Jurmala: A Sunset Experience in Latvia

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.”

As a nature-enthusiast, I want to think that nature sends cherished messages in inimitable ways. At times, I feel like we humans, just have to be more open with our senses and see, and feel what nature is providing us. Surprisingly, life becomes more meaningful when we spend more time with nature, like what sunset can teach us.

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Do you love waiting for and watching the sunset by the beach? I do. I especially like it when the sun touches the horizon, and for a fleeting moment, it disappears giving a more beautiful glow. Makes you realize how beautiful these moments are. They are beyond priceless, and all we need to do is to be patient and pay attention to its beauty.

A sunset experience goes beyond the sense of sight. That modest feeling of being in the presence of something grand and ostentatious is very inspiring. It makes you realize how wonderful it is to live and to love. It also reminds me of how small my space is. It such a lovely reminder that challenges in life isn’t really big after all.

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Moreover, a sunset is my constant reminder that there is something good in goodbyes. It motivates me to move on. Obviously, once it has drifted, the day is gone and it’s not coming back. Just like some things in life like love, opportunities, and even bad experiences. It tells us that we aren’t going to have another chance to live the day over again. And so, why waste your time and energy.

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My most memorable sunset experience during my Europe trip happened in the Baltic. Jūrmala is a seaside city in Latvia that is approximately 25 kilometers west of Riga, Latvia’s capital. The resort city is sandwiched by the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River. Once a favorite holiday and summer destination from among local and foreign tourists, Jurmala has a long stretch of off-white-sand beaches.

Today, Jūrmala still attracts a number of vacationers. The sunset by the Riga Gulf and the wooden houses in the Art Nouveau style are some splendid reasons to visit this coastal paradise. The shallow waters are pretty much suitable for children. The beach is ideal for long walks, biking, and even camping as it has a very wide beachfront. Also, the beach I have tried at the Melluzi area are equipped with playgrounds and some benches. Aside from Melluzi, other notables beach regions are Majori, Bulduri, Dubulti, Dzintari, and Pumpuri. I have learned that sports activities like beach football, volleyball, windsurfing, and kitesurfing are popular in these areas.

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It was a short stay in Jurmala but a memorable one. I was here in April so the weather by the seaside was still a bit biting and chilly. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my afternoon stroll as I wait for the sunset. I was totally satisfied when the sun starts to drift from the horizon and the sky turns into a canvas painted colorfully. It was such a beautiful sunset at this side of Eastern Europe.

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During my overnight visit to Jurmala, I stayed at Daina Jurmala Beach Hotel & SPA. It is located in a quiet part of Melluzi, Jurmala. It is just a stone’s throw away from the shores of the Gulf of Riga. Also, the train station is a good 5-minute walk and is a 10-minute drive to the center of the city. All rooms have a cable TV, a work desk and a private bathroom with free toiletries. WiFi is available. The room I had has a balcony. Other amenities they provide include a sauna, massage rooms, and an array of sports and leisure activities. But the best part of my stay at Daina is their super sumptuous selection of food during breakfast!

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Jack Kornfield says that in the end, three things would matter the most: “How well we have lived, How well we have loved, and How well we have learned to let go”.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

South Palms Resort Panglao (Bohol, PH)

Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.

Sumptuous and Paradisiacal: Two words befitting to describe my visit at this prime Bohol resort in the island of Panglao called South Palms.

4South Palms Beach Resort is a 9.3 hectare tropical paradise within a 45-hectare spread of a beachfront property. I have to say it is one of the ultimate beach destinations in Bohol as it boasts off a beach with the longest coastline in Panglao. Unlike other beaches teeming with people, Bolod Beach of South Palms guarantees a relaxing leisure walk along its white sand-dotted shoreline, and enjoyable swimming in its azure to turquoise waters. Definitely PARADISIACAL!

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The resort rooms display local artistry, with utmost relaxation and a stunning view of the beach as footpath provides easy access to the lovely coast. Each of these tropically adorned rooms have AC system, a flat-screen TV, a personal safety cabinet, coffee-and-tea making amenities, and a private bathroom with toiletries and hot/cold shower facilities.

