San Juan La Union, Good For The Soul
Mabuhay La Union! La Union is good for the soul. There are times in my life and places we visit that shake up everything inside me. La Union was totally one of those places. We were able to meet some really cool people up there and one night they graciously gave us a ride home. The van was extremely well loved and had been in the family for a long time. It is the ultimate family sand bucket. As I rode in the van it reminded me of my childhood. Kids everywhere, bags and boxes here and there, part of the interior door missing and it made so many of my ideals come crashing down. All of the sudden my car felt un-lived in. Where was the dirt from our last adventure? Where were the stickers a curious toddler stuck all over the window? My house began to feel trapped in between our neighboors. Our life felt too city. What am I doing with my life? Ha, I say this in jest but it really did shake me up a bit and cause me to hunger for a less picturesque and bubble life style. Anyplace or people who cause us to look inward and have a hunger for change is definitely good for the soul.
*(It is not lost on me how very blessed we are and what a truly remarkable life we lead. That doesn't mean we can't shake it up a bit. Also, the very well manicured living and driving places due to helpers and our lifestyle in Manila is a post for another time. :))
I am forever a fan of Airbnb. I find so much comfort in having our own space while traveling. We pretty much just walked across the street from our rented house and swam at the beach for three days straight. The beach in San Juan is like no other we have been to before. Don't expect the screen-saver white sand palm tree beaches. Expect clean beaches, with no boats and everyone wearing board shorts. This place is the ultimate beach town! I grew up in California and attended university in Hawaii so this type of beach is my jam. We were all so stoked over the weekend. Wake up, we go beach. This particular morning we saw families, this included their children and parents, in front of their hotels raking and cleaning up any rubbish. It was so rad to see. People really care about their community. We woke up early in the mornings and walked across to go get our beach on. Beach life (and province life) is for sure the best life. This was the trail just across from our Airbnb. As I mentioned before, everything in this placed breathed surf town. Can we please talk about how cool a library right on the beach is? This community cares. They really do. Part of the reason I loved Vigan so much is because I felt that they cared about the history and culture of their community, San Juan is similar but on a totally different level. It reeks of cool. I still can't get over it. From my understanding this library is run by volunteers and they even have a Saturday Sunset story time. I know, right!?
The Switch House was small but good for our family. It was one of the only rentals I could find right in town across from the beach. There are two rooms, one is air conditioned. The kitchen is small but has a hot plate with two burners. There is no microwave so prepare accordingly. If we weren't worried about money, eating with three kids in a restaurant and trying to be a bit more healthy we would have eaten out every meal because the food scene up there is really taking off.
The space around the house was awesome and perfect for three boys. The owners have a house on the same property right next door. The teenage boy was super fun with our kids and it ended up being such a nice treat to have a built in friend.
We took a short walk and met up with some new friends in front of Flotsam and Jetsam for an evening swim. The beach in front of F&J had the ultimate party waves when we went and less people than in front of our rental and many other hotels, Kahuna being one of them.
The beach was super long and so open. There were no bankas along the shore or garbage. People wore board shorts and bikini's as opposed to underwear or being fully clothed. It really is a surf town.
It seems the mecca of all places in San Juan is the hostel and restaurant Flotsam and Jetsam. You'll find a mix of people there ranging from native Filipino to foreigners, solo or family travellers alike, hipsters and nerds, Flotsam had it all. It oozes with style and obviously I couldn't get over the painted furniture. The colors are so vibrant through the whole hostel. Nica posted photos of the newly renovated family size rooms and I wanted to get in on the action. Unfortunately, after two weeks of trying to nail down a reservation we weren't able to get a confirmation or amount for the deposit so we opted for Switch House. I think both are great options it just depends on your preference.
F&J's restaurant was really good. They have brick oven pizza that is legit delicious. It's funny that the farther we go out of Manila we find the best brick oven pizza. You will also find Makai Bowls and they are smoothie bowl pushers! Seriously, I am addicted. We ate not one, not two but three smoothie bowls while we were there. They don't always have stock of every bowl but if they have dragon fruit bowl party on it! We bought dragon fruit on our drive home and no joke I have made over ten smoothie bowls.
Another new addiction, S'mores dip from El Union. That place is so rad. From top to bottom, flavor to scenery this place is a gem. Go there. We don't drink coffee but if you do you want to go El Union. I was able to talk with one of the owners about El Union and San Juan in general. I am always curious about these small places that boom because of uniqueness. Sometimes I get worried that they would like to preserve their community and not have it be trodden with tourists. I loved the reply I received, "You can't stop a moving train so you might as well drive it." Woah! He is so right. It's going to happen and they might as well shape it to be the best it can be. I see this in how the community interacts, how they care for the beach, how kind they are to those of us just passing through and bringing in innovative and community building business. This did my heart some good to see and hear this. So, I urge you that when you go, treat their community how they do or even better if you can. Leave it cleaner, be kind, volunteer, eat around, do what you can to help with the movement. We will all be better for it.
Time to say goodbye to LU. Thanks for the good time and good vibes. We will be back for sure.
*Anybody want to rent a house together and we can do a timeshare? :)One last note, thanks to some great resources they pointed me in the direction of local textiles, Inabel. I am obviously a sucker for weaving and textiles so if you are too go to the dry goods market in San Fernando. You will find Juanita's on the second floor. I also heard you can drive 30 minutes north to Bangar and see the weavers working their magic.
Things To Know:
La Union is just a four hour drive north. We used google maps and got right there.
There aren't any major grocery stores so stop at a wet market or grocer on the way up if you are bringing your food.
We particularly loved walking north of the hotel lineup to avoid crowds and swim. In the mornings it is less crowded.
We rented a paddle board for 200php for one hour. You can rent surf boards for a bit more for the day or only half and can also have an instructor. I would like to do this with my boys when we go up again.
We also stopped and picked grapes on the way up.
***The beautiful tapestry I always take to the beach with me is from The Tapestry Souk.