Our journey in the Philippines began on arrival into the nations capital of Manila, where we would be returning to explore in just over a weeks time. Before this however, that week for us would be spent gazing over the country’s world famous rice terraces in North Luzon and getting some awesome drone footage to match! You may be mistaken for thinking we are in fact referring to the rice terraces of the well-documented Banaue, however, a short tricycle ride away is a much more coveted and in our opinion jaw dropping spectacle that is well worth going off the beaten path for.
To reach Banaue there are regular buses departing directly from Manila which travel for 8 hours throughout the night. A quick Google search and we found that Ohayami would provide the best price in terms of cost, comfort and reputation. We didn’t buy tickets in advance, however we were able to purchase these just a few hours before the journey from the station office located in Manila for only $8. Phew!
Having stopped several times throughout the night, we arrived into Banaue at 6am feeling surprisingly fresh! Every passenger on the coach was dropped at the tourist information office and from there all of them but us opted for crowded tour groups, paying over the odds for what we deemed to be a less authentic experience.
Heading down the line of tricycles, we found one that would take us to neighboring Batad, although our monstrous rucksacks had to be left behind at the tourist office for our return! The tricycle ride was an adventure in itself. We passed through miles and miles of rice terraces, children running alongside the tricycle, eager to see Batad’s newest visitors and chickens even daring to cross the road!
For those who are unfamiliar with the northern territory, Luzon is known as the mountain province of the Philippines and boy did we realise this as we scooted up hill. As the climb steepened, we were summoned by the driver to lean forward and help carry the tricycle up the bank. On several occasions, Charlie also had to make a quick escape out of the side door to prevent us from skidding backward the way we came! Well, he did promise my parents before we left that he would look after me.
As we travelled further toward our destination, we began to realize even more so, the real beauty and vastness that lies in this province. The rice fields draped over the hillside, rolling as deep as the eye could see. If these views prior to our arrival were anything to go by, Batad would truly be spectacular and a stark difference to our time on White Beach in bustling Boracay!
It was only when the road came to a surprising dead end that we were informed no road existed down to our village and that the locals farmers and their crop nestled deep in the valley, along a small path that they had carved for themselves. It was at this point we realized why it was suggested we left our rucksacks behind. A mere 40 minutes later, we arrived at Batad Transient House, our home for the next two nights!
Like the rest of the houses in the village, our guesthouse was stood on stilts which protruded from the old rice terraces below. Made from just wood and corrugated metal, this was as authentic as you could get, especially when we realised there was no electricity during daylight hours! It was like nowhere we had ever seen before. Like most, we are always craving a room with a view; well Batad Transient House far surpassed our expectations.
In true English style, we had a good old cup of tea to wake us up before we explored the rice terraces. Ignoring the suggestion of a guide and instead opting to learn about local life through our guesthouse owner, we took to the rice terraces alone. Shaped like an amphitheater, the terraces take center stage and are a pinnacle of the community. It is amazing to roam freely, watching the local farmers go about their everyday life as they work together strenuously planting rows upon rows of seedlings.
From the top of the rice terraces to the depths of the hidden waterfall, Batad holds no end of sweet surprises and phenomena. Having crossed the central section of the terraces, we headed down the steep steps to the icy river below, dreading the return climb. Word of warning – don’t wear jeans! As we reached the rocky river bed and turned the corner, the haze of water cloaked us. A final staircase and we were face to face with the huge surge of water ahead. We attempted to regain our breath from the trek down, but the mightiness of the waterfall delayed our full recovery. Note to self: Always carry swimwear in The Philippines; you never know when you will uncover such natural beauties!
Heading back to the main path, we rejoined the staircase to the highest point overlooking the entire site. Gazing at the villages below, we were completely in awe of our surroundings. If it wasn’t for the clouds rolling past us, we would be guilty of thinking that time had stood still.
Standing alone with only the local farmers for company, this certainly beats any over inflated, over crowded and over trodden tour group. It is amazing to think that just an hour’s tricycle away from the hub lies this serene and secluded sensation. Truly a hidden gem.
About the Authors: Charlie and Charlotte are the wanderlusting couple behind TheWanderLovers.com. They have swapped their city life in London for an action packed journey across the globe. Hand in hand, they’re taking on one country at a time and creating a life they don’t wish to escape from! Through their couple’s travel and lifestyle blog they hope to inspire future travellers that anything is possible if you just buy that one way ticket … One Life. One Love. Live.