READ – Japan Guide: Sakura Viewing Locations in & around Tokyo

Tokyo Sakura Viewing Locations (47)

Kumagaya Sakura Tsutsumi

Last March to April 2019, I was tasked as the Sakura correspondent for Jetstar Asia.

I visited 22 Cherry Blossom viewing locations in & around Tokyo and posted bloom updates on Instagram stories (check out my SAKURA highlight – @inspiringgratefultravels).

You would think 22 was a lot, right? That I’d probably had my fill of Sakura to last a lifetime? No! It actually made me yearn to see more!

Tokyo Sakura Viewing Locations (10)

Cherry Blossoms at Asukayama Park

It’s not just pink trees in parks or wherever for me. There are a lot of factors that made each location lovingly unique – its environment, the local culture, the tourists, the distance from Tokyo, the ambiance, and many more.

It was an overwhelming and incredible experience!

Here are my favorite Sakura spots during the trip:

  • Aoyama Cemetery
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
  • Shingashi River Kawagoe
  • Meguro River
  • Odaiba

I was asked once why I use grateful a lot. Most people tend to use thankful. I find that grateful means more, deeper than just being thankful. It’s a big part of it but one has to consider being content and content is sometimes hard to really feel. Being grateful, there’s more appreciation. That’s why when I practice gratitude especially during my trips, I feel more out of it. There’s a depth of sentiment that carries through my mind and heart.


Sakura Tunnel at Odawara Castle Entrance

It’s not always roses with me & gratitude. It is not easy to come by but when I feel it…really feel it in my bones, it’s the epitome of genuine happiness. It’s when you know in a moment that that is all you’ll ever need. I felt this magic at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Albeit this location had the least Sakura flowers during my trip, the environment had a powerful grateful force surrounding it – with families enjoying, kids blowing bubbles & running around, the perfect weather of cold & sunny, sitting on a picnic mat watching happiness, and feeling true joy…& love.


Last November 2019, I traveled to Maldives with my family. You’re probably picturing over water bungalows now, right? The ones you’ve seen on social media? This is the common perception of Maldives. But our Maldives trip blossomed from a set budget so no waking up to emerald waters beneath floors or opening glass sliding doors to the balcony of Instagram dreams just YET.

Travel Favorites 2019 (7)

But even on a budget, one can still experience social-construct luxury even for just a day. During our Maldives trip, we availed a day excursion to one of the nearby resorts of Maafushi island, Adaaran Club Rannalhi!

Seeing it from the speedboat, we were already hypnotized by the island’s beauty – pristine white sand surrounded by deep blue waters that if it were a person’s eyes, I would stare at it all day long. Everything about the day trip was amazing – the staff, beaches, underwater life, weather, swings, boardwalk, it was quality luxury on a budget!


Travel Favorites 2019 (2)

I’ve professed my love for docks a few times on this platform and I’m grateful that I got to experience one of the best docks at Adaaran Club Rannalhi. The resort’s bar branches out to a platform that resembles a dock bridge. There are comfortable seats on it which made me feel like I was at a luxe version of Dawson’s Creek

Travel Favorites 2019 (3)

All throughout the day, we kept coming back there to get snacks, have a few drinks, and when it rained in the afternoon, took shelter within the bar but still within the dock’s midst. 30 minutes before sunset, the rain stopped and we parked ourselves on the seats by the edge so we had a scenic view of the water, resort bungalows, shores, and sky line. It was a great way to end the day trip! 


READ – Japan Guide: Osaka Food Trip List 



That’s the tweet? HAHA!


Otoro Sushi Set from Maguroya Kurogin

From convenience stores to high-priced Teppanyaki restaurants, Japan is my Mecca of FOOD! During the Sakura trip, I wasn’t only exploring Cherry Blossom locations, my taste buds had an adventure of its own. Months later, I traveled to Kansai with my sister to try the food scene in Osaka. When in Japan, it’s always a gastronomic experience!