They also have a variety of luxurious recreational activities and facilities that range from ball games, different water activities (snorkeling, SCUBA diving), and even day tours to other Bohol spots. Truly an ideal place for family and friends!

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And, if you intend to come in group for a business meeting or a company outing, the beach resort is also a perfect venue as they also have conference rooms and function halls. While I was strolling along their beach area, I was thinking that it is a great area for team building.

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Another thing I like about South Palms is that they have their own restaurant. A seafood restaurant at that! I am a seafood lover so I may have a little bias here. Its resto is called Oceanica Seafood Restaurant that serves both local and international cuisines. It is an open restaurant meaning you have a wonderful view of the sea (and the pool) while you are eating. It is in close proximity to the resort’s pool bars (which offers a selection of refreshing drinks). Here are some of the really palatine-satiating food I have tried at Oceanica:

Manok Inato – a local dish of grilled chicken cooked in coconut milk with aromatic spices. First time to try this and my palate agrees that it is tasty! Then there is this “Gambas-al-ahilo”, a prawn delicacy that is both sweet and spicy. I am a seafood lover so yes, I love this one. Both dishes were a great match to my “inun-un” or crab meat rice. I also had a healthy and refreshing salad called “Watermelon Summer” salad made of lettuce, mango, and watermelon. I had cucumber lemonade for drinks, an all-time favorite drink of mine. So, it is safe to say that I really had a gastronomic experience at Oceanica. As I have said earlier, everything is SUMPTUOUS!

DSC_00743Other features of the resort include the following: a souvenir shop, an ATM, a spa, a gym, laundry service, and outdoor pools. Wi-Fi access is almost everywhere (even along the coastline, I love it!) There is a free public parking that doesn’t require reservation. It is good to know that they have a 24-hour front desk, a 24-hour room service, provides airport transfer and shuttle services (that is if you want to go to Alona Beach), and they even have currency exchange. I am also pleased to know that they have facilities for guests with disability.

 

South Palms Beach Resort Panglao is indeed a destination to keep in mind when in Bohol. I can even imagine it as a lovely setting for a romantic date or beach wedding

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Please refer to the images below for their rates and some promos:

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Vessel Hostel (San Juan, La Union)

Beyond beds, books and beers, hostel stay is life. — no_juan_is_an_island

When I was in college, La Union has been our go-to destination if we wanted a quick weekend getaway. With its proximity to Baguio, Elyu is one outright choice. Dotted with fine, grey-black sand, and a stunning sunset during the late afternoon, the coastal town of San Juan was then but a budding surf spot.

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The annual La Union Surf Break, the discovery and unveiling of more Elyu attractions (like Tanagdan Falls, Bahay na Bato, grape-picking in Bauang), and even a hit indie movie all contributed to the increasing number of people visiting the province. And in all of these, San Juan became an important hub for tourists and travelers alike. Year after year, this once quiet, the fishing town became more popular to surfers and beach campers alike. Also, a number of establishments (from resorts to restaurants and hostels) sprouted like mushroom through the years.

DSC_7309One awesome addition to this array of accommodations is a hostel built from shipping containers called VESSEL HOSTEL. So during a not so busy weekday, I got the chance to try this seemingly Instagram-worthy abode in Elyu.

Located in Urbiztondo, San Juan (which is where most of the surfing action, beach bumming, partying, eating and sleeping quarters are), this hostel created by Buji Libarnes and Nikki de la Paz, is pretty easy to find. Vessel is a 4-storey hostel all in all made up of 22 beds in dorm-type rooms. The ground level is where the front desk is. The rooms are found at the 2nd and 3rd levels. The beds are all double-deckers, each of which goes with a mini-desk, sockets for your gadgets, and a locker. Moreover, each room has an air-conditioning system and even electric fans. Each guest also is provided with a towel during his/her stay. Some rooms have a toilet and bath inside them, while those that do not have, may use the hostel’s very clean and complete bathroom.

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The 3rd level is also where a mini sala is found. Nikki, the co-owner, and I had a great time sharing our travel experiences and some random stuff from surfing to hiking. It was such an inspiring conversation wherein she also shared how Vessel started, and how she and her husband have envisioned this hostel venture of theirs. (Here is a quick trivia: Both Buji and Nikki are architects. No wonder, almost every corner of Vessel Hostel is aesthetically appealing! And both of them are surfers. Now that isn’t surprising at all).

