Just like anything worthwhile, getting to Banaue isn’t that easy. It’s a nine-hour bus ride from Manila and there’s currently no deluxe bus to make the hours more bearable. Yet after a couple of stopovers and winding roads, the first sight of Banaue washes the fatigue away.
The bus stops right in front of the Tourism Center. It’s a small office perched on a concrete elevated ground. The weather feels cool and it’s usually cloudy and a bit gloomy in the mornings.
Banaue feels like a community etched in elevated rainforest. The surrounding mountains provide plenty of green covering. You can hear the sound of rushing water from the stream downhill. There’s even the sight of a waterfall that seems to offer plenty more of surprises for expectant first-time visitors.
After registering their names and paying for the environmental fee at the Tourism Center, guests usually head off to a nearby restaurant for a quick bite. Most of the eateries and accommodations can be found near the dry market area just a walking distance from the Tourism Center. Licensed guides can be hired straight from the Center as well as tricycles, jeepneys or vans.
Many tourists prefer sitting on the roof of chartered jeepneys. No matter where you’re heading, you can enjoy sights of low-lying rice terraces and mountains that look like many broccoli. The road’s generally asphalted but the combination of the scattered rocks and stream feel like you’re passing by a creek.
It’s an hour drive plus a 15-minute trek (depending on your speed) to see the view of Batad Rice Terraces. Vehicles stop just before the asphalted road ends. Then it’s a trek across boulders before reaching another stretch of concrete pathway. The trek can be tough for old folks or those with physical ailments.
Batad Rice Terraces looks picturesque. The rice terraces climb all the way up almost reaching the mountain peaks. You can catch some breath and enjoy a drink of fresh coconut juice while sitting at the Viewing Point.
Unlike in Batad, the rice terraces of Bangaan is low-lying yet sprawling. The overlooking view of the rice terraces and the Bangaan village that forms a close circle in the middle reveals why the site has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage. It’s almost impossible not to want to get to the village.
Getting to the Bangaan village certainly looks easy. The pathway’s concrete and there’s even a handrail for the stone staircases. Yet actually getting down to it is a different story. At some point, the pathway would feel endless and the village only feels farther and farther away.