Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Banaue/Batad

Leaving Palau we arrived back in Manila. We had a day to kill before catching an overnight bus north to Banaue so we did the touristy thing this time to try to give Sasha a better opinion.  We walked the sea walk along the Manila harbour front where the smells were a little less pleasant and the beggars a little more numerous than I'd remembered.  We stopped along the way at a restaurant I'd been to before for chicken and rice and my favourite in the Philippines, mango shakes :)  Continuing to the end of the walk we entered Rizal park which aside from the large statue/memorial to Rizal (the founder of independence in the Philippines) is always busy on it's large grounds with people exercising, picnicking, napping or out for a stroll.  We continued on into Intramuros, the oldest, (restored post WW2) colonial part of Manila.  I was all prepped as Sasha's guide as I had more or less done the same route with Bre a couple months earlier.  So I found myself once again in the unesco-listed San Agustin church.  It is one of the oldest catholic churches in Manila and has been rebuilt a few times but has done surprisingly well in surviving fires, earthquakes and bombings while the surrounding city was destroyed over and over again.  There is an attached monastery as well so it is not completely open to the public though the church is (when not in use) and parts have been converted into a museum displaying anything from info on the old trade routes to mostly religious artifacts and artwork.  The rest of Intramuros is a small neighbourhood of a more Spanish colonial architectural style and a small fort along the river (it was under renovation and we didn't go in though I have been before) and if you are looking for other tourists in Manila, this is where to find them.

Rizal park

Rizal park
San Agustin church

 We'd bought the bus tickets to Banaue a week before and it was a good thing we did.  The buses were full and we were surprised to see quite a few backpackers on it.  The overnight bus was memorable only because Sasha made the mistake of forgetting which bus was ours on one of the bathroom stops and took a long time coming back.  Shhh, don't tell her but I've done the same.  It is hard when you are half asleep and there are a dozen identical buses parked haphazardly around in the dark in an unfamiliar place.
8 years before, almost to the day, I was in Banaue with mom and dad on my first visit to the country. I didn't write much about it at the time because it rained non-stop and we left without really seeing or doing anything. This always bothered me and Banaue had been on my "Need to return to do properly" list.  Yes, I definitely have one of those.  The rice terraces of Banaue are easily seen spreading up and down the valley from the town and at viewpoints along the road. Their most impressive aspect is the scale they are done on and that they are likely 2000 years old and created mostly by hand on some very steep slopes. In an area prone to earthquakes and typhoons, maintaining them must have been brutal. They are still used today of course though there are no longer enough traditional farmers to use and maintain them all. The sad reality is that you can make far more money off the tourists coming to see the terraces as a taxi driver than being a rice farmer. There are lots of small guesthouses to stay and we found a nice one right on the road with amazing views from the balcony.

View from our room in Banaue
Banaue

 Although we were tired from the overnight bus, the weather didn't look too bad so we got a driver from the guesthouse to take us to nearby Batad. As impressive as Banaue is, there are concerns about modern development so it was the nearby terraces in the smaller, more traditional village of Batad (and a few others nearby) that made it on the Unesco world-heritage list. Batad sits at the bottom of a natural amphitheatre, surrounded by rice terraces. The little mountain road doesn't quite reach the village (yet, but they are working on it) so you get dropped off and walk the last few minutes in. The view from the ridge as you arrive is stunning and the whole experience is much more intimate as you walk through the village and along the terraces themselves to viewpoints on the other side. We learned we were a little out of shape on this natural stair master...  Depending on the time of year the terraces will be in various states of growth but we were there too soon to see the brilliant greens or yellows of a full crop.

Mudslide on the way to Batad. Had to walk from here.

Looking down on Batad.

A walk in the terraces






It started to rain as we left Batad and it was fortuitous we visited right away because it continued to rain for the rest of the 2 days we were in Banaue. From there it was back to Manila for the long trip home, yet another successful adventure under our belts.
Ammon

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