I have a 2 month contract for an event job coming up on the 1st week of August and what better way to spend my last few days of unemployment bliss than heading up North of the Philippines to enjoy the cool and relaxing weather of Banaue! It is my third time to see the Banaue Rice Terraces up close, one of the Philippines’ marvelous tourist sites. It will be the first time I’d be spending a night or two in Banaue though.
There has been several wonderful changes since the last time we were here. First, there are more buses plying the Manila – Banaue route. Florida Bus Company now has 2 daily trips. One is at 9:10 p.m. for PhP 400 (US $8) and the deluxe bus with own toilet leaving at 10:45 p.m for PhP 450 (US $9). We wanted to take the Florida bus since one can clearly see how well maintained their bus fleet are. However, other travelers may have the same thing in mind that by 9:30 p.m., all the seats for the 10:45 p.m. trip has been taken.
We have no choice but to take the Autobus leaving at 10:00 p.m. for PhP 400 (US $8). I was surprised to see that Autobus has upgraded their buses too! A healthy competition paves the way for better service, much to the advantage of traveling consumers.
We left the Manila terminal of Autobus at exactly 10:00 p.m. and as soon as the bus rolled off, I wanted to sleep so I have the energy to trek the terraces the next day. Over-all, it was a comfortable ride. The air conditioning not as strong as I remembered so my fingers didn’t freeze like popsicle and I was able to doze off easily after catching a few scenes of ‘Hancock’, a Will Smith movie playing on the bus dvd player. The bus arrived Banaue around 7:20 a.m. We were too energized from the 9 hour sleep that we were the only passengers that walked from the bus terminal to the town proper, which is not more than a kilometer away.
The second wonderful change that greeted us as soon as we arrive the town proper was a WiFi sign at Uyami Greenview Lodge. We didn’t think twice on where to stay for our first night in Banaue. A double room with clean shared bathroom cost us PhP 400 (US $8).
As usual, several Banaue locals gather around newly arrived guests to offer their tour services. We and three more travelers on the same bus and guest house, managed to negotiate PhP 1,500 (US $30) for a 4 hour drive and trek through the Banaue Rice Terraces viewpoints all the way through the winding terraces and through the town, with a jeep driver and tour guide. A good deal split among 5 persons! As soon as we finished our breakfast and a quick freshening up, Ming and I met with the other travelers; a Danish couple and a German guy.
We stopped at three viewpoints. The view gets more magnificent the higher the viewpoint. The 3.5 hour trek around the rice terraces started at the 4th and main viewpoint. The hike was fairly easy at the beginning. Cemented yet steep steps going down and up the rice terrace and stone wall edges welcome us for the first hour of our trek.
If you look closely, you can see the cemented steps leading up the rice terraces.
Midway, the trail gets difficult as we need to cross unstable and muddy terrace edges which is only around 10 inches wide at a height that could break a few bones if you fall. The trek is definitely not for the those with fear of heights.
The rice fields were so green and lush! It was a nice time to visit the Banaue Rice Terraces, though in the afternoon, it’s always raining.
Some of the rice on several terraces were ready for harvest. We saw local women harvesting and took the chance to see how a newly harvested rice looks like.
We were back at Banaue town by 2:00 p.m. and with some luck, we got back before the heavy rain. I didn’t realize how sun burnt I was until I was scrubbing my back when I took a quick cold shower a few minutes before dinner time. Literally, it was a pain in the neck (and shoulders!).
Another pleasant surprise later during the day was a chance meeting of travel writer, Ricky a.k.a. dutchpickle. We’ve checked his website for new information on Banaue and Samar before our trip and we never expected to meet him personally. We were chatting with him during breakfast and my impression of him was he looks like your usual seasoned traveler yet friendly and humble. He even shared landslide photos near Hapao since he heard we were planning to hike the area that same day. A great guy indeed! Only during dinner time when we shared a table with him and had the chance to chat longer that he showed his website. How amazed we were that he is dutchpickle.
On our second day in Banaue, we went back to the viewpoints by taking the jeep going to Bontoc for PhP 50 (US $1) per person. We were hoping to take better photos by getting there early, however, when we reached the 4th viewpoint, it started to get cloudy. A few minutes after that, it rained heavily which went on for almost the whole day. We were fortunate to catch an empty tricycle going down to the Banaue town proper so we reached our guest house clean and dry. What’s more fortunate was the driver charged us the local rate of PhP 20 (US $.40) for 2 people!
I’m glad I had the opportunity to revisit Banaue, stay a few nights, meet new friends, view and hike around the world-renowned rice terraces. I am pretty sure this trip will not be the last.