The 4th and topmost level is where one finds the roof deck that offers a lovely sea view. If one doesn’t feel like going to the seaside to watch the sundown, this part of the hostel seems a perfect spot. Also, a small kitchen and dining area is found at this level. A stay at Vessel Hostel comes with a complimentary continental breakfast. During my stay, bread (and a choice of butter or strawberry jam to go with it), boiled eggs, banana, and coffee were served. (Do note that you just get what you can eat AND do not forget to clean/ wash whatever you have used).

Whenever I am in San Juan, I spend most of my time outdoors. Either I go and practice my dwindling surfing skills, or hop from one resto to another, and eventually wait for the sunset by the shoreline (as the sundown at this side of the Philippines is really spectacular). It spent it differently during my overnight stay in San Juan. I just went out to check the surf scene quickly that gloomy afternoon, then went to eat dinner at a nearby food nook called “Tagpuan” then went back to the hostel and spent some time in bed, reading, and yes, writing. (The bed is really hard to resist as it is really comfortable you’d doze off at an instant”.

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Other things you might want to know about Vessel Hostel:

  • They do have wifi. A good one I must say.
  • There are a lot of restaurants that are within walking distance from Vessel.
  • They also have shower rooms outside the hostel.
  • They have endearing staff who are always ready to help you out with your needs.
  • The bathroom has a bidet, the shower room with liquid soap/shampoo.
  • The dorm room I was staying had a mini terrace (not sure with the other rooms).
  • They sell some stuff like shirt and sando (which I’d probably buy when I come back).
  • The rate of an overnight stay is at Php980.00
  • You will be asked to give a Php500.00 deposit upon checking-in.

Vessel Hostel

Urbiztondo, Manila N Rd, San Juan, La Union. (from Manila, it is at the right side of the road).

Bookings maybe done through vesselhostel@gmail.com

You can check out their Facebook Page here.

So if you find yourself wanting to de-stress or soul-search up north, without compromising the need to stay at some place truly relaxing, make your way to La Union and aboard the Vessel Hostel. You need not bring much because when you are in La Union, #ElYuNeedIsLove… and who knows, you might end up saying #IFinallyFoundSanJuan. Cheesy? Yes! Fun? Yes, Yes!!!

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Travel Pills & Elixirs

Dr. Jim Nicolai, a former Medical Director of an Integrative Wellness Program, once said – “Where health is the destination, wellness is the journey…

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It isn’t a secret to my friends and colleagues that I have this undeniable knack for travelling and sense of adventure. I like to be marooned by the sometimes unforgiving sun or get soaked by the unpredictable rain whether I am at the beach or on top of the mountain. Weird as it may seem to some people, but getting lost nonchalantly in a foreign city enlivens my spirit. But these sense of enthusiasm and interest dampen when I get sick. That is why, I try my best to make sure that I am always at my best element… that I am always healthy – physically, emotionally, and even mentally!

A previous post of mine tackled about the basic things that I pack inside my (travel bag). One of the essentials is your personal medicine kit. So in this write up, I am sharing to you my simple health habits, the products I use and believe in, and some secrets (my travel pills and elixirs).

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Getting stressed and experiencing fatigue are common during travel. And surprisingly, there is no single cure for stress. If our coping mechanism isn’t able to resolve these stressors, they eventually take a toll on us and could lead to symptoms like headache, body pain, cough and colds, sleepless nights, and many more.

I am pretty sure these warning signs have at one point hindered you from going on a trip or a long-time planned beach getaway and the like. And it sucks to think that all the excitement would totally die down just because you are sick. I hate having headache, and I despise having cough and colds. So what do I do? As a pharmacist, I actually have some personal rituals and favorite products (yes, you read that right I have my personal biases). Hahaha! So read along.

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To make sure that I won’t get sick, I hydrate myself with enough fluid (not necessarily water) like juice, tea, and energy drinks (hello, Gatorade ® which is still my super tried and tested hydrating fluid). I eat alooooot of fruits. Shout out to my all-time favorites – watermelon, strawberries, bananas, and oranges (well, whichever is in season). If my trip involves some mountain climbing activity, I allot some time to do running and brisk walking.

