Banaue and Batad of the Ifugao province are well know for their amazingly gorgeous rice terraces. They were carved into the mountains over 2,000 years ago by ancestors of the indigenous people of the Philippines. When I read about the rice terraces, I knew I had to go see them.
It all started with a nine hour overnight bus ride from Manila to Banaue. Yes, nine hours! I was hesitant to do this mode of transportation to get to the Banaue Rice Terrace bc, let's be real, nine hours is way too long. However, I quickly learned that it wasn't as daunting as it sounds. Actually, it turned out to be quite nice. After a bit of research, the overnight bus is very popular and the most convenient mode of transportation for visitors to get to the rice terraces for a number of reasons:
1. It's cheap, the overnight bus ride costs 470 pesos/$9.40usd.
2. It's fast, overnight = no traffic. Daytime traffic in Philippines is BAD.
3. It brings you right to the rice terraces, no need to get a taxi or van from an airport which is far and will end up costing you more money and more time.
4. It's safe, well, I was asleep the whole time but I'm alive right? Lol! There are horror stories online about bus crashes blah blah but that can happen anywhere even on a main freeway in the daytime. Although, I did see the road during the day when I left Banaue and OMG the road is insanely dangerous! Just don't look down. Hehe
This is the link to book a ride via Ohyami. Follow directions, pay via PayPal, and you'll get the correspondence for confirmation after payment. Book as soon as you decide what date you'll go bc the buses sell out fast!
The ride is pretty comfortable. TIPS: Wear warm clothes or bring a blanket bc the AC is on blast and it gets really cold. Don't drink too much liquids that day so you don't have to pee bc there are no bathrooms on the buses. However, the bus does stop about two or three times for passengers to stretch, use the bathroom, and grab something to eat/drink.
DAY 1: 22 MILES
7am: I woke up to fog and a chilly brisk gust of wind. We were in Banaue. So cold! The bus drops you off in Banaue but you still have to take a short 10-minute jeepney ride to the town. There are tons of jeepneys and tricycles at the bus stop to bring you. The town is where all the accommodations and restaurants are. You don't have to book ahead of time bc there are tons of homestays and Inn's available to stay at. This area is pretty rural so many accommodations don't have actual websites. It's better to just find something when you get there bc it's way cheaper! Everything is said to be 250 pesos/$5usd. This will also give you the flexibility to decide what you want to do when you get there and which area you want to stay the night in (Banaue, Batad, or Cambulo).
I ended up signing up for a two day/one night trek in the back country. 2000 pesos/$40usd included: transportations, tour guide, and overnight accommodation. Little did I know I was about to trek over 20 miles that day (yeah, 20 miles right after a nine hour bus ride, yikes!).
It was cold, foggy, rainy, and muddy. 20 miles in this weather? What was I thinking? I was in over my head. Fuck it. We started at the top of Banaue deep in the back country.
Every hour or so we saw a local hiking by. But they weren't hiking with the intent to leisurely hike. That was the only mode of transportation: their own two feet. No cars, No roads. If you to go somewhere, you hike your ass through the mountains to get there.
We came across two men holding bamboo sticks with a tarp hanging in between. Minutes later I found out there was an old lady in the tarp! There are no hospitals where we were. If someone got sick or needed help, they had to be hiked out in bamboo sticks.
10 miles in, and this:
And it just kept getting better and better!
22 miles and we finally reached Cambulo where we were going to stay overnight. Ateh Conception cooked us a delicious pot of chicken adobo as we all shared stories on our travels. 8pm and I was completely exhausted. Straight up DEAD. Goodnight.
DAY 2: BATAD BATAD BATAD!
8am and we were ready for another big day of trekking. The distance would be a quarter of yesterday's trek though (thank god!). After three short miles, we made it to Batad's Rice Terraces. Absolutely stunning.
I noticed all of the locals mouths were red. I asked why everyone's mouth looked like it was bleeding. They were chewing betel nut; used in a manner similar to the western use of tobacco or caffeine. The locals called it "organic tobacco". Of course, the adventure seeker in me had to try it. The nut is sprinkled with mineral lime, paired with a piece of tobacco, and then wrapped in the leaf of a betel pepper plant. Since we were still hiking, I didn't include the tobacco. I was advised to put it in my mouth, chew it, and spit out the juice. It tasted like licorice. I asked what I was supposed to feel, he said, "It's supposed to make you feel good, similar to a cup of caffeinated coffee." Cool to try, but didn't really have any effect on me.
We made it to Hillside Inn where we had lunch. I have read great reviews about Hillside Inn and really wanted to stay the night.
From here, our group continued on three more hours of trekking to a jeepney that took them back to Banaue to end the day. I, on the other hand, decided to stay the night at Hillside Inn. For 250 pesos/$5usd, I got my own private room with an incredible view. I settled into my one bedroom suite and took it all in.
I mean, look at this place. I've never seen anything like it. It gave me so many feels. I was in the middle of the mountains in the Philippines. SO CRAZY!!! Needless to say, I had a very peaceful night.
DAY 3: THE DEPARTURE
I woke up to this stunning view from my bedroom window. I sat and endlessly stared out my window as I watched the early morning fog roll in and out.
Shortly after breakfast, I had to do a quick 30 minute hike from Hillside Inn up to the Batad Saddle. The public jeepney comes to the saddle only once per day, promptly at 9am. I had to make sure not to miss it. I made it. 150 pesos/$3usd one-hour jeepney ride back to Banaue. From here, most people take the same overnight bus back to Manila or take a van to Sagada. I, on the other hand, decided to go to Kalinga to see legendary Filipino tribal tattoo artist Whang Od.
Here is a breakdown of how much I spent:
$9 (Overnight bus)
$40 (two-day tour including accommodation)
$3 (day 1 breakfast)
$6 (day 1 dinner)
$5 (day 2 breakfast)
$4 (day 2 lunch)
$5 (day 2 dinner & beer)
$5 (one night at Hillside Inn)
$3 (jeepney from Batad saddle to Banaue)
If you find yourself visiting the beautiful country of the Philippines, be sure to make sure you see the rice terraces in the Ifugao mountain province. Absolutely incredible. Although the back country was gorgeous, no need to cash out $40usd and 25 miles of trekking to see the beauty. I would recommend to take the bus to Banaue and spend one day exploring Banaue and staying one night there. Then the next day, take the jeepney from Banaue to the Batad Saddle where you will then hike 20/30 minutes down to the village where all the accommodations are. Pick one (they're all $5/night), drop your things off, then hike up to the Batad view point (the best view of the rice terraces). From here, you can cruise around Batad and even see Tappiya Falls (one hour from Batad view point). Enjoy!