Banaue, Ifugao, the Philippines - Rice Terraces, Hiking, Culture

The Banaue rice terraces are sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world. Miles and miles of multi-level rice terraces stretch up and down mountains. They were man-made over 2000 years ago to cultivate rice harnessing efficient engineering techniques on the mountains. The effort take to build these was tremendous, and you can really appreciate it with a good hike.

To get to Banaue from Manila, you can take a night bus run by either Florida or Autobus bus companies. The buses run for ten hours overnight: bring a blanket and earphones to help you sleep. When you awake in Banaue in the morning, you’re greeted by guides, jeep buses and motorcycles with sidecars. They want to take you into town and pay them to guide you around. You need a guide to go hiking. The town is about a half kilometer from the bus depot, so you can choose to walk or ride to town. The Greenview and Las Vegas are reasonably clean and modest accommodations if you want to sleep in town. Tourist information is an easy to locate booth if you haven’t found a guide yet.

The actual sites to see are too far to reach by walking; you need a motorcycle with a side car (holds two or three people in a cramped position) or a jeep bus (more expensive). Three of the most interesting sites are the viewpoint, the waterfall, and the hot springs. The viewpoint involved riding for an hour up the mountain, stopping at a couple picturesque sites for photography and pure awe. The gift shops offer some fairly interesting souvenirs, as proud roosters stalk the area. The tour may cost about 1600 pesos for the guide and ride. More strenuous and rewarding is the waterfall hike. You ride for one and a half hours, and then hike a couple more through the mountains, along the walls of the rice terraces, by villagers’ houses in the woods to arrive at a beautiful waterfall rushing into a reservoir. Locals swim year-round, so bring a swimsuit. It’s also a gorgeous stop to eat your lunch. This trip cost my companion and I 600 pesos each. Our third trip was easy and beautiful, an easy 40-minute hike among houses and along the walls that separate the individual rice terraces. We finished at a fairly large hot spring, about the size of a 20-person hot tub, full of local kids bathing. The water was about 90 degrees Celsius, so we relaxed there. The hike back inspired me to take half of the total photographs I took on the trip. This day cost us 700 pesos each.

Banaue offers interesting some other interesting options. If you care to, inquire in town about spending the night at an inn in the mountain and wake up to the sunrise and roosters in the morning. If a human guide isn’t your style, you can have a trained canine guide you through the trails and terraces (I would not recommend hiking without a guide, as the paths are innumerable). In town, the Greenview Inn offers a beautiful view at a reasonable cost, and its restaurant serves mouth-watering menudo. Las Vegas restaurant also has great meals at a decent price, and sometimes you can hear live guitar music at night. The town bars are interesting at night; just follow the sound of music to find live performers or ‘traditional’ videoke over a San Miguel beer. Take a trip to Banaue for great hikes, gorgeous vistas, and small-town Philippine hospitality. It’s kind of amazing. Discover the types of incentive travel before the selection of the company. A comparison can be made in the services with the fees of the companies. The services should meet with the needs of the person.