Banaue, green side of Philippines

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I did not plan to go to Banaue, since I have already seen rice terraces in Bali and though ‘another rice terraces? No thank you!’ But I am so glad I did come to Banaue! Just 8-9 hours bus ride from Manila up to the north and you are in the middle of beautiful green rice terraces. My school friend came to visit me in Philippines, so we went together to explore the green part of this country.

Just a little history and facts: Ifugao (the name of the region) rice terraces cover an area of 400 sq. km. Archeological and historical studies indicate that it took the Ifugao’s more then 2000 years to build them. The stone wall terraces are the highest, best build, and most extensive in the world.

As soon as we arrived to Banaue, we were offered to take a tour to Batad Rice Terraces, which are just an hour drive from Banaue. The tour guide then told us to bring sneakers and that we were going there with jeepny. Cool, we thought! What he had forgotten to mention was that it would be almost a 20km hike up and down the rice terraces and many stairs under the burning sun! Uff, it had been a tough adventure. After whole day on the road and sleepless bus ride, my legs were shaking, I was drowning in my own sweat, and I had to put my shirt on my head instead of a cap to cover up from strong sun. But I must tell you, it was worth it! So beautiful, so green, so huge! And we had a chance to ride on the top of the jeepny! How cool is that! I had always wanted to do that! Done – check!

Usually people stay only 1 night here, arriving early in the morning and leaving at the evening the next day. I stayed 3 nights and I absolutely loved my stay here. I really like exploring places. Instead of having it to be in a hurry, taking my time and enjoying the surroundings. I like mountains, green color and fresh air. I like to go for a walk, I like viewpoints where I can sit, breath in and relax. I do like to be alone from time to time. Here in Banaue I felt so good, I felt comfortable, I felt relaxed. It is definitely one of my favorite spots in Philippines!

Good to know
– Many hotels do not have changing plugs in the room. Some hotels have charging stations at their restaurant. Some, like Greenview Lodge, does not even have that. So if you want to charge your device, you have to leave it with the hotel stuff.
– It usually starts raining around 2-3pm, so try plan your activities before noon. When I was there, it rained only 1 time. I guess I was lucky.
– There are no ATMs in Banaue. There is one money exchange place at the Banaue Public Market, but the rates are very bad. So bring enough cash with you.
– There are many local eateries for 50-60 Ps for a vegetarian meal. You can find those at the public market or alone the main street.
– There are lots of bakeries around with buns starting from 2 pesos per piece. This is 4 cents (€), extremely cheap.
– There is a market to the left from the main square. Fruits, veggies, sticky rice, and more…Prices are lower than in other parts of Philippines.
– Do not be surprised to see locals chewing something red in their mouth and then spitting it out, creating red spots everywhere. The mixture is called Nga-nga and it is a betel nut with lime wrapped in a leaf of pepper. Nga-Nga costs 10 pesos, and could be bought everywhere. I even saw younger kids chewing it.

How to get
There are 2 bus companies operating between Manila and Banaue. (1) Ohayami Bus company leaves from Sampaloc District at 9pm and 10pm. The journey takes around 8-9 hours. Ticket costs 470 pesos (9.4€). (2) GV Florida Bus Company has better busses with better service and toilet on the bus. It leaves at 8:45pm and 10pm from Cubao district. Ticket costs 530 pesos (10.6€). There is a MRT Metro service to GMA-Kamuning, from where you can walk 700m to Florida bus station. We took Florida bus at 10pm, had 2 breaks on the way and arrived around 6:30am in Banaue.

Accommodation
I stayed at People’s Lodge and Restaurant, it is near Banaue Public Market. Very basic, clean, beautiful view from the restaurant. Each floor has a common balcony with amazing view of the valley and rice terraces. Price for double room with hot shower is 500 Ps (10€) per room. When my friend left, I moved to another room without bathroom for 300Ps (6€). No electricity plugs in the rooms. Charging plug station at the restaurant, where I stayed most of the time charging my gadgets.

Tour to Batad Rice Terraces
After haggling, we agreed on 500Ps per person for a trip to Batad with a guide. Tour stared at 8:30am, so we went for it right after the bus ride. We were back in Banaue around 4pm. Take your swimming suit, sneakers and lots of water. It was very hot on those rice fields and water cost 4 times more than in regular shops. And be prepared to walk a lot – it’s around 20km walk up and down high stairs and rice terraces.

Hike to Banaue Rice Terraces viewpoint
There are a lot of viewpoints along the road going up the hill in Banaue. If you got a spear day and want to walk around, there is a nice walking path you can take. It is actually just a regular road going up the hill from the Banaue village passing by the houses where local people live. The walk is very nice, you get to see how local people live, their daily routine, small kids playing on the street. To star pt the walk, go to the main square (the one where Banaue public market is), and take long stairs to the right. Then turn right, keep walking and enjoy different viewpoints alone the way. The main one is about 3.2km away from the village. It took me around 1,5 hours to get up there with multiple stops for pictures.

Go green, go to Banaue!

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