With Manila and the surrounding seen, we decided to head up to the Ifugao Rice Terraces, a World heritage sight, and a place where we got lost in paradise (read below). So we hopped on a bus and headed out.

The long journey to the terraces took us through some beautiful country. We got to see thick pine forests, large valleys, momma chewin’ mommas (momma is a nut that the Ifugao chew to stay awak; they spit it out much like chewing tobacco) ,and even a town that has completely outlawed smoking.

8 hours of anticipation later, we arrived at Banaue, home of the first major set of rice terraces. Wow! They are beautiful. Imagine 2000 year old terraces that go up and down the whole valley. It was all we could do to grab a Sparkle and soak of the majesty (more on Sparkle in a future blog). We were happy to stay at the Banaue Homestay, whose proprietor was perhaps the funniest woman in the Philippines. Many great jokes ensued.

Banaue is a small mountain town that is a gateway to tons of hikes in various rice terraces throughout the region. As we had only a few days to spare, we decided to use our time wisely. The next day we hired a tricycle and headed to the junction to begin our trek to the Batad rice terraces. Our driver Sampson had a “I heart Canada” sweater on. One of many pieces of evidence that the Philippines has a crush on the True North Strong and Free; everywhere we went we saw Canada stickers, shirts, flags, and even license plates (as seen below). Almost every Philippino has a cousin or brother or daughter or nephew in Canada, and so the country has a great reputation.

Anyways, back to our trek. The hike into Batad had amazing views and ended up in a remote and beautiful village overlooking rice terraces made of stones. Absolutely amazing! We stayed at a homestay that allowed guests to sleep in traditional Ifugao huts. The staff were great and insisted we dress up in traditional Ifugao clothes and take our picture. It was really fun. Also, while in Batad we learned how to “nurture true Philippino friendships” (see below), and we even trekked to a beautiful waterfall.

After Batad, we went on to the Bagaan rice terraces before heading back to Banaue for more exploring. From town we rented another tricycle to tour to some old Ifugao homes, and to visit some beautiful viewpoints and hike back to town. On the hike, we got hopelessly lost. Some locals gave us bad directions that left us in the middle of nowhere. After hiking the wrong way for about 2 hours, we ended up at the top of the valley we were supposed to hike down! It was a beautiful view, but we had no way to get down 50+ levels of rice fields! We truly were lost in paradise! Luckily for us, with some trial and error, we were able to retrace our steps and arrive back to the main road 6km north of Banaue. The long walk back was super fun as all of the way to town we were greeted by smiling, excited children. Because they had just gotten out of school, and were surprised to see foreigners in that part of the hills, they were so fun!

Our last day in Ifugao we headed to a hot spring in the gorgeous Hapao Rice Terraces. It was great to soak our travel-weary bones alongside the locals That night, to celebrate the success of our trip, Andi bought an umbrella hat!

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