Most will think I’m really stupid for coming here…
I was already in Manila earlier in my Philippines trip, so if I was coming to this region, north of Manila, I should have done it already. But I didn’t. I had so many things on my list, I couldn’t decide what to do. The Philippines has so, so SO, much to offer. My friend Justyna and I have been hanging out for two week and she kept raving about North Luzon. Many people I have ran into raved about it. It looked and it sounded wonderful…Just like everything else in the country did. But, I went ahead and spontaneously bought my ticket one night. Whatever. You need a plane ticket to get anywhere in this country, so I’m just going to go back to Manila and catch a bus up north!
So that is exactly what I did… A ten hour night bus through the mountains got me all the way up to Batad. I got off the bus and was immediately greeted by the cool fresh air. Wow. Yep. This is definitely different than what I have been experiencing in the Philippines. At this moment, I was already glad I came here. This is a totally different side of the Philippines and I’m seeing it right away. The climate, the people, the atmosphere. Island life is great… El Nido was incredible, I loved my time at Honda Bay, Siquijor and Bohol were cool, but this is a totally different vibe, and I’m diggin’ it!.
So after checking in and paying an environmental fee at the tourist desk, I went and found a guesthouse. It’s really early in the morning, like 7am early. So I didn’t want to waste the day lounging around and I went and booked a tour to Batad. I asked around if the roads were good enough to drive my own motorbike there, and the consensus was NO.
We all clambered in the jeepney, about eight of us in total, and wow. Yeah, the roads weren’t that great at all. I was glad I didn’t drive myself. I made some new friends on the ride there and we began our journey. It was a beautiful ride and then we ended up at the top of a hill. We stocked up on water and make our way down a plethora of stairs. Already I’m dreading our route back… We are going down hill and down steps, which means the way back is going to be a bitch and half. Gah! Hate walking up hill, especially up steps! *pity party for me*
Anyway, since I’m technically the only lone traveler in the group, I had the pleasure of making friends with our tour guide, Dayton. He was an absolute sweetheart and was freely chatting with me about the area and the people. We talked about how the road they were building was needed for the people, but it’s also in turn making the area more developed, not good. The homes have started to change too, while the traditional huts are more aesthetically appealing and authentic, the local people are phasing them out for metal structures that are a bit more weather friendly. The roads are made by big blasts to the mountains. Unfortunately this also causes random rock falls that fall of village homes, passing vehicles, and maybe even people.
Our random conversation was coming to an end because now we have finally reached the rice terraces. We stopped at the place we were going to have lunch at and we preordered it so it was done when we came back and were hungry.
We had a fantastic view of the terraces from the restaurant and then started to make our trek into them. At this time, the rice was just harvested so it was unfortunately mostly bare and muddy terraces. Some were disappointed, but I still thought it was beautiful. It’s the process, this is just one of the sides of the rice harvesting. Take it for what it is! I saw some green terraces later the next day anyway.
Trekking through the terraces our guide informed us about the harvesting, the traditions, and the purposes for everything. Everything is organic, no pesticides are used. The irrigation is almost 100% natural with the exception of a couple of pipes, and the everything is farmed by hand. They even collect the rice eating snails by hand! (unfortunately they are placed in a bag to die a slow death…)
Trekking through the terraces was beautiful, amazing, gratifying, and a bit scary because you don’t want to fall off the narrow rock “pathway” and fall into the mud. We made our way through them and down more steps until we made it to Tappiya Falls. You are immediately hit with a gush of fresh air coming from the pounding water. The water felt amazing as we were hiking through the blazing sun all day. We stayed here and basked in the water for a while admiring its power and beauty.
This is it. Now it’s the end of our trip…but we had to hike all the way back. This is the worst part. Getting back to the restaurant through the waterfall trail and then the rice terraces was OK. We ate our lunch. But after that, it was all up hill and hours of trekking back. My legs were shot! But I wasn’t the slowest in the group. There were two Korean chicks who couldn’t seem to keep up the entire time. One of the guides was literally with the entire time because the rest of the group was faster and walking with the first guide.
The way home was really fun. My new friends and I rode on top of the jeepeny and got some great views as well as the cool mountain air in the face. The jeepney rode on the dilapidated roads and at times, it was a bit unnerving to see the cliff drop right below your feet with the vehicle only a mere few inches away from the drop.
So wow, what a day! I got to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the gorgeous rice terrace of the Cordillera region of North Luzon. Check! I was digging the feel of Banaue a lot, but I also knew I was going to love Sagada, which has more activities. So while I wanted to spend more time here, I came, I saw, I conquered what there was to do here. I decided to leave the next morning.
I wondered around Banaue for a bit and it’s a charming town. The next day, I’m on the way to Sagada! My bus driver stopped at the Banaue view point to look at the rice terraces there. Most of them were green which was nice to see! Gorgeous views. If you don’t want to pay for a taxi or walk (which would be a bitch) just take the minivan to Sagada and ask him to stop along the way. He will do it!
Want to stay longer and explore more? Check out my friend Mel and her adventurous three-day trekking in the rice terraces in the Philippines!
Guesthouse- I stayed at the Halfway Lodge for 300 pesos a night. It was a simple room, no fan because the weather is chill. Totally unnecessary. In fact, I slept with warm clothes on! The views from here are really nice too! I had a view from the window in my room. There’s a restaurant here too which was OK.
Tour to Batad- I went the easy way… I simply went to the tourist office and booked a trip. As I mentioned, I arrived and then booked the tour. I didn’t have time to walk around and find something else. I didn’t want to waste the day and the tour was leaving at 8:30am. So I paid 600 pesos. It included the ride out there and back, and the two guides through the rice terraces. Lunch at the restaurant was extra. The restaurant wasn’t anything special. Dayton, the tour guide that was with the “fast” part of the group was awesome and very informative. The tour was from 8:30am to about 5pm. A full day!
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.