Northern Luzon in the Philippines is home to the best rice terraces I’ve seen in the past 10 months. Couple this with quaint villages to hike through and sleep in, it makes the region really special. Here’s a photo blog of our journey to the terraces, and a little practical information as the internet is lacking in good advice for the region.
Getting to Banaue, the main gateway for trekking to Batad, entails a bus journey from Manila. Personally, this was the shittest bus ride I’ve been on, and I know Bianca and Bridget agree with me. It’s long and uncomfortable, the bus is either too hot or too cold and we had the back row of seats which are the worst. I managed to sleep a little but that small mercy will see me putting a chiropractor’s children through university now.
Advice: We stayed at Randy’s Guesthouse (details in the Lonely Planet). Simple, basic accommodation BUT the winning point is they organise guides for trekking. You need a guide, it’s not optional, but they are really affordable. Randy’s is also centrally located on a really loud road, but everywhere is loud here. The roads are steep and Jeepney drivers are yet to discover that there are more gears available after first.
Banaue is a great little town, complete with many restaurants, my favourite being Sanafe Restaurant. There are also many bakeries which produce excellent food. I think I consumed a dozen Chelsea buns the one day. Although the girls will disagree with me, I was comfort-eating after standing on what I suspect was a human turd. Bianca and Bridget laughed for a solid 30 minutes whilst I was helplessly trying to control my gag reflex and uttering references to Jesus for saviour.
Advice: don’t stand on human turd.
What trek to choose? You can do a 2 night/3 day one or the shorter 1 night/2 day variation. We opted for the longer option as you see more rice terraces and pass through more small villages.
- The hike isn’t that hard. Day one is your longest day and will see you walking 18 kilometres but don’t panic – it really isn’t that bad. Day 2 was about 8 kms and day 3 even less. If you’re moderately fit, you’ll be fine.
- Cost wise, the guide will cost not more than 1500 Peso a day (it may be a little less, but I can’t remember), accommodation is 250 Peso a night (seems to be fixed at this rate everywhere) and food is reasonable. Most importantly, beer is cold and cheap in the evenings.
- Insect repellant and suncream are your friends here.
- Banaue has one ATM which doesn’t work.
- Minivans to Sagada are available at the tourist office near Randy’s and run when full.
- We had hot showers on one evening but we had a cold bucket shower the other, so manage expectations.
- We spent our first night in a village called Cambulo and the second in Batad itself. Both are decent.
- You walk a lot, I got a few blisters as did the others, so bring some band aids.