Pack my med kit. So what’s inside it? I consider the following my travel pills and elixirs:

  • Vitamins (Enervon Activ ® now, Enervon ® syrup when I was young. Because it’s our mom’s choice.)
  • Hand Sanitizer and isopropyl alcohol (not ethyl)
  • Paracetamol – this is for my sudden headache which could really turn my mood 360 degrees, hahaha)
  • Tuseran capsule (I go for this one to manage my cough and colds).
  • Some anti-histamine (because at times I experience cold allergies).
  • Antidiarrheals (I usually go for loperamide).
  • Ginger candies like Gingerbon ® to suppress dizziness and vomiting.
  • Band-Aid J, cotton, wet wipes
  • Povidone Iodine (my antiseptic of choice)
  • Insect repellant lotions/ sprays (Off ® with chamomile is my choice).
  • Strepsils ® – favorite lozenge!

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During my recent Europe trip, my preparedness was tested when on several occasions I some sort of got sick. Traveling around the Baltic area (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania) was memorable because I spent several days (7 am to 9 pm), walking around the key cities. I had terrible headaches at night and even got cough and colds. These were most likely due to the warm weather during the day and the nasty and biting cold temperature at night. I am really glad I have my anti-fever/ mild painkillers with me. Good thing too, I packed several Tuseran ® 2-in-1 capsules for my cough and colds. Since I am compliant with whatever medicines I take, in no time, I was back at my normal state – healthy and kicking. (PS: Being compliant with your medication’s dose and schedule is very essential to getting treated. That’s me being a pharmacist).

 

From cold Iceland to rainy Poland to humid Manila – my body was probably shocked with the outright adjustments it had to undergo. So I had another episode of cough and colds (and sore throat). This time, because of this sudden change in temperature, I had developed allergies (urticaria). Could you just imagine the burden, especially at night? I was worried because I have scheduled speaking engagement in Zamboanga in 4 days’ time.

Coincidentally, I was talking to physician friend of mine one time when she suggested that I try the new Tuseran Night ®. Keen about the medication I intend to take, I went on to search what it contains. Since it both contains diphenhydramine and phenylpropanolamine, I was convinced it will do wonders for my cough, cold, and allergies. (Shout out to Doc Nessa for the suggestion!) I still have a few pieces of my Tuseran capsules and cetirizine (anti-allergy meds) left from my EU trip but I opted to try out the new Tuseran Night ® (which by the way is in syrup form). And boy I am glad I did go for it because it’s like an all-in-one form of relief for my cough, my colds, my allergies PLUS I get to sleep better. Thanks to diphenyhydramine’s anti-allergy effect.  (Ooooooooooops, sorry guise if my pharma background is making your nose bleed upon reading these). Hahaha!

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Aside from preparing those medications, during any of my travels, I also drink a lot of tea products. Lemon – Ginger Tea and Black Mint Tea are my favorite. If I could get hold of honey, I would often mix it with my drink. Also, I like having probiotic drinks that usually helps me with my GI problems.

I have asked my equally adventurous friends to share some of their health tips and practices.

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The information I have shared here are my personal choices. Of course it is still best to go visit your general practitioner, or a doctor who can specialize the medicine you need during your travel/s. But, it is also good to note that as individuals who like travelling, make sure you always have an extra space for your own medication kit!

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Thank you to Jan of The Kapampangan Traveller, Hance of The Restless Pinoy Traveler, Jeff of Donde si Jepepips, Jonel of Eljontology, Jit (aka @aren_emdi), claro (aka @claro.i) and Aljen (aka @dirtikid).

So remember, stay healthy and safe travels. Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderust. Take it easy everyJUAN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ticao Island (Masbate, PH)

Masbate, an island province in the Bicol Region of the Philippines, is a land of many surprises. Before I was impressed with a group of islands in this province called Burias Islands, I was first smitten by the charm of another island of Masbate called Ticao.

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One of the 3 major islands of the province, Ticao is made up of 4 municipalities. One very notable town is Monreal. Found at the western tip of Ticao, Monreal is home to seemingly untouched beaches, and other natural attractions. The islets that look like emerald gems floating in the azure waters would melt any beach bummer’s heart.

