Solo Trip: Surfing La Union

May 16 is my birthday and since my 25th one, I decided that I will celebrate each one with an adventure moving forward. I had a bucket list prepared and said I would make it all happen every birthday I have. During my 26th, I celebrated my birthday in the air on a flight to Singapore then travelled to Malaysia then back to Singapore then back to Manila.

Now for my 27th (yeah, am that old already), I was in Baguio City working. We got to Baguio on the 15th. Did some meetings. On my birthday, still meetings for the entire day. You might think it sucks to be working in your birthday. For me, it was OK. At least, I was not stuck in the office. I was doing meetings in the literally on of the coolest place in the Philippines during summer. I was in freakin Baguio City with temperatures of around 20 to 17 ºC. I love it.

Since we were doing meetings on my birthday, I was finally able to sort of celebrate at dinner with my officemate. We had dinner at 50’s Diner near Mines View. This has been our go-to resto since it offers value for money meals that are mui delicioso. On the 17th it was time to head back home but I have been planning to stay behind for an adventure. With all of the meetings done I decided to push thru.

Since La Union was about 2 to 3 hours away from Baguio, I would be a fool not to go and try thier main attraction, SURFING! There was no stopping this adventure.

I was booked at San Juan Surf Resort in San Juan La Union for an overnight stay. This is a very nice place to stay at and also gives budget options. You can reach it by taking a bus from Manila or Baguio heading north (Vigan, Abra, or Laoag). From Baguio, fare costs php 118. But from Manila, it would cost you around php 500 I think. The resort is just 15 minutes away from the province’s capital, San Fernando. It’s about 5 minutes away from the National Food Authority  of Region I. If the bus conductor still don’t know the place, Just say that they can drop you of Sebay (this is another surfing resort along the Mc Arthur highway) or where all the surfers go. In my opinion, San Juan Surf Resort is th best place to stay.Unfortunately, I was unable to take a picture of the resort area much. I booked my self in a fan room (costs php 930/ night). Based on initial booking, this doesnot include free breakfast but I was actually surprised when they said it had. The Fan Room is actually for 2 hence, the double deck bed but since it was a solo trip, I had it for myself. The fan was ok since I was alone, but i think it would be a bit hot if there were 2 in the room. I guess you can open the window to let some of the air in. The down side was you had to use a common bath and restroom a few steps away. The common bath is clean enough. So if you can an afford and a bit sensitive, book yourselves with a room with restrooms and bath. Just Google San Juan Surf Resort for more details on their room rates.

I arrived at the resort way past lunch time I was famished! After leaving my stuff in the room, I went to the resto to order food. Twas a bit pricey but you won’t have much of a choice as there are no close fastfood chain or eatery nearby or along the highway. Pricey, yes but the food is GOOD! I had tapsilog (marinated beef, fried rice and egg). Normally this is eaten for breakfast but since it is one of the cheapest items on the menu, I had to go for it. It was not a disappointment. You’ll love it I swear. Now the resto is an open air one with white walls and dark brown tables and chairs. I think the main appeal of the resort is the simplicity of the look. Add that to a beach from with people swimming as the waves crash on the shore and you might think you’re in paradise. Like most of the guests, I too faced the waters as I was eating.

Across the resto is the San Juan Surf Shop where you can buy beach wear, surfing stuff. There’s also a sign that says surfing lessons for an hour with an instructor with free use of rash guard and a 10% off GC for any Billabong item that you’d like to purchase from Billabong out lets in Manila (honestly, am not that familiar with the brand, loser much right?) Wasn’t able to enter the store but from out side it looked good. I was too busy eating and looking out at the surf.

After finishing my food and smoking a few sticks. I decided to wait for an hour for my late lunch to go down as it was to scorching hot. While waiting I decided to look for a place to buy water as well as some chips for the night ahead. So I went to the highway and saw a store in Sebay, bought my self 2 liters of drinking water (php 50/ bottle), 2 bags of chips (php 30/ bag), 1 sachet of conditioner (php 6) and 1 pack of cigarettes (php 90, this is way overpriced!). Yes, their pricey again but this is typical of convenience stores charging more for necessities (cigarettes are one of mine). I got back to the room, dropped the groceries, laid for a while then started to prepare for surfing. Put on my board shorts, put on sunblock, some money for the surfing lesson. With a big breadth and an enormous grin on my face from the excitement, I was out the door sort of skipping like girl off to learn how to surf.

You can deposit your room keys in the front desk before heading out to surf. You dont want to loose you keys in the middle of the sea right? Now, surfing lessons with an instructor with free use of rash guard would cost you php 400 for an hour. If you just want to rent a board, it’ll be php 200 for an hour also. As a first timer, of course I needed an instructor. So was hooked up with Mardy, he’s a local of La Union who learned to surf in his teens.

Your surfing lesson would start with the basics and safety. Basics covers the parts of the board, how to get out to the sea, how to stand up and the proper stance, how to position your body and balance on the board Safety include board handling on land and on sea, when to jump off the board, how to fall in the water and so on and so forth. I was keen to listen because I really like to learn. I was dreaming of surfing fir a long time! When Mardy told me it was time to surf, I almost peed in excitement. LOL Just kidding! I have proper bladder control. But my smile was ear to ear.

