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1000-Peso Challenge: La Union Province

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What what?

La Union is now one of the most sought-after tourist destinations up North. With its neophyte status as a tourist drawer, La Union never fails to deliver – there is always something new you would want to see and experience yourself.

La Union, from its direct Spanish translation, “The Union,” is situated between Pangasinan (south) and Ilocos Sur (North), linking both provinces now comprising the Ilocos Region. Its still-to-be-discovered charm cannot be denied, whether from its warm people, pristine beaches, and cool and interesting places you should see and experience yourself. The province is approximately 1 – 2 hours away from Baguio City and is 6 – 7 hours from Metro Manila.

The La Union Welcome Arc (from Sison, Pangasinan)

The La Union Welcome Arc (from Sison, Pangasinan)

Its capital, San Fernando City, is where you’ll find La Union’s diverse history, making its locals prouder in promoting their province.

It is also where you will find the birthplace of surfing in Northern Luzon – in the municipality of San Juan, where an annual Surf Break is being held to attract more tourists and to promote the place as the Surfing Capital of the North.

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The La Union Challenge

So I came up with this idea of challenging myself, together with some friends, to do the #1000PesoChallenge on some of the country’s promising destinations and our first stop is La Union! (Woot!)

Since it is only an hour and a half away from Baguio, and I really want to see the beach, I decided to go here because the place never gets old.

Our unplanned itinerary included some places in Bauang, San Fernando, San Juan, and Luna. In our original plan, we should have also visited a now-famous waterfall in San Gabriel and Naguilian (but time did not permit.) I will also be including some tourist spots with no entrance fees, but we haven’t gone to due to time constraint.

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*We will update this post as long as we get back to La Union.*

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I will be itemizing the places we went to with corresponding expenses for your reference. Travel expenses from Baguio to La Union, and vice versa is excluded from the challenge.

(You can always make your own, anyway!) 🙂

Itinerary:

0845 – 1045 H Travel Time

(Bus)

Baguio – Bauang, La Union
1045 – 1115 H Breakfast Kapsilog Avenue, National Highway, Bauang, La Union P 55.00

To start off the challenge together with my friend Rick, we first ate at a “-silog” food stall just along the intersection at the National Highway after going down in Bauang. The food stall is conspicuous as it is just along the highway. Food is cheap, like that of typical karinderyas Filipinos usually go to, especially if you’re on a tight budget. The place is spacious and the food choice is quite diverse. The place is good to go especially for to-go travellers or just regular casual diners wanting to have that ‘silog’ meal perfect for breakfast.

 

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1115 – 1120 H Travel Time

(Bus)

Bauang CBD – Gapuz Grapes Farm P 10.00
1120 – 1205 H Ocular Visit Gapuz Grapes Farm No Entrance Fee

Gapuz Grape Farm

Because we really did not plan for an itinerary, we decided to go to the famous Gapuz Grapes Farm in the Bauang – Caba Boundary. The whole farm is joined by two other farms (collectively known as the Gapuz-Ancheta-Salino Grapes Farm) making the place very cool to see, and upon entering the vicinity, you will begin to see grapes and dragonfruit plantations all around.

Ask the locals where the Gapuz Grapes Farm is located. Also ask the driver to stop you over a Car Shop / ‘talyer’ near the Bauang Welcome Arc (Barangay Urayong in the Caba-Bauang Border Arc, look for “Talyer ni Dumo”). From there, there is a road strip leading to the farms. There is a signage leading there so you will not get lost.

According to the Farm’s owner, Miss Danica Gapuz, the best time to go to the farms is during summer time (March – May) because the farm will also be slating various activities aside from grape picking. Check their Facebook Page to be updated about their activities this summer!

Unfortunately, when we went there, the grapes are still starting to grow and recover because of the devastation caused by typhoon Lando and other succeeding typhoons last year. So the caretaker suggested us to come back on March or April because it really is the best time to pick grapes in the farm.

There was no entrance fee during our visit because it was not picking season. But during the picking season, the farm mandates everyone visiting to pick at least a minimum of 1 Kilogram of grapes for P 250.00.  Separate fees apply to other activities slated by the farm owners.

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1205 – 1300 H Travel Time

(Bus)

Gapuz Grapes Farm – San Fernando CBD P 20.00
1300 – 1305 H Travel Time

(Tricycle)

San Fernando CBD – Halo Halo de Iloko P 10.00

(P 20.00 / 2)

1305 – 1400 H Lunch Halo Halo de Iloko Balay P 255.00
Halo-Halo de Iloko - La Union

Halo-Halo de Iloko

Halo Halo de Iloko

After taking some pictures at the farm, we waited for a provincial bus plying to the north. We luckily rode a bus going to Vigan and asked the driver to drop us at the San Fernando Central Business District. We then decided to have lunch first at Halo Halo de Iloko Balay and have some refreshments as well.

Halo Halo de Iloko Balay has become one of the most sought-after restaurants in the metro after it has been featured in various television shows of national scope. The restaurant has an artsy feel upon entering and although the space is very limited, they decided to extend the restaurant up to the house’s former parking area. (By the way, “balay” means “house” in Ilokano.)