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Swim inside the Bojo Cave, snorkel at the Halea Nature Park, bum around San Miguel Island, do a beach photo shoot at Borobongkaso Islet, or do a quick visit at Catandayagan Falls.

So feast your eyes on these photographs as if they are inviting you to come and experience the treasures that of Ticao Island in mesmerizing Masbate!

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.

Anda: Bohol’s Kept Secret (No More)

Bohol, the 10th largest island of the Philippines, has always been a fascination to both local and foreign travelers. Together with the islands of Palawan and Cebu, this island province has proven to be a major tourism hub. Attraction drawers like the Chocolate Hills, Panglao Island’s exquisite beaches, the Loboc River Cruise, and the very charming primate tarsier have kept the visitors number increasing in this tropical paradise.

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And just like that… all the while we have seen the best of Bohol. It was during my 4th time in this alluring island when I got the chance to visit the north eastern town of Anda.  Being a secluded town, it isn’t that surprising that it has some of Bohol well-kept shorelines. And just like most Philippine beaches, it boasts off pristine, crystal clear waters, fine white sand BUT with a lesser crowd.  Sounds like the perfect spot, at least for me who isn’t into teeming beaches.

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My one-day stay in Anda, hopping from one beach to another, proved that indeed there is more to Bohol. So if you want to go beyond the usual Bohol itinerary, be willing to take on the extra mile by travelling up-north and enjoy this quaint town beaches like the beautiful public beach QuinaleBeach to the more secluded Bitoon Beach, and Bugnaw Beach. 

Also, the town have other attractions worthy of a visit like Can-umantad Waterfalls, Cabugnow Cave Pool, and Limanok Island. Twas quite unfortunate that I wasn’t able to visit these because of a heavy downpour during the rest of my stay. Well, there goes a good reason to go back to Anda.
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How to Get to Anda, Bohol

Anda is approximately 100 kilometers from Tagbilaran and it takes two to three hours to reach by bus or private vehicle. Several buses and V-hire vans available at Dao District also have several scheduled trips to Anda.

Anda Bohol Tourism Contacts

Municipality of Anda
Anda Tourism Office
Poblacion Anda, Bohol
Mobile: 0908-793-6643
Email: lgu@andabohol.gov.ph / toiurism@andabohol.gov.ph
Website: http://www.andabohol.gov.ph/

Lamanoc Island Tours
Operating Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Tour cost: Php300 pesos (inclusive of entrance, guided tour and boat trip)
Contact Numbers: (038) 510 8094 or 0917 3245917

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Special thanks to a very generous instagram friend of mine, @rey_of_light for allowing me to use some of his Anda photos. Follow him on his Instagram and you’ll be delighted to discover more of Bohol’s wonders.

Don’t be wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

The Story of a SURFvivor

Buzzy Trent (a pioneer of big wave surfing) once said, “Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear…

I wrote this blog in my Multiply account about 8 years ago, then published it in my TravBuddy account 5 years back, and now I am finally reposting (with some updates) it here in my WordPress. This entry is about my 1st surfing experience, and how I survived it.  DSC_0359

During my childhood years, I used to have this uncanny fear of water (any bodies of water for that matter). But despite the alarm, I also had these series of dreams where I’d go SCUBA diving, snorkeling and surfing. I didn’t even know how to swim, and is really afraid of the thought of drowning but there goes that yearning to be adventurous on and under water. Weird and ironic isn’t it?

Fast-forward: Some peculiar years later, I found myself marveling at the sport’s illusory unfussiness as I paddle out to the sea and grasping at the sides of a surfboard, the sea rolling underneath my tummy like a hyperacidic stomach.

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I had my first taste of riding a surf board way back 2009. La Union, a province in close proximity to my place, is home to one of the Philippines’ surf spot. So one weekend, a few of my friends and I planned on a weekend getaway before the start of another grueling semester (we study and work in a university). The more pressing questions that time were – “What to do? and Where to go?” And the thought of trying to do some surfing was one of the immediate things that came to my mind. (Yes it was yet another out-of-the blue idea of Lester)… Since we can’t afford to travel far distance just to surf because of several reasons (ie time, physical fatigue it may bring about and finances), we opted for the nearest and possibly the cheapest – SAN JUAN, LA UNION! (Claimed to be the surfing capital of the north).

