Easter Week in Batanes – The Main Island

April 7, 2010

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about our recent trip to Batanes.  What a stunning, remote location!  It was like something that time forgot, but in an oh-so-wonderful kind of way.  It reminded me most of Hawaii and what I imagine it would have looked like before all the hotels moved in and the lush, rolling hills disappeared.

Throughout the 4 days we were there, I vacillated between shock and delight.  Shock that the man we just passed is really riding on a Carabou (see above), delight that my cell phone gets reception, shock that I cannot get a drop of hot water to come out of the shower, delight that I had more animal subjects than humans on this trip, and so on.  It was by far the most remote location that I’ve ever visited on our travels abroad and it was a refreshing change of pace.

Highlights of my visit included:

  • Wearing a light sweater!
  • Breathing in crisp, clean air
  • Driving with the windows open and the breeze blowing through my hair (in fact, they took it one step farther on our tour and drove with the side van door open – “Safety Sarah” had some initial issues with that but decided to just roll with it)
  • Seeing the Big Dipper!
  • Eating beef that was killed that morning

We arrived in Basco, Batanes at 10 AM on Wednesday morning.  We were able to check into our accommodations at Shanedel’s Inn, located right on the waterfront of Basco.  It was definitely not the most glamorous accommodations I’ve ever stayed in, but it was clean and we were taken very good care of by the family that ran it.  Not that there were many choices though!  This was one of only 5 places on the island (4 that are under $30 a night, 1 that is over $200).  I was quite happy that we ended up here- it was a good fit for us.  Very authentic and simple, a reflection of what life on the island was all about.

On Day 1 we went exploring on foot.  We walked around the town, taking in the beautiful Catholic church that was being readied for the Holy Week festivities.  The most common thing we saw on the streets were big, huge smiles.  I never thought this possible, but we got even more “love” here than in Manila.  Hellos, smiles, waves – we were practically celebrities.  Have I mentioned that I love the hospitality and warmth of Filipinos?  Because truly, it is SO INCREDIBLE to be treated that way!  Another surprise was all the English that was spoken.  So not only did the majority speak Ivatan (the local dialect), but many also knew Tagalog (spoken in Manila) and English.  I was floored!

We had also seen a lighthouse from the hotel and decided to try and hike to it.  15 minutes later we were enjoying the view from where it stood.  Lots of good photo ops here (which would be the first of many, I was soon to learn).  We hung out there for awhile and retired back to the hotel for a 3 hour afternoon nap and home-cooked meal.  It was a great way to start off the week.

Days 2 and 3 were spent on tours of the main island.  We were awed by the plunging views of “Marlborough Country” (pictured above) and fascinated by the daily life we observed.  In the picture below, you can see the traditional Ivatan farming method of segmenting plots with hedges to both keep animals contained and dictate boundaries.  Very ingenious, I thought…much easier than erecting fences everywhere!

There were no monuments our museums to see, only stunning natural wonders of the earth.  I couldn’t decide what to shoot first- the rolling hills, the dramatic cliffs or the churning seas!  And so I just took it all in.  I must say, these are easily the best travel photographs I’ve ever captured and they look even more vivid at the SMUGMUG site.  I narrowed it down to the best 250 shots I took and would love for you to enjoy them.  There were so many that I wanted to feature here, but couldn’t!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the adventure on our 4th day when we battled the fierce ocean to get to the neighboring island of Sabtang.  Let’s just say that I had a bit of trouble keeping my breakfast down…

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  1. Bridget says:

    I am so taken by your photos…they are extraordinary! Love the last one.

  2. Gorgeous photos!!

    The last one is my favorite – just look at how blue the water is! Love the colors!

  3. minnesotagal says:

    Thanks all – glad you like them so much!

  4. Sintea says:

    Wow, amazing pictures and interesting stories. Thanks for sharing them. You’ve just inspired me to visit Batanes someday.:-)

  5. minnesotagal says:

    Awesome, you definitely should!

  6. miguel says:

    loved the photos from your philippine travels, specially the ones from batanes. simply stunning indeed. i love your enthusiasm and admire your boundless energy in making the most of your stay there, the land of my birth and the source of my pride.

  7. minnesotagal says:

    Me too Miguel – the beauty of this place stuns me! Thanks for following… Sarah

  8. dennis says:

    I Am a Filipino.. I haven’t been to Batanes..Honestly…this is my dream vacation..Thanks for the pictures.I envy you guys

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