Doing a day trip to La Union is indeed possible. How? First and foremost: leave Manila at 3am or even earlier. Then, take the NLEX, SCTEX and the TPLEX. Five hours later, you’ll find yourself in Bauang, La Union (yes, this already includes an hour-long stopover at Petron NLEX for a full tank and a very early breakfast).
What’s in Bauang? Bauang is the fruit basket of the north and offers a very attractive kind of ecotourism: fruit picking, or more precisely, grape picking. Upon arrival at the welcome arch of Bauang, a sign pointing to the grape farms would suddenly become prominent. Look for the ones going to the Gapuz Grape Farm.
Owned by the Gapuz-Ancheta-Solino siblings, the grape farms are open to guests who want to experience what has previously been something that one would normally do in Napa Valley, way over in California: picking juicy red grapes. There is no entrance fee to the farms. When we went there, we were personally welcomed by the owner, Grace, who had someone show us to the parking lot and after that, the grape farm itself.
The grape vines were almost 6 feet high and the grapes hanging down were in a variety of colors: green, red, purple. We were advised to pick only those who are already all-red in one bunch. Those would be the ripe ones, while those with green grapes were sure to be sour and should be given more time to ripen. Clippers and baskets were handed to us for our convenience. A kilo of grapes was worth P250.
We had a really great time looking for all-red grapes but it was tough. We were there too early in the season and most of the bunches still had green ones on them. Still, Grace gave us free grapes after and even gave my mom a grape cutting so she could try planting her own grapes.
After that, we continued north and looked out for the Ma-Cho Taoist Temple in the town of San Fernando. The first Taoist temple I’ve been was in Cebu City and I was eager to have a look at the one in La Union.
A very visible sign going up the Ma-Cho Temple is available on the right side of the highway. The temple itself is located on top of a hill and overlooks the San Fernando Bay.
We got pretty hungry after that so we went to have lunch. We ate at Robia & Arby, famous for their liempo. We had the “combo meal” which was half-lechon manok and half-liempo. I must say, the liempo was really delicious! It was really flavorful and tender and everything you’d want in a liempo.
Robis & Arby is located along the highway across the Coca-Cola plant and a BPI atm. 😉
Last in the itinerary was the beach of Brgy. Urbiztondo in San Juan. San Juan is a very famous surfing spot in the Philippines and I was able to surf there last year when I celebrated my birthday. But that weekend, the sea was quite flat, unfortunate for surfers but perfect for those of us who were just looking forward to chilling on the beach. We were with little kids, too, and we thought they’d enjoy it better if there weren’t surfboards to look out for.
Our road trip to La Union was not very well-planned but we got really lucky because The Little Surfmaid Resort had rooms available that weekend. Sie, the caretaker, was nice enough to let us stay on a double-sharing room for the day for only P2000 (originally P3050 per night) even if we were 5 adults and 2 kids. We were only there for a total of 6.5 hours but the price was worth it. I was able to catch some zzz’s after the long drive, the kids were able to watch a movie on the cable TV and most of all, we were able to shower with hot water.
After sunset, it was time for us to head back. But first we had dinner at Midtown Food Plaza which seemed to be very popular to both locals and tourists.
After a very filling meal, we headed back to Manila for another 5-hour long drive.
April 4, 2015
***All photos were taken using iPhone 5