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During the one hour ride to SJ, I wondered how I’d fair with my 1st surfing experience. There’s no arguing that the water activity seems fun. BUT, I was quite anxious because I personally have issues on standing (moreso balancing) atop a moving object. (You now when you are born with “talipes equinovarus” or clubfoot, things like this can come as a challenge). I also had doubts about my learning curve and the ability of my lanky body to carry me against the current.

We arrived at the Se-bay Surf Central in San Juan, La Union at about 8:30 in the morning. I wasn’t sure still if I wanted to try it out or just watch my companions fall off from their boards. (Cetrin, the only lady in our group was certain she won’t be surfing. She nonchalantly said she’ll just watch us fall off from our boards. (You know friends can be really this supportive. Haha). A few more minutes of contemplating, we finally worked up the nerve to sign up for a one-hour surf lesson (Php400/hour for a surf board and an instructor). After all, this is what prompted us to get out of Baguio that weekend.

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Before going into the water, our surf instructors taught us the basics like the right way to lie on the board, how to and when to paddle out, stand up, and the like. Well, theoretically speaking, I was able to learn how to surf in ten minutes or less, but knowing is half the battle. And the battle involved far greater difficulties than just learning to conquer the waves. We were asked if we were ready and we all said “yes” dishonestly. The thought of drowning of crashing into the waves and drowning started to cloud my thought. But recalling what my instructor told me, that my leash would save me in case that happens, my spirit was momentarily uplifted.

The surf instructors then led us to the sea (The West Philippine Sea and its seemingly glorious waves) and told us to get on the board so we could start fighting the current and find a nice spot to catch a wave. I did so, trying to keep my eyes focused on the horizon ahead so I wouldn’t get giddy. What I saw was enough to make me want to start paddling toward the opposite direction: wave after wave of water that looked big enough to carry me off to the sea. To experienced (and professional) surfers, I’m sure the waves that day were absolutely nothing (as in nothing!!!), but I’ve never had to swim against waves like that in my life. True, I was relatively safe because my surfboard kept me afloat (and my leg is tied with a leash), but that didn’t keep me from being gradually more frightened with every wave that hit me. I was having difficulty catching my breath, and I was so anxious I’d fall off my board and get yanked out by the undertow. (By now you realize, my readers, how cowardice have been eating me up then).

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We were getting too far from the shore for my relief, so I asked my instructor if it was really that necessary to keep swimming out (I do not know how to swim FYI – okay I already mentioned that earlier). My heart sank when he said yes, but he speedily added that the nearer we are to the shore, the more unsafe it is because the waves come about too closely to each other. After what seemed like infinity, we finally stopped battling the waves and stayed at spot where “surfable” waves came less frequently.

I soon discovered that my instincts got in the way of learning to surf. And by “instincts” I mean I was just purely too afraid to let go of my surfboard. The instructor would give the surfboard a thrust when a wave came by, then tells me when to stand up. I was able to stand up, but only for a fleeting second. It was then that he must have realized that I was one of his worst (if not the worst) student ever. It certainly took a lot of effort going back to the same spot after the waves carried me closer to the shore. Meaning — I had to go paddle against the current again. I started to feel weary, especially my arms – I was too tired to paddle back properly, and I was too scared to do anything but hold on for my dear life.

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I did make a number of attempts to plunk up and surf, but I’d either be daydreaming and hear the instructor shout “TAYO!” (STAND) too late, or I’d be arguing with myself as to whether or not I should stand up. After half an hour I finally got sick of being the only one who haven’t quite learned how to surf. (My friends Monte and Sir Mak during those times were already enjoying themselves on top of their surfboards). The next time a wave comes, I told myself, I will stop doubting myself, stop asking questions, and just stand the fuck up like I’m supposed to.

