Overnight Bus to Banaue
I’m not one to hide the fact that I’m fine pampering myself when I travel. I’ll take the $7 tuk-tuk to avoid a walk in a monsoon, I’ll take a flight to avoid a 24 hour ferry, and I’ll pay the extra $5 for a private air-conditioned room instead of staying in a dorm. I’m lucky to have that luxury and up until traveling the Philippines, I did damn well purposely avoiding any overnight buses.
I’ve read and heard arguments that overnight buses are the best way to travel because they save you from paying for a hotel/hostel that night and you also won’t waste a day traveling. That logic makes sense to me, but I don’t agree with it. I’ve established I’m a light sleeper so I know for a fact, I will not get much sleep, if any at all on a bus hurtling down poorly maintained roads. I can’t sleep on planes or lying flat on an overnight train, so I knew I was doomed on a cramped overnight bus – I wouldn’t waste a day traveling, but I knew I would waste it either in a zombie-like state at my destination or with the luck of a very early check-in, I’ll sleep half that day anyway. Plus, over night transportation typically gets you to where you’re going very, very early in the morning when other modes of transportation aren’t running around the city, restaurants won’t open for breakfast for hours, and hotel doors are typically locked for the security of those guests inside.
Unfortunately (at the time or writing), there is no other option to visit the Cordillera Mountains of Northern Luzon and beautiful towns of Batad, Banaue, and Sagada.* And as far as I could find, there is also simply one option for that even night bus – Ohayami Transportation.
And it SUCKS. I don’t think I have ever been more uncomfortable in my life, including in coach seats on Frontier Airlines. (F*ck you, Frontier.) The seats are stiff and sized for small children, air-conditioning is too cold,** overhead lights are kept on most of the night, and leg room is nearly non-existent, even if the person in front of you doesn’t literally recline into your lap. Not to mention the bus doesn’t exactly shift smoothly. The only thing that was actually okay was that I expected the drivers to be more terrifying. Yes, apparently a beat-up coach bus can hit approximately 120 kph while passing other cars and motorbikes through small villages, but for some reason, it didn’t phase me.
I’m very happy that the mountains are insainly beautiful…
*I’m sure you could hire a minibus, but in my research and conversations, I didn’t see one person present that option.
**Before boarding the bus, they do kindly remind you how cold it is about to be to make sure you have an extra layer. Because that apparently makes more sense than simply turning it down when people start to shiver… (Take the extra layer advise very seriously. I’m glad I did.)
UPDATE: I had actually written everything above while waiting out a thunderstorm in Banaue. My ride back to Manila that night was on a slightly roomier bus that was slightly more comfortable. However, we made about 20 stops to pick up other people along the way and we had people sitting all through the isles. I also had the luxury of a mother having her two-year-old on her lap next to me the whole time. On the plus side though… Manila wakes up real early. The city was already bustling when I got back in.