Weekend in San Juan, La Union

A few weeks ago, my siblings and I went to La Union for the weekend. We booked night-time bus tickets from Pasay City to San Juan (and back), arriving at our destination(s) around 3 in the morning. It wasn’t too bad—at least we didn’t have to drive.

Our home base was Charlie’s Hangar, a hostel right by the water. It was my first time staying at a hostel, but I had a good experience there. The bedrooms and bathrooms were regularly cleaned, so my fears of sketchy hostels quickly went away.

They had an open space facing the ocean where they set out bean bags throughout the day. There was also a raised platform from which I watched the sunset. It was the most beautiful view.

We didn’t do much that weekend—not that we had planned any activities. We went to LU to eat and chill, so by my standards, it was a great trip. Here are my LU faves:

Makai Bowls

We were going for a healthy breakfast vibe, and we lucked out that (no one else seemed to be awake yet, so) Makai Bowls had a lot of tables open. Aside from the yummy refreshing food, I loved the interior of the shop. It gave off a relaxing vibe (maybe do a little yoga?), and it wasn’t too noisy (yet), so I was able to read a bit while I was there.

Curious Creatures Taproom

I love myself a good beer. Curious Creatures Taproom was such an unassuming little spot that I would have missed it if it were not for the fact that a friend had recommended this to us. Originally, we went there for their cider, but I fell in love with their beer on tap.

Saboroso

Perhaps I’m biased because I love chicken inasal, but I thought Saboroso was amazing. We had chicken inasal and liempo for dinner, but I didn’t get to take a picture of the liempo. The dishes were simple yet flavorful, and I kind of wish I had eaten more when I was there because here I am back home pining for their inasal.

Overnight in Mabini, Batangas

A few weeks ago, my friends and I drove down to Mabini, Batangas for an overnight trip. It was only a two and a half hour drive from Metro Manila, so there was not a lot of planning needed for the trip.

Side note: I’d forgotten how easy it is to do an overnight trip to the beach in the Philippines. Oh, yes, there’s Ocean Beach in San Francisco, but the water is cold and the waves are strong. Maybe somewhere in SoCal? But that’s another ~6 hour drive away. On the other hand, Batangas just south of Manila, and Subic north. (La Union is a little farther up, but I hear it’s an easy trip there as well.) And weather permitting, the beach is warm throughout the year. What’s not so easy: finding a weekend when everyone is available.

My friends and I rented a small place by the beach. It had a fully functioning kitchen and a porch with a nice view, which made for a nice stay. I spent a lot of time on the porch because I love a nice ocean view. I was up early the next day, and I watched the sky change as the sun rose. As for the beach on premise, well, it was rocky. This didn’t bother us so much since we had planned to have a boat take us to a neighboring island in the morning.

(I’m pretty sure) we went to Maricaban Island. The shore was rocky, but this time the rocks looked interesting: they were charred—was there a volcano nearby? Or maybe I just haven’t seen enough nature in my life.

My friends and I found a nice spot at the beach, laid down our blankets, and …fell asleep. On the boat ride back, we stopped for a bit to take a swim in slightly deeper water (not the real deep water—just far enough from the rocks). It was a pleasant swim. The water was warm, the waves were not strong, and it was easy to float in the water. (There were also life jackets on the boat just in case.)

Long story short we didn’t do much. But the trip was so refreshing! It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m looking forward to more of these. It’s good to be back.

Curious Travels: The Grand Detour of 2019 | Coffee & Tea in Toronto

While in Toronto, I made it a point to visit as many coffee and tea (matcha) shops as I could. My sister provided me with a “hipster coffee fund,” so I had a bigger budget and didn’t need need to skimp out of the coffee. YAY.

Since there were simply too many coffee shops in Toronto, I couldn’t visit everything on my list. (My sister gave me a list of recommendations, and I searched for highly rated coffee shops online.) I didn’t realize until I got there that Toronto was so big. Oh well, I guess I just need to keep coming back.

Here are my favorites from the trip:

Arvo

Located in the Distillery District, Arvo Coffee has a nice space and a great brew. Coffee prices aren’t too expensive either. I enjoyed my cup so much that I bought beans to brew at home after.

Goldstruck Coffee

I have loved Goldstruck since I got introduced to it last year. This is my go-to coffee spot in Yorkville. Although the coffee here is on the pricey side, a bag of beans costs pretty much the same as anywhere else—any other specialty coffee shop, I mean. If it’s your first time here, I suggest trying out their regular brewed coffee, and if you decide you’re a fan, buy their beans. I love their beans from Peru and Colombia. The former is nice and light, and the latter tastes like chocolate.

Neo Coffee Bar

Located in St. Lawrence Market, Neo Coffee Bar not only serves coffee but also matcha—and it’s good matcha. (Don’t let the picture fool you; the barista that prepared the drink was still new and didn’t know how to make a pretty latte yet. While the drink wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, it was still very good.) They also serve pastries, some of them seasonal. The cake was so good that I wanted a second slice…

HotBlack Coffee

A cool spot on Queen Street West, HotBlack Coffee didn’t disappoint. Their coffee went down smoothly, and their pastries were delicious. What else do you need? (Oh, no wifi here. And it was a bit crowded when I was there.)

Haute Coffee

Haute Coffee is a cozy local spot in the Annex. When I was there, I noticed that the baristas seemed to know most of their customers, and the customers talked to each other even if they were at different tables. Coffee is good, and this was where I tried my first butter tart. Yum.

Little Pebbles

One of my favorite neighborhoods to visit for food was Kensington Market. Little Pebbles is a very unassuming coffee and matcha shop there. I tried their matcha latte, and it was really good. (Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as one would think to find a place with a good matcha latte.) I would come back.

Piedmont Coffee Bar

I think this was a new spot when I went to Piedmont Coffee Bar. Located in Church-Wellesley Village, this was a nice spot to work and/or unwind. I went here a couple times because it was close enough to Bloor-Yonge, and I could stay in and read my books.

Icha Tea

OK, so I bought bubble tea from Icha Tea, but this shop really specializes in tea. Even their bubble tea was made of freshly brewed tea—using real tea leaves and not those powdered or syrup alternatives—so I fell in love. Since this is high quality tea, even the take out bubble tea is priced at a premium. It’s worth a try though. I am a big fan. Try it if you’re walking along Spadina in Chinatown.