And I did it! I eventually did it! I finally got up and rode a wave! Sure, I must have looked like a total idiot, especially since my total ride was interposed by a very strident “WHOAAAAAAAAAAAA!” But as soon as I found the nerve to get up, it occurred to me that surfing itself can actually be pretty easy. The wave just picks you up and takes you for a ride, and you don’t have to do anything but stand there and try not to fall. The whole thing must have lasted maybe five seconds or so, and it was right when I thought, “Oh shit, I’m falling… I’m falling…!” that I lost my balance and landed rather awkwardly into the water.

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I went back to try out again, just to make sure that I could already balance and stay on top of the board and prove Cetrin (who has been bugging me as to why I can’t stand) that my first successful balance and ride weren’t luck at all! And YES! I did it again. That is when I realized that it was just a matter of determination and concentration. “I was able to do so because I believed in myself and I wanted to make it happen”.

I was in the middle of experiencing the adrenaline rush of surfing when my instructor told me it was time. I wanted to extend my time but we had to leave now… But anyhow, I definitely would want to come back to La Union and do surfing again and be less wimpy about riding a wave.

Note: As of this writing, I have been going back to San Juan for several times now and my surfing has improved. Also, I am proud to say that I have surfed in some of the most notable surfing spots in the country like Baler in Aurora, Bagasbas in Camarines Norte, Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Cloud 9 in the world-renowned Siargao Island, and the most recent one is in Puraran, Catanduanes.

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With these experiences, I am beyond proud to say that I am a SURFvivor! Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

 

Windswept Beauty of Muriwai Beach

Another thing I like to do is sit back and take in nature. To look at the birds, listen to their singing, go hiking, camping and jogging and running, walking along the beach, playing games and sometimes being alone with the great outdoors. It’s very special to me. — Larry Wilcox

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Muriwai Beach, a natural wonder on the west coast of the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand, is a windswept volcanic black sand coastal wonder. The impressive waves rolling into the shore, the serrated landscape across the Maori Bay, and a fascinating colony of gannets are some of the highlights of a visit to this beach.

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This beach is just 40-minutes to an hour away from the bustling ‘City of Sails’. The ruggedly beautiful landscape and seascape are just beyond mesmerizing. A friend of mine suggested that I should visit this place for two main reasons. One, to wait for the magical sunset at this side of New Zealand; and two, be amazed at the colony of breeding gannets.

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According to what I have read, prior to my visit, between the months of October and February each year, the gannets hatch and nurse their young on the cliff tops of Otakamiro Point. This can be accessed after a short walk from the regional park’s parking area. There is a lookouts where one can view the nesting gannets and the Maori Bay. This also serves as a good vantage point during sundown.

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Various activities abound the area. It includes surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and hang gliding, fishing, bush walking, or just strolling along the beach. Muriwai is definitely one New Zealand beach that will make you want to be one with nature.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”Juan”.

 

 

 

 

 

Phuket Beaches (Thailand)

The beach is almost always a great place to invigorate our mind and senses. The scent of the saline air, the sound of crashing waves and the amusing feel it imparts as they touch one’s toes – seem to give an outright relaxing feeling. While I am a self-confessed mountain lover, the beach will always have a soft spot in my heart. The beach is my favorite place for watching the sunset… it’s a place I enjoy whenever I want to go surf or skim or just bask in the sun… it’s where I find happiness and bliss.

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My recent trip to Phuket in Thailand was one for the books. The place is dotted with many beautiful beaches to choose from without going on an island-hopping. The sandy beaches and clear waters of Phuket offers a comforting beach holiday. Who would’ve thought that this beautiful place as once ravaged by an unforgiving tsunami more than ten years ago?

Here are 4 of the beaches I got to visit in Phuket:

Patong Beach –perhaps the most famous beach in Phuket. With its wide variety of activities and nightlife, Patong is an ideal place to party and play. I spent one night walking around Soi Bangla (Bangla Road). Believe me when I say it is packed with tourists! The place sure has a vivacious nightlife which includes hundreds of restaurants, bars of various sort, and night clubs. The beach, however, in my opinion, isn’t that outstanding as it is pretty crowded, and isn’t as pristine as I have imagined it to be.