From 7 elevens to fish markets to food basements in department stores and many more, check out some of the food & snacks I loved during my Tokyo & Osaka trips this year:

  • Strawberry Daifuki (Mochi) from Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo
  • Otoro Tuna Sushi Sets from Maguroya Kurogin Kuromon Market Osaka
  • Mon Cher Cream Puff from Hankyu Umeda Osaka or Mitsukoshi Ginza Tokyo


  • Tsukemen from Menya Takei Umeda Station Tokyo
  • Grilled Scallops with Butter & Soy Sauce from Kuromon Market Osaka
  • Croquant Zaku Zaku Soft Serve & Crunchy Cream Puff from Takeshita Street Tokyo
  • Kushikatsu from Shinsekai Osaka
  • Sushi Set from Sushizanmai Tokyo
  • Rikuro’s Cheesecake from Namba Osaka
  • Matsuzaka Gyu Meal from Chodaya Mitsukoshi Tokyo
  • Kobe Beef Sushi from Steak Sakura Namba Osaka
  • POGG Sweet Potato Pie Lumine EST Shinjuku Tokyo
  • Mochifuwa Pancakes, Onigiri, Egg Sandwich, and Ramen Tsuta Michelin Star from 7 eleven
  • Ohayo Pudding (Original Jersey Milk Pudding) from Family Mart, Don Quijote, or Grocery Store


When I started traveling frequently, I loved exploring most of the day. I would often wake up at 5 AM, get ready, and start my itinerary right away. The latest I would go back to the hostel would be around 11 PM then I’d start again at 5 AM the next day. That’s why a bed and a locker in a hostel sufficed.

But lately, going back home earlier and to hotel rooms have become a favorite part of the day. Not because the exploring makes me less interested but because I see the importance of a well-rested body. Although some hostels provide the comfort I prefer, not all do. That’s why recently, I’ve been booking private hotel or AIRBNB (Get ₱1,600 or $32 off your first AIRBNB booking when you sign up through the link!) rooms more and more. The room is cleaner, the beds are much more comfortable, and the ambiance is an added value.

Once I am finished with the last itinerary of the day, I love coming back to clean hotel rooms, shower, and rest on luscious beds. But this year, I bought something that made the already amazing sleeping experience better – silk sleepwear. All my life, I’ve been a cotton PJs kind of gal. When I traveled before, I’d only wear cotton shirts and shorts to bed. But when I bought PJ sets from Private Storey, sleep during trips got better. The smooth & silky feel of the fabric against my body complements the marshmallow-like comfort of the hotel beds. It boosts my soul and recharges my body. The pretty designs and price tag of the sleepwear are a bonus too!


Don’t judge a book by its cover. This holds true not only for people you meet but in all things, even places. My family just finished a private day tour of Maldives’ island hopping locations and docked at the Maafushi port. My mom wanted to view the sunset at one of the popular spots on the local island, Bikini beach. When we got there, it was packed. The water was murky and the sky cloudy. It wasn’t as pleasant as I expected it to be so I just told my mom I’d retire early in our room.

It was around 8 AM during our last day in Maldives, the sun was out and about. We decided to spend the whole morning at Bikini beach and prepare for departure in the afternoon. I wasn’t excited given my first look of it but I still went to spend time with my family.

Travel Favorites 2019 (4)

When we arrived at the beach, there were only a few people and the water was shades of blue that I loved! The sun was shining and the leaves of the trees were rustling as if to welcome me with open arms saying you were wrong about us Irene! Come here!

Travel Favorites 2019 (6)

Our “Secret” Shore at Bikini Beach

Bikini beach has 2 to 3 main shores with crossing walkways made of rocks and sand. We found a secret corner where the walkways obstruct the view of the tourists from the main shores. We were the only ones there which made it feel private. The sand is white & fine and the ocean gave off a 50 shades of blue vibe. With the rhythmic spotlight of sun through every wave, the changing hues of blue was such a stunning and dreamy sight.

We sunbathed, swam, and bonded. It was our secret beach. It was an amazing spot! At around 11 AM, the foot traffic was picking up and a few people discovered the corner shore and joined in. As the clock runs out for our time there, I feel and watch the waves splash on my my legs, press the soft sand beneath my palms, take in the gorgeous surrounding, and let the gratitude fill my soul.


