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View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


After an amazing sleep of 9½ hours here at the Banaue Hotel, I feel refreshed and ready to go this morning.


After several days of an upset tummy (which is nothing new to me, having suffered from severe IBS for the last 40+ years), I have developed some food anxiety, so I settle for some simple pancakes and syrup this morning. One of my great pleasures when travelling is to try new local foods, so this goes against the grain for me.



This morning’s excursion is by Jeepney, the traditional means of transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a widespread symbol of Philippine culture and art. Ours is disappointingly plain, and more like a decrepit and battered old crock than a piece of art. Jeepneys are typically very basic with rudimentary bench seating along the sides of the interior, and are anything but comfortable for someone (like me) with back problems. It has to be done, though, when in Rome (or Philippines) and all that…


Today is spent photographing the scenery, including the incredible rice terraces this area is known for.


Our first stop is at the Batad Viewpoint, where I send up the drone for a better view of the valley beyond.

My drone selfie


With such steep valleys, multi-storey houses are built downwards from the road, and often painted in bright colours.


I am very excited to see a Luzon Sunbird at the viewpoint - a lifer for me

Rice drying on the side of the road

Rice Terraces Walk

David goes off for a hike with Rey (our guide), Richie (our driver), and Dayton, our local guide here in Banaue down to the rice terraces in the valley below, while I stay behind with Harry, the Jeepney Driver. Rey very kindly takes my camera to capture some of the scenes.


I am getting increasingly desperate for the toilet, feeling that the diarrhoea has returned with a vengeance. As I slide along the bench to get out to brave the corrugated shed with a WC sign on it, the others return from their walk. The toilet is, as expected, a very traditional hole-in-the-ground squat style. While I am fine getting down to business, trying to get up again jolts my Sacroiliac Joint into a position it doesn’t want to be in, and I cry out in pain. Hearing my screams, David comes running in, and with the help of Rey they manage to get me back up to the car park, each step being agony, and into the Jeepney, accompanied by lots of screams.

Each bump on the road feels like someone is stabbing me in the back, and I try, very gingerly, to slide and hoist myself into the ‘proper’ seats at the front (a row of seats facing forward behind the driver). While this is far preferable for my back, the lack of legroom and low seat is agony for my arthritic left knee. When we reach the hotel I hobble back to the room and chill for the rest of the day.


Neither of us has given lunch any thought, but Rey is one step ahead of us, as usual. After being unwell and off our food in Timor Leste, we had both lost some weight, but Rey has tried his damnest to help us put that back on again. There is a knock on the door, and plates of chicken and chips, noodles, rice, bread rolls and salad arrive. I brave a bread roll and boiled egg, plus a small piece of chicken, before taking extra painkillers and retiring to bed.


Thankfully, the painkillers and rest restore my back to some sort of normality (a prolapsed disk and arthritis means I will always have problems), and I stay in bed for the rest of the evening while David eats the leftover cold chicken and noodles for dinner.

This amazing Grand Tour of South East Asia was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.


Posted by Grete Howard 15:49 Archived in Philippines Tagged philippines sji rice_terraces banaue jeepney batad drone undiscovered_destinations bad_back drone_photography grand_south_east_asia_tour dronography sacroiliac

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My gosh, the food iooks yummy!

by Ils1976

I love the rice terraces and scenery in general but I would really struggle with that toilet!

by ToonSarah

Thanks, Ils, the food was great throughout the Philippines. ♥

Sarah, the toilet was not at all pleasant, especially not for someone with back and knee problems. I asked Rey what elderly people do when they can no longer squat, and he said they use a dining-type chair and cut out the middle. I looked online, and would you believe it, you can get foldable portable 'squat-toilet-chairs' from China. I bought one to take on our next trip - watch this space!

by Grete Howard

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