After our 10 hour drive of death north from Manila into the Mountain Provinces (this is the actual name of the district) we went straight to bed at the Banaue Hotel. This hotel is an 81 room hotel and boasts the unbeatable competitive advantage of being state owned and the hotel in the moderate vicinity. Overall the hotel was very nice. The rooms are comfortable, the food is good, and the view is phenomenal. I'd say the only real downside is that it was a bit old.
Because we arrived at 1am the night before to complete darkness, this view from our balcony was a very pleasant surprise the next morning:
Finally! Some standard Filipino food! Some of my fellow travelers ordered the 'American style' breakfast with toast and pancakes but I chose to go Filipino. The difference being that the American style comes with bacon instead of this meat, and toast instead of rice. This is typical of the breakfasts we ate in the Philippines. Rice, eggs, some veggies, and some oversalted meat.
We got star treatment everywhere. :)
This is our trusty steed we road up to the Batad Rice Terraces. This is a jeepney, the equivalent of the standard bus in the Philippines. These things are ubiquitous and often packed full. To indicate a stop a passenger thwacks three fingers in succession on the roof. Jeepney's were originally US made and were left over after WWII. Their cheap prices and vast repair infrastructure have kept them in use throughout the years.
From the hotel is takes about an hour over some scary terrain to get to the top of the hill to begin the trek down to the rice terraces. Here we stopped for a breather. Dogs such as these can be seen everywhere walking the streets throughout the Philippines. They seem good natured.
Some more pics I grabbed during the car ride:
Along the way we reached a rough spot in the road. Luckily a road crew gave that jeepney a push and then plowed the road for ours.
And finally we reached the top of the mountain! Jin and Hyojin immediately got to work preparing some Talk to Me in Korean videos!
Had to stop for a beer before the long trek. We drank copious amounts of San Miguel and a light 25% brandy that cost about $3 for a 1L bottle.
And some... coconut? I'm actually not sure exactly what this was.
To get to the Banaue Rice Terraces the jeepney drops you at the top of the mountain, and then you trek 2 hours down the back. Along the way some kids might melt your heart, and an old lady will probably try to get you hooked on Betel Nut. Contrary to the woman’s promises, the betel nut did not make me high or irresistible to women.
And finally, the Batad Rice Terraces! The rice terraces are over 2000 years old and are considered by many (especially Filipinos) to be the "eight wonder of the world". It's hard to tell the scale from photos, but it is massive. Thinking about peasants building this by hand, stone by stone, is mind boggling. It covers 10,360 square kilometers of land. wat.
After we walked to the "top" of the terraces we stopped for some lunch. Again, rice, veggies, and salty protein. I should also say that it tasted amazing, as only a meal can taste after 3-4 hours of grueling trekking.
We did several of these “levitation photos”. In the next one after this Javi split his pants from crotch to knee down the inner right thigh. He had to do a 3 hour walk of shame back to the summit.
Hiking through the terraces is no easy feat. Some parts are steep, some parts are slippery. But we all made it through, even unathletic me, with no injuries.
On the way down the mountain this guy with terrifically distinctive feet jumped on the back of our jeepney for a kilometer or so.
Back at the hotel that night we were generously given a demonstration of some traditional Ifugao (the indiginous peoples) dances and practices. Some of them are still practiced to this day. 99% of it was serious with every member maintaining stern faces. However, the best part was at the end. In the final display, where the men enact a display of revenge, at the very final moment one member ripped the bottom covering off his opponents waist. It was done subtly and I don't think many noticed, but from my vantage I saw shock and grimaces of the members faces as they ran off stage. Definitely fun to see them having some fun with each other.