Vail travel: Rice terraces tops the charts |

Vail travel: Rice terraces tops the charts

Luc Pols
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Luc PolsVail travel: Beautiful rice terraces in Banaue.

VAIL, Colorado “-Move over Bali, Indonesia, as magnificent as you are, and make room for Banaue in the No. 1 one spot.

All the lousy roads and hard benches are instantly forgotten when I tour the rice terraces, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are various words to describe what some people have called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and “incredible” probably comes the closest ” especially when you realize the rice terraces have withstood time and conquerors for more than 2,000 years.

The morning I visit is dry for a change and I am having a whale of a time. I take about 100 photos and even those don’t tell the whole story. It is just mind-boggling.

My guide talks me into extending today’s visit, and taking a tricycle to the Huangduan rice terraces about 16 kilometers away. Even though they are stunningly beautiful, it still is not something I can recommend until they improve the roads.

The “road” here is worse than abominable and the pouring rain has made it a mud path. It take us 1 1/2 hours to travel 10 miles. These terraces are three millennia old and the walls here are made of stone. The newer terraces ” the 2,000-year-old ones “-have clay and earthen walls.

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While I had planned to stay here for two nights, I extended my visit by a night to see the equally famous terraces at Batad, about 12 kilometers away and also part of the UNESCO Site. Well, the best paid plans …

Heavy rains had caused numerous landslides, one of which blocked the only road there and almost destroyed a house. I spent most of the day looking at the rain pouring down and out of there. The next morning I left for the coast and hopefully, warmth and sunshine.

Early on my trip out of the rice terraces, I encountered about a dozen landslide that covered only half the road. There was room left to drive on.

It was still a relatively pleasant beginning (even though we do kill a dog on the road) to the nine-hour drive (it was supposed to be six), but it doesn’t last long. The rain, which had been dogging me now for almost two weeks, was true to form ” only in a more violent way.

Lightning, thunderstorms and a four-hour tropical downpour flooded the roads and slowed traffic to a crawl. I swear, if I only had the last 14 days for vacation, I would have been thoroughly pissed, but lucky for me, I have another five or so to go.

I arrived in San Fernando in a downpour and there is one thing that floors me: I am at sea level and pretty close to the Equator, but the temperature, while obviously not as cold as in Vail, is definitely chilly. Maybe the rains, but it is definitely time to leave this island.

I will visit Vigan and the neighboring town of Santa Maria, with its UNESCO Church, and then I hope to catch a flight to Cebu. There is one thing you learn when traveling without any real schedule ” you just have to take things as they come. As long as the good outweighs the bad, things normally turn out for the best in the long run.

Vigan was a very quaint, comfortable little town and with some sightseeing, relaxing and having some good food, the time passed quickly. I tried local foods such as empenada, a kind of Philippine lumpia, and okoy, a deep fried dough with shrimp. It took a bit of getting used to eating the small shrimp ” head, tail and all.

On my last night in Vigan, I noticed several families having dinner in a nice outdoor restaurant. The women and children were at one table while the men sat together at another. I was bold and asked the women why, and they said that this is quite normal. I was reading Simone de Beauvoir’s “Second Sex,” and it was quite revealing to see the sexes are still separated in some places.

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