My sister often teases me that my trip itineraries are toxic. Aside from a jam-packed schedule, there’s a lot of walking involved. From my sister’s POV, it may be toxic but for me, I see it as maximizing every second of a destination that I am in. I don’t want to miss anything. I prefer to see and experience as much as I can.

Walking is essential especially in countries like Japan where public transportation is efficient. It eases the budget and it is also good for the health. Although essential, walking for most of the day can take its toll on my feet. One of the things I look forward to when arriving at an accommodation is that I’ll be able to put up my feet soon.

Travel Favorites 2019 (5)

During my last two trips to Japan, I discovered the Kyusoku Jikan Foot or Leg Cooling Gel Patch at a pharmacy near my hotel. While browsing for cotton, I saw this pack with an image of patches on legs with flowers, fruits, and sparkles floating around it. I assumed it was some type of relief patch so I decided to try it.

After showering and before going to sleep, I stuck the patches on the bottom of my feet and put socks on. You’ll feel the menthol effect right away. It also has a fruity calming scent. Waking up the next day, my feet felt refreshed and the soreness from a full day of walking faded away.

This patch is definitely a must have for me if there’s a lot of walking involved during a trip. You can find this at grocery stores and pharmacies in Japan. If you want to try this in Manila, check Shopee.



From all the articles I wrote this year, I want to share:


Travel to Batanes with BISUMI (37)

Sabtang Lighthouse Swing

Back in 2015, the most popular blog I posted was my Batanes experience.

Why should 2019 be any different? I published the sequel this year which was based on my 2nd trip and it was & is still a hit!

My #GRATEFULinBATANES story is always a part of the top 5 most viewed articles on Inspiring Grateful Travels’ daily statistics.

If you google Batanes Blog, you will find that my narrative is also included in the first few links of the initial search page.

Batanes with BISUMI (A)

Alapad Hills

The Batanes trip with BISUMI tours & services was definitely a highlight of #TRAVEL2018. I am grateful that the story I have written & published this year was & is well-received.

Thank you for reading through, browsing, scanning, or what my sister usually does “just looks at the photos” of my Batanes story!

READ – #GRATEFULinBATANES: Exploring Batan & Sabtang Islands with BISUMI


#flyethiopianairlinestobrazil add gru (9)

I always try to put a lot of heart in the articles that I write. Until I deem it IRENE-WORTHY, I won’t publish it.

I have to be proud of it! It should add value to the reader’s experience.

But with this story, I felt like I added MORE HEART than I usually do. It was meaningful to write my flight journey to Brazil because I really wanted to bring YOU with ME. To describe it graphically, refer to the scene where Mary Poppins brought the kids into the chalk paintings of Bert. My hope is that when readers consume my travel content, they will feel like they were with me.

#flyethiopianairlinestobrazil hk add (2)

Ethiopian Airlines Flight from Manila to Addis Ababa

I perceive that this is what I have accomplished with my Manila to Brazil Ethiopian Airlines flight narrative. When I share my travel story, I want it to become your story as well similar to when an author entices the reader into a whole new world through a book. Or even if you feel that you’re not a part of the narrative yet, I wish that it will inspire you to dream, work hard, and experience Brazil too.

#flyethiopianairlinestobrazil brazil (11)

Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro

READ – Fly from Manila to Brazil with Ethiopian Airlines!



  • BLUSH – Teviant Blush to Flush Palette in Arancia and Sunnies Face Airblush in Razz
  • LIPSTICK – Pat McGrath Matte Trance in Vendetta
  • SKIN CARE – Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask
  • YOUTUBE CHANNEL – Mark Wiens and Strictly Dumpling
  • TV SERIES – Game of Thrones and Money Heist
  • SCENTOui by Juicy Couture
  • SONG – Cornelia Street by Taylor Swift
  • MOVIE – The Two Popes

NOTE: My experiences with travel products and services may or may not be the same as yours. With skincare and make-up products mentioned, these worked for me. The products MAY or MAY NOT work for or be preferred by you. I highly suggest that you do your own research first or if available, ask for a sample before purchasing full sized items.



Travel Favorites 2019 (1)

Cherry Blossoms near Imperial Palace Grounds East Garden Entrance


One thought on “LIST: TRAVEL FAVORITES 2019


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.