Banaue… ‘One of the highlights of the Philippines’ they wrote in the lonely planet, so our first destination wasn’t a beach with palm trees, cocktails and some (preferably a lot) sun but the colder (still above 15 degrees though), higher and greener part of the Phillipines in North Luzon.
The bus would leave at 11 pm, so we ate something and then quickly went to the ATM since there are none in Banaue itself. But we were unlucky, suddenly all the ATM`s refused our request for cash. So… without enough cash we took an uber to the bus station and asked for another solution> the lady at the counter advised us to ask the bus driver to stop in Solano, the last village before Banaue with multiple international ATM’s. We asked and he agreed.
Arriving in Solano, while the other passenger were sleeping, he stopped at 4 different ATM`s and the last one was so generous to actually give us some cash. Thank god, finally some proper sleep for us!
The main attraction in Banaue are the rice terraces and we must say that it is as beautiful, all our expectations and more where fulfilled after the time we spent here. We arrived after a 9h bus ride and where almost immediately forced in to a jeepney that brought us down, multiple guides try to sell you tours around the area. We knew these guides wouldn’t be the cheapest ones and apparently the whole thing is a routine (although they didn’t force you to do it) they do for each arriving bus to sell their tours. Our focus was going to Randy’s brookside inn, so we called him and his tricycle driver Jessie came to pick us up 2 minutes after that (for literally a 50m ride 🙂 ). Apparently I made a mistake with the booking and Randy was fully booked for that night, so we slept at ‘pink Banaue Hostel’, which only opened 3 days before! I asked for a menu to eat something, which wasn’t there yet. Kind of funny since they ‘invented’ the breakfast menu that evening on a big paper but the next day Dorien wanted to order a vegetable omelet, but they where out of vegetables already! Anyway, Randy Arranged us a tricycle ride to Batad for the next day, and we could leave most of our stuff at his place for one night.
That same day we walked up to the viewpoints (6 of them), which was a longer hike then estimated. But was it worth it? See for yourself. It is hard to put it all in pictures. The views are breathtaking, certainly if you know that the terraces are all handmade about 2000 years ago. We walked back when it was already dark, after saying 100 times ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’ to all the kids on the road (which is awesome!).
After coming back from Batad we did another hike in the sun through some villages, but this wasn’t very spectacular views – wise. The nice thing about it though was that we got some insight in the local village life, we concluded with saying that these are strong people. I was complaining about my little backpack until I saw some Philippians carrying 60 kilo of garbage – on flip flops off course – out of the valley to the main road, let’s just say that I stopped complaining about anything 🙂
That night after dinner we had our first introduction to one of the three main hobbies in the Philippines: Karaoke. We heard some absolutely awful singing from a little bar and went in to check it out. Three absolutely drunk and super friendly guys where singing their heart out. We immediately got offered a red horse, which we accepted off course. After some proper conversation with drunk guys, one sentence stood out, one of the guys literally said: ‘Basketball, karaoke and boxing. That are three things I would die for!’.
The next stop would be Sagada, a place even higher up in the mountains.
Our first encounter with the non urban part of the Philippines: perfect!
Randy’s brookside inn: Good and cheap place, don’t expect anything big or special, it is basic but the cost is basic too (500 php per room). Randy though makes up for this, he is a very accommodating and super friendly host who knows a lot about the area.
Pink Banaue hostel: Very new so still a lot to establish and to learn and a bit pricey (400 php pp/night), but I think it will become very popular in the nearby future because of the hostel style accommodation. They have a traditional ifugao house as a meeting place for the evening, with the possibility to make a bonfire inside!
Ohayami trans: Book your tickets upfront through there website. about 450 php pp. for the bus ride. You can take the same buses back. Up and back are both night buses, you stop regularly at places to eat, drink and go to the toilet. If you don’t have enough cash with you, ask the bus driver to stop at the ATM’s in Solano (saved us at least!).
Florida trans: Same as Ohayami, don’t know the prices.
Tricycle’s: You can get a private tricycle to go almost anywhere. Tricycle ride to Batad was 1000 php up and back. Jeepney is probably cheaper but they leave quite early.
We where not very impressed with the food in Banaue in general, but some places we ate at are listed here. generally you will pay around 100 – 150 php for a main course. To save some money you can definitely go to the local bakeries, they are very good (Banana cupcakes for on the road!).
Las vegas restaurant: Located on the main road and hard to miss, we where advised by Pink Banaue to eat here and it was ok.
Cafe Jam: The best place in our opinion, the chicken curry is great! It is located on the left side before the city hall.
Sanafe lodge and restaurant: Good restaurant, local food and some special dishes. The banana pancake dessert was really good.