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Banaue, Bangaan & Batad

Written on: Saturday April 5th, 2008

A journal entry from: Southeast Asian Adventures!

In Manila, it took us 3 hours to find the bus terminal that would take us to Banaue in northern Luzon. It was a freezing cold 9 hour night bus, but as the sun rose as we approached Banaue, we had a fantastic view of the rice terraces and small villages in the mighty Cordillera Mountains.

We made the trip up to the small town of Banaue (pop. 2,300) to see the famous Ifugao rice terraces. The rice terraces were carved into the mountain side by the Ifugao people over 2,000 years ago, and are referred to as the "8th Wonder of the World." And it was clear to see why. The town of Banaue is very small, perched in the mountains where the air is cool and fresh, a nice change after the thick pollution of Manila. Many of the buildings are on stilts, built right into the mountain side overlooking the beautiful green rice terraces.

Our first day there we walked around the tiny town and saw a boxing match at the local highschool. It seemed that the whole town had come to watch. We also booked a tour of the nearby Bangaan and Batad rice terraces the next day. In the evening we settled down with some San Miguels and watched a country band perform, with some terrible karaoke performances mixed in.

We were on the road to Bangaan in our jeepney (an old army jeep with hilarious paintings on the sides), at 6am with our wonderful guide, Robert, and driver. It was a one hour drive to Bangaan along a rocky, mountainous road, with sheer drops down the side of the road. We passed through a few small villages until we reached Bangaan and marvelled at the emerald green terraces that seemed to reach up thousands of feet in the mountains.

After Bangaan, we got back into the jeepney and headed up towards Batad. After another half hour or so of bumping along the roads we reached Batad Saddlepoint. Batad can only be reached by foot, so from there we headed down the many stone stairs towards the village. It was hard work down the rocky trails (especially in flip-flops), and in about one hour we reached the rice terraces. It was amazing to see them up close. We walked through the terraces for a while and Robert fed us information about growing rice, the history of the terraces and the Ifugao people and their customs. It was fascinating. Walking through the green terraces and seeing the farmers work in the paddies was definitely a highlight.

We continued to climb down down down for another hour until we reached the beautiful Tappiyah waterfall for a much needed swim and rest stop. We swam in the refreshing icy waters alongside the kids from Batad village. We rested for about an hour, then started the difficult 2 hour hike back to the saddlepoint, back through the rice paddies and up many stone stairs and rocky paths. 

I was exhausted after the 4 hour difficult hike in the hot sun, and slept well that night. The next day Alan and I shopped around for souvenirs, as I think Banaue is the best place in the Philippines to find original and interesting handicrafts (that aren't made out of seashells). We took a tricycle (motorbike with a sidecar) up to the Banaue viewing point to oogle the rice terraces one last time, then hopped aboard the ridiculously cold Autobus for the trip back to Manila.