I was just wondering if anyone had been up to the Mountain Provinces in the North of the Philippines? I was up there aaages ago, and I was wondering if any recent travellers could tell me if it's still the natural wonder I remember before I make another trip?
You obviously refer to the spectacular rice terraces on the Cordillera Mountains flanking the towns of Banaue and Batad in Ifugao Province. You definitely want to revisit these awesome, 2000-year-old feats of topographic engineering, which UNESCO has inscribed as a World Heritage Site (1995) for being "a continuing cultural landscape". See images of friends who travelled there last December on http://rei-website-photos-melodyofcarmelchoir.gq.nu/Banaue.htm
The best time to go is anywhere between November to April, when the climate is dry. (The Philippines has either dry or wet weather. Summer has now kicked off in the Philippines, in place of spring.) Rains, both heavy and intermittent, fall betwen May to October; you will not want those low-lying clouds shielding your views!
If you are coming from Manila (where Philippine Airlines flies directly to from Melbourne and Sydney), you can take a comfortable air-conditioned bus trip (Dangwa Tranco or KMS Bus Line--you can check the yellow pages from your Manila hotel).
You can view the Banaue terraces in half a day, preferably in the morning. If you can spare more time than this, take a 12-kilometer jeepney ride to the rural village of Batad, where the terraces are formed like an ampitheater. Be prepared to hike the trails over a steep ridge!
And if you have more than a day in Banaue, visit cultural sites and other villages of the Ifugao tribespeople and marvel at how they live their daily lives as they have for thousands of years! Be aware, however, that as an obvious tourist you will be "accosted" with peddlers selling touristy bric-a-brac (mostly wooden sculptures of tribal chiefs hiding in barrels). However, the locals (as are the rest of the Filipinos!) are generally, exceedlingly hospitable and will love to share directions to you.
If you plan to stay overnight, you can stay at the government-run Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel (+637-4-386-4087) at Iloque, Tam-an, Banaue, Ifugao Province.
Let me know if you need more information than this.
:: Paul A.
Thanks- that was very in depth! I'm going to be ending up in Sagada I've decided, and I'll be at those other places along the way