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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

The Rice Terraces of Batad

PHILIPPINES | Friday, 27 January 2012 | Views [900] | Comments [3]

Our next destination was Batad, a tiny village nestled amongst the most beautiful of the Philippines’ famous rice terraces, which were engineered by some very enterprising tribespeople (the Ifaguo) over 2000 years ago. Because of its remote location, our journey to Batad comprised a few separate legs:

Step 1: an uneventful jeepney ride from Sagada to Bontoc.

Step 2: we arrived in Bontoc, basking in our good fortune to have arrived 1.5 hours before the next jeepney to Banaue (gateway to Batad…all these Bs…confusing I know). This meant we had just enough time to stroll through the streets of this pleasant little town and visit the local and much lauded museum, renowned as the best in North Luzon. The kind attendant at the jeepney stand offered to keep an eye on our heavy bags until we returned. The trip to the museum turned out to be sufficiently grisly (photos of head hunters with their prizes, drums with human jaws as handles – there are still head hunters living in remote areas of North Luzon! Haven’t met any yet), interactive (there was an entertaining outdoor replica of an Ifaguo village – with a real pig in a replica pigpen!) and overall well worth our while. Feeling refreshed and cultured, we returned to the jeepney station at the designated hour…to find it completely deserted, with our bags nowhere in sight. After wandering around helplessly and trying a few bolted doors, I could feel the panic rising. Just then, a jeepney pulled up and the friendly driver informed us that our bags had been loaded on the last one (which left an hour ahead of schedule, while we were busy taking lame photos in grass huts…yay)  and were currently on their way to Banaue without us. He told us multiple times not to worry and that ‘his brother’ would have the bags ready for us when we got there. I felt infinitely better until he said: “your bags are yellow, yes?” “Um…no” “No problem – don’t worry, don’t worry.” There was nothing left for us to do but not worry, so we just trusted him and hopped aboard. About halfway through the trip we stopped for a spring roll break and got an update on our adventurous bags – they had reached Banaue safely but were now headed back for Bontoc, and we would meet them half way. Sure enough, we passed a van on the narrow mountainous road and our bags were hurled from the roof of one vehicle to the other – a sight of relief and a happy reunion!

Step 3: after a quiet night in Banaue (actually, our quietest since being in the country, because our guest house was on the banks of the river, which blocked out the sound of the millions of horrible roosters which are EVERYWHERE here…each morning I wake up at 5 am and have unkind fantasies about pitting them against one another in gory cockfights) we were too cheap to hire a private jeepney to the ridge (locally referred to as ‘The Saddle’) above Batad. Instead, we spent a lazy morning on the internet (notice the timeliness of these blog entries!) and boarded the once-daily public jeepney at about 3 pm. This was a fun (if a little bumpy) trip: we shared the vehicle with a group of drunk men who insisted we sample their rice wine (actually not bad) and kept repeating that their friend was the “drunken master” of Batad and, disconcertingly, that while they were drunk we shouldn’t worry about our safety because the driver was the “designated drinker.” Thanks guys!

Step 4: a pleasant 40 minute downhill hike to Chung Chung, the strip of guesthouses overlooking extremely scenic Batad!

Our accommodation for our stay was very basic (suffice it to say we felt like guinea pigs…but comfortable guinea pigs) but very pleasant with amazing beer o’clock views of the ‘amphitheatre’ of rice terraces in the valley below. We also met some nice like-minded people almost straight away: two friends from the UK, an English ex-pat diving instructor from the Visayas, and an engineer from the Netherlands. During our full day in Batad we hiked as a group through the maze-like terraces (one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences of the trip to date) to a fairly decent waterfall - in comparison to most waterfalls in SE Asia, which tend to be massive letdowns.

Our plan was to hike an alternative (and less stair-y) 2.5 hour route out of Batad, but the guides were rather pushy and insisted we would get lost if we didn’t hire one of them to take us. Jack took this as a challenge and we spent the afternoon navigating our path in preparation for the next morning’s hike. Jack felt like he had found the way but I was convinced he was merely leading me through a string of frightening obstacles (slippery rocks on the edge of steep terraces, bridges comprising of flimsy sticks, mud, mud, slippery rocks, mud). We quite easily found the right path and went to bed feeling pleasantly tired and smug.

It rained in Batad last night which made me super excited about all the fun obstacles I had struggled with whilst dry, however we got through the trek with no incidents and arrived at the ‘highway’ feeling very chipper (if slightly swamp-monsterish) to flag down a jeepney heading back to Banaue. One sped along almost immediately, the convenience of the timing only somewhat offset by the fact that approx 35 people (no exaggeration) were crammed into and on top of it. They seemed a little surprised that we were willing to haul ourselves onto the roof for the ride. Despite being seated relatively comfortably on two sacks of rice I spent much of the trip fearing I was going to somersault backwards into the mud. Jack, meanwhile, had bigger fish to fry: his seat was on the side of the road closest to the steep precipice into the valley and with the most pot holes. Once we got our brace positions figured out it was a very scenic and enjoyable journey (minus the water, mud, low power lines etc). 

All in all we had a wonderful adventure in Batad – one might even say it was not a ‘batad experience’ (by Jack) – but the magic of the place is much better communicated in pictures – hope you enjoy! Tonight we catch a night bus to Manila for our flight to the beautiful tropical paradise of Palawan. We’re unsure when we will next be at an internet café – stay tuned!

Much love,

Your happy muddy travelers,

T & J xoxox






Just had a huge chuckle catching up on your adventures! It looks as though you're both having an amazing time!

Just wanted to let you guys know I'm missing you tonnes and can't wait to hear your adventures in person!

Love love love love always,
Sam xoxo

  Sam Jan 28, 2012 10:45 AM


So happy you are having fun and all safe!

Laurie's 21st is looming ... I know she can't wait to rip into those India presents!

Miss you heaps - xxxooo Mum

  Deanne Jan 30, 2012 11:29 AM


Once again you've got me laughing so hard nearly fell off the seat, grand tales ye intrepid ones!! Love and Hugs xxx

  Ma Jan 31, 2012 11:19 AM

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