Monday, April 9, 2012

Holy Week Vacation in La Union--Summary

A/N I might write about individual experiences if I get out of lazy mode. And more pics to follow. But for now, sneak peek:

April 5
1. Supposedly 7hr road-trip turned 12hr because of the holy week mad rush to the provinces. But it was a comfortable bus ride courtesy of Globe Love Bus. Yep, I got my transpo to and from La Union for free, with games and prizes and candies to boot. Thanks Globe! And I like your slogan huh: Go lang ng go. It suits me. At one point in the expressway, we got free goodies from Oishi. :9

2. Arrived at around 10pm at San Fernando Plaza. Spent the night at the Php300  peson (fan) room of Plaza Hotel. The room was okay--nice, even, but the common toilet was almost a nightmare. Almost because I can tolerate almost anything, so I'm not sure if that's saying something. There was no flowing water (thank God there was some stored in a tumbler), trash here and there, and it stank, but since the toilet was separated from the room, I slept soundly and comfortably. 
Night View - My Room - Day View

April 6
3. Checked out of Plaza Hotel in the hopes that I'd be able to get a room in San Juan beach.

4. Walked all the way to Ma-Cho temple despite warnings from folks that it was too far. Hey, I even paid to run 10k before, why wouldn't I be able to walk a measly kilometer while lugging a hefty backpack? My rebellious walk too a little less than half an hour (yep, it was near). The temple is situated in a hill overlooking San Fernando bay. Very picturesque and breezy.

5. Rode a jeep to the beach (which was along the highway), and got off at Sebay (sea-bay). I walked to the beach and started asking for available rooms. Unfortunately, everywhere I asked was full, and everyone I talked to said it'd be impossible to get one. Okay. :( I walked and walked until I chanced upon a halo-halo stall where I bought mango shake. The folks there were nice, and I asked them if they rent out rooms. They said the rooms were already occupied, but if I have I tent, I could pitch it in front of their house for free. I regretfully said I didn't have a tent, and I might just go back to Plaza Hotel and book a room there for the remaining nights. They asked if I wanted to learn surfing, and I said yes, but since I wasn't able to rent a room, I don't have a place to change in. They told me I could change in their bathroom and recommended an instructor for me, which was Kuya Mark (Gil).  I found out later that he was a champion surfer and cousin of Daisy, another top notch surfer in the area. After finishing my mango shake, we started our one hour lesson in surfing.

6. Learning how to surf is hard mainly because you have to learn how to let go of your fears. The instruction was simple enough: lay down, don't paddle like crazy, stand up in the board the way your teacher does it, stay in the middle, etc, etc. Interestingly enough, the balancing part came over like some long-buried instinct, but it only came out when I had convinced myself (a little) that a fall from the board doesn't really hurt; and that there's no way I'd drown in knee-high water. It took me over an hour to shakily do some semblance of surfing. Haha. But I guess I learned. I am very grateful to my teacher for patiently teaching me to spring up from the board-- again and again and again and again.

7. Went back to Plaza Hotel to book for a 2 night stay in the Php 300 room. Yep, my cheapskate-ness is infinitely greater than my sensibilities. I was told that there's no water in the CR (how very well I know that) and if I want I can book for the Php400 room, which was also a fan room but with a private CR. I agreed, since the lady wasn't really keen on letting me stay in the Php300 room, since there is no guarantee that the water would be back anytime soon. God bless these people who look out for other people. Anyway, I soon found out that my Php100 was very, very well spent, since my new room was definitely better than my old one. It was larger, and even had lots of hangers in the closet. That night, I learned how much a clean CR can contribute to one's mental well being. The only thing I missed from my previous room was the view, since this new one is located in the 2nd floor overlooking a parking lot.

8. Went back to the Plaza, and since there were lots of daylight left (it was around 3 or 4), I decided to go to La Union Botanical Garden. I asked around for directions on how to get there and found out that the last of the infrequent jeeps to the place had already left. I was disappointed, but on a hindsight, I should have been glad I wasn't able to go during that time (more on that later). I decided to just take pictures of the activities going on in the Plaza. The Good Friday activities were in full swing then and the place was overflowing with devotees.