The board they gave me was a long board and a wide one at that. Mardy said that these type of boards are easier to balance. A meter from the shore, I got on the board, balanced myself and paddled as Mardy guided me out to sea. Along the way, waves will hit you. It’s a good thing that the waves were not towering high. You just have to push your self up to a Baby Cobra pose (I do yoga as well). Note, this is the main reason why your diaphram area will hurt. Well maybe that or the balancing part. About 5 meters out, he asked me to turn around and we wait. While waiting we chatted a lot. He mentioned that it was good that I decided to come on a week day as weekend brings a lot of people. He also greeted me belated happy birthday as I used that card to ask if I could somehow extend the time. HAHAH. I had to try and I partially succeeded.

As per Mardy, the good waves comes in intervals. And there is a point when the waves produced are weak. After that, are the good ones. But choosing the right one is crucial and that patience is a virtue. He said to ready my self and paddle when he says. So I was uber excited. Then I heard “paddle paddle padde!” cue. I paddled with all my might. Mardy said that when you feel the sudden burst of speed of the board, that’s the time to stand up. I tried to stand up. And then, wipeout! Hahahaha! I sort of slipped so there you go! Wiping out is probably part and parcel of learning to surf.

I waited out the waves then paddled to where Mardy was. And he was like “Anyare? (What happened?)”. I told him then he said let’s go again. We waited then, it came. After another rapid paddle paddle paddle, I caught the wave, stood up and surfed! It was like suddenly the drum intro of Surfin’ USA started playing out of no where. I stabled myself on the board while doing a Y sign with my hands and rode it almost to the shore. It was so COOL! After smiling back at Mardy and givng my self an imaginary tap on the back, i headed back out in search of more waves to ride.

Those few seconds of exhiliration has the effect of drugs I think, you would want another one after the first. I was able to ride a total of 6 waves and wiped out another 2 times and missed a couple waves. I swear was able to turn already as well. At around 5 pm, time was up but i had so much elation that would last me for days.

There would have been countless photo ops during that hour of surfing but unfortunately, this was a solo trip. So after the lesson i rushed back to the room to get mini so i would have a souvenier for the trip. Good thing the “birthday” card sort of worked. After thanking Mardy, i took a bath then went back to the beach to wait for the sun to set. I took time to take pictures also.

Waiting for the sun to set took a while but aside fron watching people, I checked back on what was happening in the office. After that, I became a beach bum. Just chilling out on the shore. It was the perfect time to think on what I’ve been to and where i wanted to go to next. In other words, “me” time. Well i got distracted by some of the people on the shore plus some dogs who’d walk around. All I said as the sun set on the horizon “good times…good times”. After that I went back to my room and i snoozed out for a few hours and rose up. At this point, am starting to feel the strain on my shoulders, abs (more like “ab” as it was just one flab. LOL) and back from all the paddling i made. But i was more hungry to bother with the aches. I went to the resto and ordered carbonara and a beer. The carbonara was divine! As in really good. It’s the second best tasting carbonara i tasted. Mine is the best hahahaha! But yes it is really good. After eating and downing the beer, i decided to settle down and sleep but before checking my twitter facebook and instagram first. I also chatted with my friends via WeChat. I guess the beer did it’s magic and after a few hours I snoozed off.

The morning after the aches were there! As in BOOM! I can bearly get my arms up over my head. My diaphram area hurts too because of balancing plus the board smacking on that part while getting to the surf line. All I thought was, it was worth it and it will pass. I got up, washed, ate breakfast and sort of bumped with a former colleague who happened to be in the area. I enjoyed our catching up session while I ate. She had to run errands so we parted ways with a message that when I decide to surf in La Union again, I could stay at her house being constructed just across the highway. After that, I decided to catch some more waves despite the aches am feeling thinking that the adrenaline would take care of it. So I suited up, rented a board, no instructor this time as I thought I could do it on my own. And boy I was wrong.

The morning still had waves but quite a few more people on the surf line. And a number of foreingers this time around. The board I used was still a long board but a bit slimmer this time. Honestly, it was harder to balance! I kept turning overboard probably because I just ate. Since I was there and not wanting to quit I went on with it. My attempts were futile as my arms can’t paddle hard enough to catch waves. My lack of patience and selecting the right wave was also off. After the hour, I conceeded defeat and pulled my self out on the beach after meeting some Koreans on the surf. It was still fun but it would have been better if I rode at least one.

By 11 am, I checked my self out and had lunch as I needed to get back to Manila. I was sun kissed (well sort of burnt) but extremely satisfied. As i waited for my lunch to be served, i thought, “Contrary to popular belief, travelling alone is not that sad at all. You just have to have an open mind, friendly attitude and the spirit of adventure.”

This solo trip made me realize that I can do things that I want to with courage and taking chances. It made me also ponder on where I am in life right now and where I want to be in the next year. I’d probably do it again on my next birthday.

After biding adeui to the waves, I went to the highway to catch a jeepney to San Fernando City to get to an ATM machine, then catch a bus back to Manila. Well, I needed to get back to reality sometime right?

For fellow travelers and adventure seekers, here the breakdown of my expenses for this trip:
Bus fare to San Juan La Union from Baguio = Php 118
Over night stay San Juan Surf Resort w/ breakfast(Fan Room) = Php 930
Lunch = Php 160
Surfing Lessons with Instructor(1 hour) = Php 400
Surf board rental (1 hour) = Php 200
Dinner (carbonara & beer) =Php 255
Jeepney fare from San Juan to San Fernando = Php 11
Bus fare from San Fernando to Manila = Php 420

All in all, almost Php 3000 pesos. Not bad really but I think it can be less if you can find transcient house.

So there you go.

Remember, a solo trip is fun but you have to be vigilant also.

Until my next adventure!

Flippin’ out!

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