Tired and grumpy from a ridiculously cold overnight bus (courtesy of the extreme air-con) we arrived in the small town of Banaue in the Cordillera region of North Luzon. Itself not much more than a collection of scrappy buildings tumbling down a mountainside. But, we weren’t there for the town but the surroundings.
Behind the hotel there was an amazing view of the surrounding landscape which is made up of hundreds of rice terraces with villages dotted amongst them.
After a quick nap to recuperate from the journey we arranged a tricycle tour to the nearby rice terraces, which are mud-walled, and the stone-walled ones a few kilometres away in Hapao.
We whizzed up the hill to a series of viewpoints which had amazing vistas of the rice terraces below. Although it was cloudy, the guide/driver said we were extremely lucky to be able to see this much as they are often shrouded in mist. Here are a couple of snaps:
We then headed down an extremely muddy and bumpy, and therefore excruciatingly slow, road to the Hapao terraces. It was such hard going that we kept having to jump out so the tricycle didn’t get stuck in the mud!
The Hapao terraces were set in more of a valley and interspersed with small villages, and even a church, and were even more impressive than the ones near Banaue.
That evening we had a few beers in a very local bar where Becki was repeatedly propositioned for a dance by an extremely intoxicated local man.
At a toilet stop, on the way to Sagada the next day, we had our first encounter with the most infamous Filipino food item – balut. It is not just a hard-boiled chicken egg which is dipped in salt and vinegar (which would be bad enough) but a partially-developed egg which has a chicken foetus inside (and sometimes feathers if its a bit more developed). I couldn’t face it but our jeepney driver kindly showed how it was done.
Sagada is a cool mountain town with a few decent places to eat (i.e. not Filipino, the food so far has been the one disappointing thing) and some things to see. The most famous of which are the hanging coffins. If you are well-renowned within the village (by the elders) and can afford to sacrifice twenty pigs and sixty chickens you are able to have your coffin hung on the cliff side.
You could see them suspended all the way from the roadside but we walked down into the valley to get a closer look. Very bizarre.