Sunday, April 15, 2018

TRAVEL | Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel: Nice and hip place to stay in San Juan, La Union, BUT...

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All sorts of touches along one of the hallways of Flotsam & Jetsam.

Surfing or not, La Union has been steadily figuring out as a go-to destination for quick vacations, particularly the town of San Juan. Several establishments have of course mushroomed in the wake of this boom. Now where to stay in San Juan?

We've tried Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel, which, by all accounts is no longer just a humble hostel because it now has a dozen accommodation options. Business must be good.

Now here's a rundown of our experience.

Booking and check-in
The hostel has an online booking facility and it's also listed in several booking sites. No problem experienced there. Checking in was just as quick and uneventful.

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The front desk.

Design and ambiance
Flotsam & Jetsam is fronted by a small 4-storey building. It's painted in a combination of blue and cream, with white, pink, and other colored accents thrown in. Behind it is a one-level rectangular stretch of rooms, a couple of kubo (native-style houses made of wood, bamboo, and thatched roofing), and a small garden in the middle.

The hostel's design does exude good vibes. The hallways are filled with color and all sorts of decor, you got vines crawling up the entire height of the building, plants everywhere, and plenty of cute little touches all throughout the property.

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The hostel's facade. Look at those vines!

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Cute and tasteful play of colors here.

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Color everywhere! And how cute that they have cabinets and racks for your footwear and wet clothes.

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At the 4th floor is this open-air space that could probably play host to small events.

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Zooming in on the beach from 4th floor.

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Shared spaces for the budget traveler.

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They got native-style accommodations, too.

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A sampling of the common shower and restrooms for guests staying in true-blue hostel style.

Our room
We got a Garden View Queen room with balcony. It's a small yet charming room painted in that same combination of cream and blue, complemented perfectly by white and yellow green curtains. The bed has a nice headboard with small shelves on both sides for your stuff. But I had to ditch the throw pillows because they were kind of dank, something a little sun exposure could probably remedy.

There's no closet and in place of that they have all sorts of wall fixtures where you can hang your clothes. Well, they call it an "open closet." Even the sink is outside the bathroom; it's right behind the main door. But I like that instead of providing toiletries in sachets, they have liquid hand soap and lotion in huge dispensers, so less waste.

The room is air-conditioned but if that ain't enough, there's a ceiling fan to keep you cold. There's free WiFi, too. What the room doesn't have is a TV, which is just fine with me anyway since I don't really watch TV.

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Well what do you think?

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The "open closet."

The bathroom was clean and has fairly enough space. Toilet, shower, and drain were all functional. However, the musty shower curtain was a minor letdown.

The balcony is a nice spot, though. There are two chairs with built-in side table, perfect when you just want to have a "moment" while staring out into the beach in the distance.

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The sink. Notice the liquid soap and lotion dispensers.

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Sorry for ruining this photo. I realized I don't have a photo of the balcony alone, so let's just use this one with me in it. That's the two-in-one chair and side table, by the way.

Flotsam & Jetsam's restaurant is a happening place in Surf Town, especially at night. It has a separate entrance to maintain the exclusivity of the hostel area to guests only.

While the hostel has this clean and slightly polished look, the restaurant is more laid-back and rough, which suits its beachside setting just fine. It still sports a lot of color, though, especially for an establishment built primarily of wood. You got colorful dreamcatchers, colorful lamps, and colorful accents everywhere. It's pretty much a nice spot.

There are several seating options available: regular rectangular tables, the bar, the kubo, or under the stars in any one of those additional tables they set up at night.

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The pathway to the restaurant and beach.

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The restaurant.

Our stay already came with breakfast, which was the same on all 3 days that we were there. It's a buffet of bread and all kinds of spreads, cornflakes, boiled egg, cucumber, tomatoes, tropical fruits, suman (a native delicacy of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves), and coffee.

Although I was fine with it on day 1, the breakfast spread quickly got tired. I was left wanting for something warm and savory but sadly there wasn't anything to order. No fried eggs or hotdogs or whatever, nothing. They had what they call makai bowls--healthy and quite pricey bowls of fruit, grains, and what-have-you but then again I was looking for something savory. Coffee wasn't good either that I had to bring in some instant 3-in-1s.

We had dinner here twice, where it's pay as you order at the counter. On our first night nearly everything we ordered wasn't available, and it didn't help that service wasn't really the most efficient. We're talking 45 minutes to an hour here and all the ice in my Coke have melted. So word of warning: don't come here when you're really hungry. Come before you're actually hungry, or better yet if you just want to hang out for some drinks.

Food was okay, though, overall.

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Lots of colorful touches.

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Beautiful lanterns all lit up at night.

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The kubo, perfect for snoozing right after your meal. Or while waiting for your meal.

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The daily breakfast spread.

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Definitely amused with how they've set up these soap bars at the hand washing area.

Overall service
The hostel staff pretty much keeps the whole place nice and clean but apparently it's not their practice to clean your room everyday. I guess you have to ask them to, although we didn't bother. But they really could do something about the musty throw pillows and shower curtain.

Front desk staff were generally friendly and helpful with inquiries. It's also nice that the hostel offers free drinking water. Just refill your water bottles at the front desk area. If you don't have any, they have a couple for sale.

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What does a dreamcatcher do with all the dreams it catches?

In hindsight
In summary, Flotsam & Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel is a nice and hip place to stay in San Juan, La Union. Nearly everything about is good except for the restaurant, which, if I heard correctly is managed separately from the hostel. Nevertheless, I hope they do something about the way they're running it, including maybe an option to order some savory dishes for breakfast. I mean, you can still stay here and just forget about the resto but wouldn't it be much better if they'd fix that?


Take a bus going to San Juan, La Union (Partas has several trips daily). This is the easiest and most straightforward. Just tell the bus conductor to drop you off at Flotsam & Jetsam. In case he doesn't know the place, tell him to just drop you off at Urbiztondo, Surf Town, or any spot from where you can get a tricycle going to Flotsam & Jetsam. Travel time is about 5 hours but could take as long as 7, depending on traffic conditions.

Another option is to take a bus bound for Vigan or Laoag. Again, tell the conductor that you're getting off at Flotsam & Jetsam in San Juan, La Union. Same drill.

One more alternative, still by bus, is to head to San Fernando, La Union, which comes before San Juan. From there, hire a tricycle (for around Php 100) to take you to Flotsam & Jetsam. You can also take a jeepney.

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