When I first went here in 2012, the restaurant only served various variations of Halo Halo. And when we came back this year, they have diversified their menu and added meals too to meet the demands of their growing market.

One more interesting thing about the restaurant is that they now accept reservations for diners at a prior date in order for them to prepare food better, especially to large groups, or to the media who want to cover the restaurant.

One of HHDI's "lamisaan"

One of HHDI’s “lamisaan”

The other thing I also noticed is that their tables are named after the municipalities of La Union. In our case, we were at the “Lamisaan ti Caba” (Caba Table, the municipality after Bauang; “lamisaan” means “table” in Ilokano). Also interesting enough is that they framed memorabilia of some famous people’s messages and dedications who visited the restaurant and displayed it all around the place – making it an additional attraction.

We experienced something new compared to our first visit in 2012. The food never gets old and they still practice what they do even when we have visited it a long time ago. It really is one of the places you should never miss. Magpasarap ka muna!

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*What to see in San Fernando City, La Union!*

MaCho Temple and Pagoda Hill

Botanical Garden

Heroes Hill and Freedom Park Stairway

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1400 – 1405 H Travel Time

(Tricycle)

Halo Halo de Iloko – Luna Jeepney Station P 20.00
1405 – 1500 H Travel Time

(Jeepney)

San Fernando City (P. Burgos Street) – Bahay na Bato, Luna, La Union P 50.00
1500 – 1600 H Ocular Visit Bahay na Bato P 20.00

(entrance)

Bahay na Bato

After having lunch, we decided to go to Bahay na Bato (Stone House) in Luna. The trip is about 1 hour long as it will pass through different Barangays in San Juan, Bacnotan, and Balaoan. Just tell the driver to drop you off to Bahay na Bato. There is also a big signage there leading to the place so you will not get lost. You will just have to walk for 5-10 minutes to reach the main entrance.

The place is owned by a Korean Doctor, in partnership with a family of doctors, too, who practice their profession in Baguio City (see picture below.)

The Bahay na Bato's Brief History - La Union

The Bahay na Bato’s Brief History

Unfortunately, too, although the place is open for visitors, the house itself was closed to the public because it was used as a reception for a wedding that day. (So we have a reason to come back and update this post as soon as possible!) 🙂 So we just took pictures around the house’s vicinity. As we roamed around, we found several stone art and wood carvings making the place more interesting. The house is also located on beach front but swimming is strictly prohibited for visitors.

Some of the Wood Carvings in Bahay na Bato - La Union

Some of the Wood Carvings in Bahay na Bato

For visitors who use public transport, there are readily available tricycles for hire to get you to your next destination of choice.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

1600 – 1615 H Travel Time

(Tricycle)

Bahay na Bato – Balaoan Bus Stop (CBD) P 50.00

(P 100.00 / 2)

1615 – 1700 H Travel Time

(Bus)

Balaoan CBD – San Juan CBD P 55.00
1700 – 1710 H Travel Time

(Tricycle)

San Juan CBD – Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Hostel P 30.00

(P 60.00 / 2)

1710 – 1730 H Beach Bum, Sunset Chase Urbiztondo Beach
1730 – 1830 H Dinner Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Hostel Restaurant P 330.00

LAST STOP!

Famous for its Surf Break events during summer, the municipality of San Juan became a rock star destination for beach lovers and surf addicts alike. Dubbed as the “Surfing Capital of the North,” San Juan immediately rose to popularity making it one of the major hubs for surfing north of Manila.

One of the more popular hostels in the area is the Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel. As it was recently featured in an indie film, many tourists ply the area even before it was highly commercialized.

F&J's Bean Bags - La Union

F&J’s Bean Bags!

F&J's Menu Board - La Union

F&J’s Menu Board

Welcome to Flotsam and Jetsam - La Union

Welcome to Flotsam and Jetsam!

One of the features I noticed in the hostel is that the atmosphere is very, very laid back. Bean bags with small tables are scattered within the vicinity and it serves as dining area for stay-in and walk-in guests. It also has two small shacks / thatches for additional space for guests who want a shaded eating place.

The place is also artsy as it displays various artworks within the area. Not to mention, the staff are also cool and very friendly! Yes! The food is pricey, though, but you will definitely get your money’s worth. The food is delicious and their menu has many options as well.

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1900 – 2100 H Travel Time

(Bus)

San Juan, La Union – Baguio City
GRAND TOTAL P 905.00

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SUMMARY:

For a ‘lighter view’ of the places we have been, here’s the summary:

(Those in parenthesis are the places we haven’t been but can be reached without any entrance fees, only fare, probably; and if you have more time in roaming around the province.)

(Tuddingan Falls, Naguilian)

Bauang Central District

Gapuz Grapes Farm, Bauang-Caba

San Fernando City Central Business District

(MaCho Temple, SFC)

(Botanical Garden, SFC)

(Pagoda Hill, SFC)

(Freedom Park Stairway, SFC)

Halo Halo de Iloko Balay, SFC

(Tangadan Falls, San Gabriel)

Bahay na Bato, Luna

(Namacpacan Church, Luna)

Balaoan Central Business District

Flotsam and Jetsam Art Hostel, San Juan

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VERDICT:

La Union can be visited in less than P 1000.00! Yes! But not all tourist spots can be visited in one day. You need at least two days to maximize your LU experience. It is a plus if you know someone who is a local of LU and ask if you could spend the night at their place for this short vacation. It is also an advantage if you have your own car to get to places at your own pace. I also (highly) advise that you invite friends along and go in groups so that you will divide the expenses among yourselves – the more the many-er!

