Moving on from Maligcong, we headed to Banaue, via a jeepney from Bontoc.
The rice terraces of Banaue are among the most famous in the Philippines, and probably the world. Arriving in Banaue, we were struck by how undeveloped it felt, considering it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the whole Philippines. There were no big flash hotels, just a few guesthouses and budget hotels / restaurants for the few dozen (almost universally, European) travellers who had made the journey.
Coming from China, where anywhere of note is now grossly over-developed and commercialised, to the point of ruin, it was a most welcome change.
For us, Banaue was the gateway to the real wonder, Batad.
Until recently Batad had no electricity, and there is no road that accesses the village. The only way in is on foot. We took a tricycle to Batad junction, and then walked up and over the “Batad Saddle” to arrive in the village some two hours later. It was a lovely, serenely quiet walk.
We both gasped in awe at the sight that unfolded before us as we entered the village. The Rice Terraces of Batad were truly awe-inspiring. Vast, picturesque, and a couple of thousand years old, we now understood why locals refer to them as the 8th wonder of the world.
The above picture is pretty much the view we had from our hotel room, (Simon’s Guesthouse) for about £3 a night. Not bad, hey?
Unfortunately for us, the weather took a bad turn shortly after our arrival. Rain was both torrential and relentless, so we didn’t leave our guesthouse. Fortunately it had a cheap, well-stocked restaurant, with spell binding views. So we ate, drank hot chocolate and read our Kindles to our hearts content for the afternoon. An enjoyable evening was spent exchanging travel stories with some French backpackers, and then it was off to bed.
Next morning, the rain was still unrelenting. By mid-day we were getting restless. We went for a walk, and these are some of the scenes that greeted us. It even stopped raining at last!
Our last day in Batad involved a long walk through small villages, across rivers, rice terraces and over a mountain back to the main road, to get a tricycle back to Banaue, and then a bus onwards to Manila.
We had a fantastic week in North Luzon. Beautiful scenery, friendly people, cheap and easy travelling (everyone speaks English) and no tour buses whatsoever. Not to mention (at the risk of sounding old and pretentious), none of the “gap year crowd” you’re likely to find elsewhere in SE Asia. It was almost perfect, except for the weather.
It was without doubt, one of the best places we have been.
To anyone that enjoys hiking, fresh air, great scenery, friendly people and a super chilled pace of life – GO!