I think it’s convenient that I’ve saved this country until last considering so far it’s not exactly been the easiest of travels, despite the help of a very kind couchsurfer host in Manila. My first couple of days were spent “experiencing” Manila. I know most people will think I’m crazy for spending any time here but I always think it’s important to have a feel for a country’s capital city before moving onto the rewards of more locations. Unsurprisingly Manila is a big, noisy, crowded and poverty-stricken metropolis. It possibly holds the record for the most horrendous traffic and transport system I have ever come across (does it beat Jakarta?) with more stray dogs, cats and humans than you can shake a stick at. The surprise would have to be the Makati district which made me feel like I was back in Singapore: rich, slick and trendy, a far cry from the rest of the city’s madness. One big plus though is Intramuros which is full of Spanish colonial buildings with some impressive churches, cathedrals and an old fort. Refreshing after 9 months of temples.
After two nights with my host I took a night bus to the famous Banaue rice terraces north of Manila in Luzon island. I’ve seen my fair share of rice terraces in the last few months and I have to say these are the best I’ve seen. Our wonderful guide Ruben trekked us up and down the hillsides and along the terrace edges to the perfect scenic spot, Batad, where we spent the night on the hillside in unforgettable surroundings. The next day more butt and thigh toning rewarded us with a spectacular dip at a waterfall tucked away in the corner of the village before returning to town and another night bus back to Manila.