As the trip progressed strangers became friends. Particularly special was the effortlessness: perfect logistics, never having to worry about anything, and, of course, the charming and thoughtful way you organised everything.
Set in northern Luzon, the rice terraces of Banaue are among the country's most striking sights and have been called "The Eighth Wonder of the World." Built by the ancient Ifugao tribe, this series of stepped terraces were carved out of the mountains by hand over 2,000 years ago. An agricultural marvel, these terraces still produce rice and vegetables, though these days a huge portion of Banaue's revenue comes from tourists who travel up to 12 hours from Manila to witness this awe-inspiring landscape.
Though not as dramatic as its neighboring rice terraces, Batad is well worth a visit as a side-trip from Banaue. Local villages dot the landscape, and the friendly villagers are accustomed to tourists hiking to the scenic Tappiyah waterfalls and stopping to buy traditional woven cloth and handmade knives.
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Banaue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its amazing, emerald-green, mud-walled rice terraces — some 20,000 hectares of them created by hand labor over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao tribal people. Your guide will lead you to the best viewpoints to take in and photograph the spellbinding terraces and steep hillsides, before taking you to the more remote terrace sites of Hapao and Hungduan, which are also UNESCO sites.
Have dinner at a casual local restaurant chosen by your guide, where you can dine family-style on Philippine specialties such as adobo (crispy chicken or pork slow-cooked with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns); pansit (a Filipino version of Chinese stir-fried noodles); or lumpia (spring rolls). Make sure to pair your dinner with a couple of bottles of the de facto national brew, San Miguel.
The village of Batad is perhaps the best place to view the region's rice terraces, although it requires a roughly 40-minute trek to access from the main road. Getting around on foot is recommended, as it affords the visitor a feel for how massive and expansive the surrounding terraces are.
While in Batad, hike into the hillsides surrounding the town to the picturesque Tappiyah Falls for a cooling swim at its base.
Ifugao Tribal People
Meet the people whose ancestors engineered the rice terraces and learn about the ways in which they continue to work the land as their forefathers did centuries ago. The older Ifugao still wear their traditional dress, which consists of a feathered headdress and woven red fabrics.
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Located in the centre of Banaue and perfect for exploring the nearby rice terraces, the Banaue Hotel is a modern property with 81 bedrooms, all equipped with shower, refrigerator, separate shower and tub, Internet access, and complimentary bottled water. Hotel facilities include a coffee shop, souvenir shops, a restaurant, bar/pub, massage room and an outdoor swimming pool.