April 7
9. Woke up to delayed onset of muscular soreness (or doms) brought about by the surfing lessons. Debated with myself whether to go to Pugo or not; to go to botanical garden or not; or to go to Vigan or not; or to stay in bed all day and nursed my aching muscles-- definitely NOT. I dragged myself off for a bath, and then proceeded to have breakfast in one of the many establishments near the area. I then went to the jeepney station and boarded the jeepney waiting for passengers. After 10 minutes or so, we set off. I noticed there wasn't any jeepney going to the opposite direction and briefly worried how I'd go back. But in the true au fashion, I brushed the worry aside and told myself to walk home if it all comes to that.

10. The ride to the botanical garden was about 20 mins long, going uphill. There wasn't a lot of people when I arrived. The place was very tranquil, and very much like an organized forests. Aside from the gardens (or subsections), there was a butterfly garden, a mini-zoo and an eco-trail. The monkey section in the mini-zoo was roped off, probably because the monkeys looked violent. They were moving to and fro while making very loud noises. Easily my favorite was the group of owls. I also liked the friendly monkey that was in a separate enclosure. The bramihny kite (falcon-like birds) were very dignified-looking and regal. Aside from the animals, I had my fill of beautiful sights courtesy of the plants and flowers in their collection.

11. When I decided to go home, there was no jeepney to take me back to the plaza. I asked how far away is the garden from the city, and found out that it was more or less 10k. Well, I reasoned I could easily finish that distance in an hour and a half while running, so I guessed it would take me 3 hours to do it in a leisurely pace. To further prepped myself for the walk, I reminded myself over and over again that I've walked on uphill trails for hours before, and I didn't mind. This one would be mostly downhill, so it shouldn't be difficult. And I walked. I passed by the 3.5 k marker in half an hour. Perhaps it was at my 5th kilometer when I encountered a trike who offered to take me to the Plaza for Php20. I abandoned my crazy undertaking and rode it, saving myself an hour, I guess. Looking back, it was lucky I didn't go to the botanical when it was almost sunset. Imagine walking in the dark, with the forest at either side and nary another person in view.
Spotted a few kms away from the Botanical Garden. 

12. I arrived at the plaza at around one, and had lunch in the quaint cafe nearby. Then I went back to my room to rest and decide if I should go to Vigan or not. The wanderlust won over the fatigue. When I stepped out into the warm sun-drenched street, I felt the fatigue ebbing away. I must be solar powered.

13. It was around 3 when I rode a bus to Vigan. I kept praying that there'd be some daylight left when I arrive there. The sun set at around 630pm and by that time, the bus I was in was still serenely rolling on its way. But still, thank God for that spectacular view of the sunset by the sea. And that rainbow among the clouds. Those were really pleasant surprises. It's nice when a good view just jumps out you and all you can do is fumble with the camera.

14. I arrived at Vigan at 7pm, and boy, was the place teeming with people. The disappointment hit me sharply, since I was envisioning a quiet, quaint town wrapped up in the embrace of the night. The modern establishments that dotted the area looked gaudy and out of place to me, despite their obvious efforts to blend in. I have to remind myself, over and over again, that it is holy week, and as such, the volume of people should be hardly surprising. And that Vigan is not a place trapped in a period, but rather a place which happens to have really old buildings and had managed to preserve those buildings well. Still, to let go of the illusion of being able to blend into the past and immersed oneself in its echoes was a little bit heartbreaking. I consoled myself with Vigan longganisa and a tshirt.
My P&S fails miserably at night shots and excels admirably at macros. Yay. 

15. I went back to SF at around 8pm, aboard a Partas bus. I walked from the heritage site all the way to the bus station, and I almost ran when I noticed I was walking along a cemetery. It must be the moon. It was so round and bright that it magnified the spookiness level of things.

April 8
16. This time, I was determined to rest. The bus was scheduled to leave at 1pm, so I had hours to laze away. It was a little sad to leave the place that had been my home for the past 4 days. I had a nice stay, and another place to visit again in the future.

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