Baguio, Philippines, is a resort city 130 mi/210 km north of Manila where the heat-weary residents of Manila go when they want to take a vacation. The air is cool, there's a great golf course and the atmosphere is relaxing—though the earthquake of 1990 and economic deterioration have taken a toll on the urban core. However, there are efforts to re-establish Camp John Hay, a former American military base, into a premier vacation spot. A first-class hotel known as The Manor currently resides there. Ayala Land also announced plans to develop the area.
A side trip to the enormous Banaue Rice Terraces is recommended. If placed end to end, the terraces would stretch halfway around the globe. The small-plane or helicopter flyover of the area is a time-saver, but try to see the terraces on a two-day trip.
The mountaintop area is home to the Ifugao people, who create excellent weavings and wood carvings. However, for protection, it is suggested that you go with a reputable tour group or a trusted guide.
The drive or bus ride from Baguio to the Banaue Rice Terraces follows the eye-popping Halsema Highway, which ranks as one of the most spectacular—if tiring—drives in Southeast Asia. The road is one-way, but the direction changes. A signalman phones ahead to say your car is on its way, and the signalman at the other end stops all traffic until you pass. (The procedure is repeated more times than you'll care to count.)
Nearby Sagada is known for its rolling hills, deep caves, tribal artifacts and cozy guesthouses (whose owners serve some of the best food in the country).
Travelers interested in the Ferdinand Marcos era can visit his hometown of Batac (130 mi/210 km northeast of Baguio), which has a museum devoted to the late president and dictator.
Nearby is a glass crypt where you can view his body (photographs are prohibited). It's not really worth the long trip from Baguio or Manila, though the countryside around Batac is scenic.
Ilocos Norte, the province where Batac is located, is one of the few places outside Manila that has concrete roads and well-preserved Spanish structures. Fort Ilocandia offers upscale facilities and services. The nearby beachfront of Pagudpod is growing in popularity.
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