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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Banaue Rice Terraces: of ancient ifugao traditions and a natural wonder

Rice terraces are no way more picturesque in the world than northern Philippines. It seems here like the Ifugao people had mastered this skill a long time ago and that’s why most of the places in the mountain area of northern Philippines sport rice terraces of all types and dimensions.

Banaue Rice Terraces of Philippines - a sight to behold
They are definitely one of Philippines’s highlights and have rightly been bestowed the UNESCO world heritage site tag. These mud walls that protect these rice terraces from falling apart during the rains is all made by hand and absolutely no mechanization is used here. Even today, one can see how these rice terraces are maintained.

Banaue Ricer Terraces and the Banaue town in the background
Depending on the season, one can either see the paddy planting, green  colors or the rich golden yellow color during harvest time. While I was there, I got to see some in the golden yellow stage and some in the dark green phase making it a vivid experience for me.

Ifugao sculptures near the Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines
The best way to explore these rice terraces is by walk. If you are based at Banaue, a one hour walk on the main road will take you via four to five different view points. Each one of them will give you a different view and will rival the others for spectacular-ness. If you feel more adventurous, you can climb the hills on the opposite side to get aerial and long distance views.

Lush green Banaue Rice Terraces covered by monsoon clouds
There is nothing much at these view points except for some souvenir shops and small places to eat/drink. These souvenir shops run by the locals can give you some great bargains and also help in generating revenue for the local people.

Ifugao Sculptures and Banaue Rice Terraces
If you cannot walk, you can hire a tricycle or a car from Banaue to these various view points along with a guide to understand the history behind these rice terraces and the traditions associated with it. Once one reaches the last view point, one can take the forest and rice terrace trek to return to Banaue. This way is more scenic, but requires certain level of fitness, a good pair of shoes and a guide.

Rice Terraces from Banaue View Point
Most of these people who try this rice terrace and forest view without a guide end up losing their way or go around in circles. Hence it is always recommended to take a guide on this trek. The trek is strenuous in bits, but the views are sensational. You will see stretches that you would get to see from the main road and/or the view points.

Elderly Ifugao Tribal Woman at Banaue, Philippines
The best time to see these rice terraces would be in the first half of the day as the second half of the day get cloudy and rains can be expected more in the 2nd half of the day than in the first half.

Elderly Ifugao Tribal Women at Banaue rice terraces view point, Philippines
Banaue is located about 9 to 10 hours by bus from Manila. Day buses are good if you want to see the views and night trips are good if you want to save on the cost of a night’s accommodation. These buses can be a bit cramped and can get seriously cold.



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