Today, I’d like to introduce you the two Polish travel bloggers behind eTramping. Agness and Cez have recently visited the Philippines and are keen to share the beauty of the rural areas, the little towns and villages. Here are five reasons to visit Banaue.
The Philippines is a top travel destination in Asia. Main reasons? Wonderful white sand beaches, palm trees, coconuts, crystal clear sky and world class diving. Could you ask for more? Don’t think so! However, many forget to explore the small and charming Filipino villages and towns. These can change your perception of the country.
One of them is Banaue – a picturesque and cosy town in Ifugao province. Although Banaue attracts many tourists each year, it is still relatively unknown, which is a pity. Let’s see what this place has to offer and why visitors want to come back again and again.
1. Incredible rice terraces
Banaue is mainly known for the stunning Ifugao Rice Terraces which attract numerous Filipino travellers every month. Surprisingly, it is peaceful and quiet – a great advantage!
The terraces are listed as a National Cultural Treasure in the Philippines and locals call them ‘Stairs to Heaven’ because of the ascending stairs of rice fields. It took the Ifugao ancestors more than 2000 years to build these great wonders: not seeing them when in the Philippines is a sin!
The original builders used stone and mud walls to carefully carve and construct terraces that could hold flooded pond fields for the cultivation of rice. You can still see the structures. They also established a system to water the plots by harvesting water from mountaintop forests.
When should you visit the Rice Terraces? During summer and autumn, abundant rains can sometimes cloud views of the slopes so June is the best time, when the landscape is golden and activity levels are high.
How much does it cost to get there? A tricycle costs PHP200 (USD 4.50), but you can easily pack food and walk. The hike is 2 – 3 hours, and the fresh air and beautiful landscape is totally worth the sweat!
2. Affordable prices
Banaue can be both expensive and inexpensive. It is a touristic place, so prices are a bit higher than in other small Filipino towns, but you can still do it on $25 a day budget plan.
The town is small, so accommodations options are few. Most hostel rooms are nice and clean, some with hot water. There’s wifi at the reception. Also, the hostels offer cheap and delicious food. We ordered rice with boiled egg, Greek salad and fish soup followed by chicken curry. Both meals cost PHP180 (USD 4) and we had them for lunch and dinner as the portions were massive.
Food in Banaue is generally very affordable. Apart from meals at your hostel, local bakeries sell pastries, cakes, cookies and bread sticks for next to nothing. A piece of cake costs PHP2 (USD 0.4), a loaf of bread is PHP30 (USD 0.67) and a glass of hot milk/coffee/tea is less than PHP10 (USD 0.22). You can even go cheaper than that, by buying your own tea/coffee and get a mug of hot water for free in any restaurant/shop/bakery.
Did you know that Banaue is famous for its organic products? When you visit a local store, you can purchase a jar of homemade peanut butter for PHP45 (USD 1), any kind of organic rice for PHP25 (USD 0.56) per kg, homemade chocolate for PPH25 (USD 0.56) and a bottle of whiskey for PHP150 (USD 3.40) or wine for PHP85 (USD 1.90).
3. Experiencing authentic Filipino culture
One of the joys of visiting Banaue is experiencing the rural side of the Philippines. It is not another posh or busy city with Western food or fancy shops. Just the opposite, Banaue gives you a glimpse of the simplicity of a typical Filipino town.
A top attraction in Banaue is the traditional dance performance in the evenings. People gather on top of one of the buildings downtown where they are introduced to Ifugao Dance. We’re told the story of how the Ifugao tribe was established and witness a live performance with locals wearing traditional costumes. This is completely free and visitors have a ton of fun!
4. Making friends with locals
People in Banaue are humble and honest. You will be surrounded by smiling kids, local farmers and ladies who will shout “Hello!” to you and wave from afar. You will be invited to their home to try traditional specialities and once you start to chat, it might last forever. The good news is people speak fluent English so don’t be afraid of not being understood!
5. Easy to get around
Banaue is ridiculously small, so taking a tricycle (unless you’re going to the Rice Terraces) is just pointless. You can easily walk everywhere and it takes less than 1 hour to fully explore the town. Please bear in mind that all shops close at around 9pm so if you hope to stay late in a bar, you might be kicked out.
Getting to Banaue
- We arrived in Banaue from Banguin by KWS bus. It took 8h and we paid PHP415 (USD 9.30) each.
- From Banaue to Manila is 9 hours: the bus leaves at 7pm, arrives in Manila at 4am, and costs PHP450 (USD 10)
To sum up, the Philippines have so much more to offer besides stunning beaches and posh resorts. Visiting small and undiscovered towns such as Banaue lets you experience hospitality and beauty up close. You will see landscape unlike anywhere else and try authentic food – and you can do it all on the cheap! Ready to go? I hope so!
Agness and Cez is the Polish duo behind eTramping.com, a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. They are both photography passionates obsessed with Chinese cuisine and culture. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out their latest e-book Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats which sums up their two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.