From Manila to Banaue, we took a direct night bus with Ohayami Trans for 470PHP (a bit over USD $10) per person. To get to Ohayami Trans in Manila, you can either take the Manila subway system (one-way fare should cost between 20-30PHP, under USD $1 – metro station: Carriedo LRT Line 1) and then walk 10-15mins or take a taxi (a taxi from Malate to the bus terminal costs roughly 60 PHP when there is no traffic). The night ride to Banaue was okay overall; George Michael and Whitney Houston soundtracks accompanied us…all night long. Arrival in Banaue was around 6am. We were ready to visit the Batad rice terraces.
It was a clear and sunny morning. We were greeted by tricycle drivers offering to take us to the rice terraces. We negotiated on a fare of 800PHP (USD $20 – to and back) and headed towards the rice terraces at dawn. The sights are breathtaking. One thing to note is that a tricycle cannot make it all the way to the entrance of the terraces with passengers but can take passengers on the way down – so we got dropped off at the junction (where we rented walking sticks from a lovely little old lady for 10PHP each) and were picked up by a jeepney for 25PHP each who brought us at the entrance of the terraces.
At the entrance of the terraces, you have two or three little shops and toilets available. Since we were traveling with our bags, we dropped them off with one of the shop owners who was nice enough to keep it for us for the day. It is also where we found out that it was recommended to have a guide with you. Though we were reluctant, we ended up with a guide for 800PHP (USD $20) for the day. We were ready for a day of hiking! Or, we thought we were…
The path to the rice terraces is pretty straightforward but unpaved, you will encounter locals bringing goods to the villages and families walking towards the town. Once you get to the top of the rice terraces, you will have to sign in with name and country and pay a minimal fee depending on the country you are from (France ended up being 100PHP for the two of us). There are vendors here selling t-shirts, souvenirs, water and snacks. Here, you get an amazing panoramic view of the rice terraces. We found out about the waterfall on the opposite side the rice terraces and though I was reluctant (thank you fear of heights) J eventually convinced me to do it. But, before getting there, we had to cross through the terraces.
We decided to let go of our guide and venture through the rice terraces and waterfall on our own. Needless to say, he was not happy and we ended up paying him 500PHP for getting us here.
After catching our breath and taking gazillion pictures, we went in.
Since we did not have a guide, it was sometimes difficult for us to seek a comfortable path to follow so we, at times, had to climb up and down along the slim rock edges of the terraces.
I ended up not falling (yay!) and we made to the opposite side the terraces after going through the local village at the bottom of the mountain. It is amazing to think that these rice terraces have been around for over two thousand years and have been maintained by the local population from one generation to the other. Spectacular!
We climbed down and up the terraces before making our way down to the waterfalls (yes, our legs were dead the following day). Before going down, there is a little rest stop where you can catch your breath and buy beverages (at an inflated price but hey, it is well worth it to hydrate yourself in this super hot weather). We were also thankful we bought a couple of snacks the day before – we had no idea visiting the rice terraces would be so physically demanding or we would have rested for it!
Going down to the waterfall was another story, the heat and fatigue were catching up to me and I was in no mood to be a warrior princess. But thankfully, my better half was enthusiastic and gave me motivation to make it there (I am sorry I was such a downer) or I would have just sat on the stairs and waited for him – which, would have been sad.
We finally got to the waterfall and when you think it is the end of it….it is not! Extra flight of stairs to go down to the waterfalls! I will spare you the details but it did take a lot of energy from J to motivate me to make it down, which as always, was well worth the extra effort.
After enjoying the peacefulness of the waterfall, we start to make our ascension. We were exhausted and completely drenched from the heat. It was already mid-afternoon, we had just spent the night sitting in a bus, woke up at 6, immediately made our way to the terraces without even dropping our bags at a hostel, hiked an entire day with minimal snacks for energy, definitely the best recipe for an amazing memory and a well-deserved night of sleep.
On our way back to where it all started, we caught up with a group. Their guide spotted a snake on the path and killed it with one of the walking sticks! Not sure what type of snake it was, but it was definitely our first snake encounter of the trip!
Like we needed that after the day we just had…we were very thankful for the guide at that point.
We hopped on a tricycle and started making our way down when it started pouring cats and dogs. The roads back to Banaue are not only small and narrow but now it was also slippery. We made it back safely to Banaue and quickly decided on Uyami’s Green View Lodge for 500PHP (USD $12for the two of us for a night + 50 PHP per person for towels and hot water shower). A basic amenities lodge with a restaurant, WiFi and shared baths. We went to bed at 8pm for a good night’s sleep before making our way to Sagada the following morning!
This was by far one of the most intense adventure of the trip but also one of the best memories, we absolutely loved Banaue/Batad and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Philippines – an absolute must! Don’t get discouraged, the reward is well worth the effort!
Whether you should hire a guide or not (for a group up to five people), it definitely eases the hiking and saves you time looking for paths so I would say it depends on your hiking abilities and skills.
We want to hear from you! Share your Banaue/Batad pictures and stories with us!