Friday, May 18, 2018

Banaue Bound Part 1 - Of Carinderia Hits and a ride on the Coda Bus

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  In our case, a journey of 350 kilometres started with a casual invitation ... "I'm going to the Imbayah Festival in Banaue next month, why don't you come?" I don't remember hesitating for even a split second before I said yes.
I had never been to Banaue and all of a sudden,  now seemed like the perfect time to go. 
So, thank you Harvey for popping the question!

We took the night bus to Banaue, a 9 hour long ride.  A trip that long needed sustenance.  
Good thing the area around the bus terminal in Cubao had lots of carinderias -- we were attracted 
to the bright red ceiling and wall of this nameless one.


Since it was nearly 10 p.m there was not much food left on the eskaparate (display case).  
Just a few pieces of fish, the local sausage longganiza and vegetables.  It would have to do.

Our  "light" dinner consisted of chopped string beans cooked in a spicy gata or coconut cream and 
paksiw na galunggong wrapped in banana leaf.  The fish was fresh and the vegetables were tasty.  
A perfect meal combination -- this plain carinderia with its honest, homespun cooking could give more expensive Filipino restaurants a run for their money!

While there are a number of bus lines plying the Manila - Banaue - Sagada route, we decided to take Coda Bus which advertised "super deluxe" buses that came with its own toilet.  The buses were new although I wasn't so keen on the lavender and dark purple colour scheme. 

You can buy bus tickets online and choose your seats as well.  Time for a quick selfie before the bus pulled out of the terminal -- just a few minutes past the designated departure time.

Coda keeps its buses clean and well maintained, I was quite impressed.  I wondered if the toilet would be a bit smelly as it would be in use throughout the trip but I need not have worried at all. 

I slept fitfully,  waking up every so often.  The bus drove straight for about 6 hours until it pulled in to a rest stop in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.  This is the Pink Pantry -- with a convenience store, a cafeteria and the most important thing for travellers (at least those who did not ride a Coda Bus),  relatively clean pay toilets. 

The buses stop for about 20 minutes -- giving the drivers a quick rest and a chance to sit and eat.  
We spent our time checking out the convenience store where we were tempted by an array of regional delicacies like silvanas from Nueva Ecija, pastillas de leche from Bulacan even otap from Cebu!  Now that travelled quite a long way.  

I had planned to stay awake till the bus pulled into Banaue but I must have fallen asleep again.  
When I woke up, it was way past sunrise and we were navigating the twists and turns of the mountain road.   In a few minutes, I would finally see Banaue!  The adventure was about to begin. 

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