asleep.

Oh! And funny story

Do not be afraid to ask around

So we got our booze and headed back to the tricycle (by the way, in provinces, you can ask the trike drivers to wait for you or make a contract to be your service for the next two days, it’s fine with them) and we just randomly asked kuya driver if he knew some hotels or maybe someone renting a room in their house – which is common too, in some places – and coincidently, he has a spare room that he just renovated and was renting for tourists. I lost his number, unfortunately. But it was clean and comfortable, and we had our own bathroom.

This was actually the start of my friendship with Eric, and I was kindda thinking he would freak out but he was fine with it. LOL, so okay. I got super shy though, so I had to ask my friends if some of them were in the area and are willing to adopt us – and luckily, some of my college org-mates were also there. So they adopted us for the rest of the trip.

Have enough cash with you

I don’t really bring that much cash usually because I got used to paying using my debit card. It was also easier that way since I don’t like bringing wallets so sometimes I drop cash. I know, I’m clumsy like that! But if you’re in the province, most of the establishments unless they are hotels, they only accept cash. So be sure to bring enough cash with you. By the end of the trip, I only had enough to buy a bus ticket home and I didn’t even have enough to pay for my Grab going home.

Yes, he found a twenty-peso bill in the water. LOL

Pack light but not not too light

Yes, it’s a spontaneous trip and nothing was planned at all except for the place that we wanted to go. Since it was the beach, we packed for a beach trip, yes. But there were one or two things that we brought that we did not need to bring, and things that we did not bring but we absolutely need.

One, we brought our laptops. Because, we’re workaholics. I know, it’s weird. Next, I did not bring my sunscreen. I don’t really get sunburns so it doesn’t really bother me at all. And Eric forgot his slippers. He can lend me his sunscreen, but unfortunately, I can’t lend him my slippers unless he has small feet – but he didn’t. So we spent sometime trying to find a pair of slippers and he was wearing chucks at the beach. I wasn’t that helpful.

Most important part of the trip –

Enjoy the crazy idea you had and just have fun!

La Union or Elyu is one of the known surf towns in the Philippines. It was super accessible to Manila too. It later on developed to be a tourist spot and party town, and there were a lot of establishments that became famous and became everyone’s go-to place in Elyu. Since it was Eric’s first time and we didn’t really have a place to stay during the day, we hung-out at some of those places.

Take pictures with some of the graffitis

Well, they have good ones! We can’t help ourselves!

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam is one of the well-known hostels in Urbiztondo, La Union. With its cool artsy vibe and chill spots to hangout, it is always packed. They have a restaurant with beanbags, hammocks and tables where they hold dance parties at night, and a bonfire afterparty at the beach by 1am.

Swim at the beach, or at least play in the water

Because who goes to the beach without at least taking a dip in the water, right? Well, I do. I just like looking at the water. We actually had some drinks at night – yes, you can drink by the beach in the Philippines! Although, I wouldn’t encourage it because I have had crazy drunk instances with friends – I wasn’t the one dying, but still..

There was a concert that night, so there were a lot of people at the beach.

Go on a food trip in some of the restaurants

Or in our case, we did not really have a place to stay, so we really needed somewhere to chill.

You must try: Ol’ Pub La Union (their adobo was good!), Tagpuan sa San Juan (they have the best lugaw and bagnet, perfect for quick sober-up), Surf Shack (for some iced cold beer and open mic fun), Flotsam & Jetsam (for some chill social-artsy vibe and unique afterparty), and Coffee Library (well, iced coffee on a hot summer day is nice!)

To be honest though, I never thought I would ever do this. First, because La Union was far and it’s the kind of trip that one goes to for the whole weekend because La Union has everything – food, party, surfing (which we did not try), there was also those temples, nearby farms and Tangadan Falls that we didn’t get to visit – so 24 hours is certainly not enough. Also another confession: I did not really remember entirely how to get to La Union because it was only my second time, and everything was arranged for us because it was work. So this was like a DIY-cross-the-bridge-when-we-get-there trip. So, sorry E! Well, we survived!

Author: Jam Ibay

Proud Filipino who moved to New York to be with the love of my life, Gerald. Now navigating through the huge changes in my life.

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