Philippines: The Banaue Rice Terraces

It’s really bizarre how some of the coldest experiences of my life have been in tropical countries and the bus journey to Banaue could be added to that list. Despite the fact we were heading up to the chilly North (some things never change), the bus driver had the a/c whacked up full blast for the whole 9 hour journey as if we were driving through the desert. If you’re on this bus, take plenty of warm clothing or do what none of us had the nerve to do and ask the driver to turn the a/c off.

The bus pulled into the centre of Banaue at around 7am and there was a tricycle driver waiting for me and another passenger to take us down the road to Randy’s Brookside Inn. It’s a simple, ‘no frills’ guesthouse for 250php a night but the host Randy is worth every penny, chatting about everything from history to language and making sure you get the best out of your time in Banaue and Batad. He seems to know everyone as well which is helpful as he can arrange cheaper guides and tell you tasty places to eat.

All of this would have been great had the weather not been awful. I’d expected it to be a bit cooler up here but not as grim as it was. It was cold, wet and misty. Myself and a few others I met in the hostel planned to go up to the Banaue Viewpoint this morning but the mist meant we’d have seen very little of the UNESCO terraces. As a result, we just had a chilled day wandering round the city and perching ourselves in a restaurant with a good view to drink beers all afternoon. I’ve had worse days.

DSC_0334The next day was, for me, a toss up between heading to the spectacular terraces in the village of Batad or staying in Banaue and hiking round there. I really wanted to go to Sagada the next day to see the hanging coffins and, whilst I’d heard great things about Batad, I didn’t want to cram the long hike there into one day as most people stay over. Having already hiked terraces in Vietnam, I opted to stay around Banaue and catch up on the photography I’d missed out on due to the dismal weather the day before.

Randy said he’d pray for better weather and he must have a direct hotline to the Big Guy as the next day was brighter, warmer and drier. After talking to Randy (who was basically acting as a father figure for everyone in the guesthouse), I decided to take the 4km hike up to the Banaue viewpoint. It’s a nice uphill walk with lots of other viewpoints along the way plus one or two cafes and lots of friendly residents who greet you with a cheery wave. The main viewpoint is shortly after the tourist police station so keep going until you reach there. It takes an hour or so depending on how long you stop at each viewpoint.

DSC_0344The views were spectacular, especially after the rain from the day before which sat on top of the terraces. It was quite a sight and my camera and I had a jolly good time. I stopped off at the 7th Heaven cafe on the way back down for a beer and a view and then spent a chilled out evening in Banaue ahead of getting the jeepney to Sagada the next day. The weather hadn’t been kind but everyone else I’d met in this small town had been – and that’s what counts really.

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