In short, visiting La Union is budget friendly! Many places have yet to be discovered in this up-and-coming tourist destination in the North!

 

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32 thoughts on “1000-Peso Challenge: La Union Province

  1. Been to Elyu several times for surfing but no matter how hard I try, I always end up spending 2k and above :(. Galing mo!!

    1. Thanks, ate Jian! Almost all of the tourist spots in LU are free that’s why this challenge is really suitable! Weee! 🙂

  2. Wow that challenge again. Your post is very helpful and challenging. I never thought I could get that experience with just a thousand peso. Thanks! Keep it up!

    1. Thanks, kuya Keevin! Try it yourself, too! <3

  3. OMG. P1000 for the whole tour? This is really a must go. Not only that this is budget friendly, but it’ll also allow you to experience a different kind of culture and fun which is not really not that heart breaking to the pocket. 😀

    1. Yes, ate! Definitely! 🙂 And almost all of the tourist spots in LU are free of charge! You just have to pay for your fare and food! (How amazing is that?) 🙂

  4. Mike says:

    I really love this series! 🙂 La Union, I’ll be there, pretty soon!

    1. You should, kuya Mike! ASAP! 🙂

  5. Emem says:

    La Union has been my first love since it’s where I first started surfing, but I never seen it the way you did. I am so jealous, I’ve tried Halohalo de Iloko and had late lunch at Flot, other than that I feel like I’m missing out. I’ll definitely check out the places you’ve included here, this is very helpful! 🙂

    1. Thanks, ate Em! We should travel real soon! <3

  6. Yrwin Denzel says:

    I’ve been to La Union three times in my life, and it’s so much fun there! Everytime I go there, I HAVE TO go surfing! It is one of those things you must do while in La Union! I cannot believe you were able to spend less than p1000 there! That is literally the most drastic cost cutting method I have seen! I know people who cannot survive spending less than p1000 or $20-25 USD a day, but I’m glad you’re showing that it can be done, without compromising fun and adventure! Cheers!

    1. Yup! It really is possible, kuya Yrwin! Hehehe, talk about super duper budget traveling in one weekend! <3

  7. Mikka Alaia says:

    ugh flotsam jetsam. I just miss the beach already! take me with you chiki!

    ps I miss you!

    xoxo

    1. Lezgo to the beach ASAP, mother Miks! Mishu more! <3

  8. Kat says:

    I love this P1000 peso challenges. 🙂 It just shows how far you can go with as little budget as much as possible. I’ve been to La Union but mainly for surfing only. Some of the places you’ve mentioned are new. I love your photos of Bahay na Bato and Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel.

    1. Thanks, ate Kat! There are still plenty of FREE tourist spots in LU! Especially in Bauang and San Fernando! <3

  9. Nailed it! A whole day of fun and you only spent less than 1000. Flotsam & Jetsam cafe is very new to me. Another cafe that needs to be visited.

    1. Yup, kuya Jeff! There are a lot of new cafes strung ashore, especially in San Juan! Thanks, by the way! 😀

  10. Rachael says:

    Wow! You visited interesting places with only 1000 in your pocket?! I salute you! I’ve been to La Union twice, and when I come back, I’ll make sure to refer to this post. Thank you!!

  11. Niks Mendoza says:

    challenge accepted! spending only 1000php for is inspiring!

    1. Yes yes yes! And you can still go to more places! <3

  12. erwin who says:

    Nice, now I know what I can afford with a thousand peso! Much fun and a new experience. Also an adventure. The best part its near Baguio.

    1. Yeys! It really is just roughly an hour from Baguio! It’s the nearest getaway whenever I feel like traveling! <3

  13. Ferna says:

    I love the idea! must try! oh yeah why not challenge the expenses everyday too. And I love the flotsam jetsam! I also haven’t visited la union yet, this is one great guide for me. Thank you

    1. You should visit LU ASAP, ate Ferna! <3 (If you want, I would accompany you! Hihihi!) 🙂

  14. Charmaigne says:

    Thanks on this! I have plans to travel in La Union within the end of the year as to try surfing in the North. Good job on getting to succeed on the P1K challenge, it just proves how you can travel with less expense! 😀

    1. Yes, ate Charm! LU is really budget-friendly especially for budget-conscious travelers! <3 Hihihi!

  15. Wow! 1000 pesos challenge to travel somewhere? You’re kidding me? This is amazeballs!

    1. Yes! And there is still so much to see in La Union for 1000 Pesos! 😀

  16. marge says:

    Only 1,000 budget but you were able to cover a lot. I say that’s not bad at all. And I’m replicating your itinerary since it obviously works.

    1. Thanks, ate Marge! Hoping to travel with you soon! <3

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