Karon Beach, the third longest beach on Phuket Island. If there is one beach I loved for its more serene feel, it has to be Karon. Located on the west coast, between Patong to the north and the south, Karon Beach is not as crowded as Patong. I had an excellent morning at Karon Beach road for a stroll. Unlike Patong, Karon’s coastline is way better. Karon also offers an exciting range of restaurants, hotels and a meek nightlife to enjoy. Again, Karon Beach is a right place whether you are looking for somewhere peaceful with the little bit of exhilaration.

A few minutes away from Karon Beach is the more tamed waters of Kata Bay compared to Karon and Patong whose waves are bigger (at least during the time I was there). Kata Beach also boasts off a stretch of off-white sand and clear waters that are ideal for skim and surfing beginners. This beach maybe smaller than both Patong and Karon, but its palm-dotted shore and non-boisterous nightlife makes it perfect for family and friends who likes a quiet stay at the beach.

Finally, there is Rawai Beach. According to a person I talked to, it is considered to be Phuket’s first tourist beach. This casuarina-fringed beach would welcome visitors with the many docked long-tail boats as it serves as a launching point for day boat trips out to Phuket’s surrounding islands. Furthermore, the area is also used as a berth point for fishermen who live in the area. The area is also where one can find Phuket’s most photographed location – Promthep Cape. Located at the southernmost part of Phuket, atop the hill stands a park and a viewing deck can be found. It is said to be the best vantage point to marvel at the sunset. (Too bad, I was there in a broad day light).

The sand, the sea, and the sun… elements that inevitably makes the beach a well-loved place… it surely is a place of healing where the salt cleanses the weary soul and the sun hugs us in its warmth. So don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Hi fellow travelers! If you happen to be in Phuket for some really fun-filled island hopping activities, and you want to be assisted with your tour, check out TAKE ME TOUR and their various itineraries. Check on the link! And mind you, they also have other organized tours all over Thailand!

Bintan Resorts (Indonesia)

The beach is always a happy place for me – sunny or cloudy. The feel of basking along white sand dotted shores, the smell (and taste) of saline air and sea water can turn everything amusing.

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Bintan Island or Negeri Segantang Lada is an island in the Riau archipelago of Indonesia, known for its beaches and resorts. It is a frequented vacation spot for foreigners coming to Indonesia (well, besides the more famous Bali). Being in close proximity with Singapore, travelers en route the Lion City would usually consider visiting Bintan.

Two beach resorts I got to visit are LaGoi Bay, a seaside destination at the northern part of Bintan facing the Singapore Strait, and Nirwana Gardens found on the north-west coast of the island. Both of which are speckled with white sand beaches. the Nirwana Gardens in the north-west coast of the island of Bintan.

 

LaGoi Bay is considered as one of the key tropical beach resort encompassing residential and commercial properties that sprawl over 1,300 hectares on this Indonesian island.
The beach itself is wide and clean. It reminds me of Cagbalete and Tondol Beach in the Philippines. The ripple effect on the sand during low-tide is an added charm. There are colorful umbrellas one may opt to rent along the shoreline, especially when the sun becomes pretty warm. The place looks really ideal for family picnic and gatherings. I also admire how clean the provided rest rooms are.

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The vicinity of LaGoi Bay also houses a hotel and several commercial establishments (shopping center). There is even a lake that is surrounded by a golf course that contributes to the tranquil vibe of the place.

Nirwana Gardens, on the other hand, offers its visitors a handful of beach activities, a mini zoo (where I got to see some big iguanas), natural forests,  and various recreational facilities. I personally like this small area along the beach where there are pine – like trees and large rocks found (and lots of squirrels playing). I was told that real Sumatran elephants roam the beach area too (unfortunately, they weren’t there then).

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Several restaurants that offer Japanese and Thai cuisines, a coffee shop that serves Indonesian and  International  popular dishes, are also found within the garden resort. Furthermore, they also have a facilities that may be used for office meetings, conventions and event life events like weddings and birthdays.


How to Get There: Once in Singapore, take the ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) and reach Bintan’s Bandar BentanTelani Terminal in 45 minutes to an hour. Get a local taxi that will take you to either LaGoi Bay or Nirwana Garden Resorts. The closest international airports are that of Singapore’s Changi Airport and the New Bintan Resorts International. The Hang Nadim Airport in Batam and the Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport on Bintan Island may also serve domestic travelers.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.