My 10 Best Moments in 2015

It’s officially four hours away to 2016 as I write this blog entry – mom’s preparing the Media Noche feast (a humble combination of hot chocolate, ham, white bread, refrigerator cake, Nathaniel’s buko (coconut) ice cream, tuna carbonara and red wine).

I’m a bit bummed because for the past two months, I have been lethargic due to the outpouring of work, holiday obligations and the lack of enthusiasm to get back into exercising (but I was very sprightly coming from my Japan trip, sigh). Some clothes just don’t fit the same way in a matter of weeks (due to impulsive and incessant snacking).

Despite all of this, I still can’t believe that another year has passed, and am feeling a slight stirring in my heart as I think of what 2016 could hold. Here are some of the events I am most thankful for this 2015:

  1. February – first time to visit Europe and see snow!

It was quite the nerve-wracking experience of a lifetime back in February as we were told that we had less than seven days to apply for a Schengen VISA for a business trip. On top of that, purchase items to protect us from the winter cold.

The obligatory coat-boots-snow shot with @triciasomebody. #KalvebodBrygge

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Thankfully, we got ours just in time and off we were to Europe! I was stressed the entire time, but I got a glimpse (and touch) of snow, my first real peach (I’ve been eating peaches out of cans my whole life), saw the Little Mermaid up close, and had my first dose of jet lag.

Not so bad to experience at the age of 30. 🙂

little mermaid copenhagen denmark steppanyaki

  1. April – Reconnecting with my cousin in Batangas!

Being one of the eldest grandchildren on my father’s side, I grew up playing and babysitting my younger cousins. But we had not expected that my uncle and cousin would be visiting! Which called for some spur-of-the-moment balikbayan outing planning.

As luck would have it, we were invited by my brother-in-law to stay at a hotel he manages in Bauan, Batangas. We got to ride a boat to nearby Sombrero Island, which, as the name entails, is shaped like a sombrero! My cousin and I got to spend some time to catch up with each other while enjoying a specially prepared lunch by the beach.

sombrero island batangas steppanyaki

  1. May – first time to go surfing in Baler!

Like most trips, only those that are prepared last minute push through. And in May, my boyfriend and his pals planned a quick weekend trip to Baler in Aurora. Because of the tour we mistakenly booked, we had to squeeze in a really cramped van and endure the five hours travel time.

Alas, the misadventures did not end there. The beachside cottage we booked was a true disappointment. The beds had sand on them, we weren’t even sure if the beddings had been washed, and the restroom was horrid. It had cement walls, no tiles on the floor and as you shower, the water would flood the entire room. Ugh.

Nevertheless, the sights of Baler were truly one for the books, which sort of balanced the misfortune of our travel and accommodation. We saw the largest Balete Tree in Aurora, hiked to the Ditumabo Falls (totally worth it, but the crowd was massive), visited Manuel Quezon’s old house, saw the amazing rock formations at Diguisit Beach, and tried our hand at surfing (which I totally flopped at, LOL).

diguisit beach baler aurora steppanyaki

ditumabo falls baler aurora steppanyaki

balete tree baler aurora steppanyaki

I would want to go back and stay (if I can afford it) at Costa Pacifica Baler and visit the rest of what Baler has to offer.

  1. June – first time to visit Germany!

Another business trip! We had more time to prepare for this one, but I’m happy to say it was less stressful than our trip in February. And we were able to sneak in some time to enjoy Munich’s Bavarian specialties (and the beer!). I must admit I was quite speechless taking in all the view of the glockenspiel and other centuries-old architecture.

Bavarian plate. That odd reunion with Silke though! @erikacita @triciasomebody

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The world-famous glockenspiel. Didn't move though at 10 pm.

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  1. July – Getting back into the running game

Because of an upcoming race, my boyfriend together with former officemates decided to train regularly together. I used to run frequently a few years back, but got out of the habit. It was great hitting the track again and feeling the runner’s high once more.

Stretching with Coach Tracy #InstaSize

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  1. August – Seeing my barkada again

Now that some of my friends have started their own families, we’ve come to give a greater appreciation for each time we get together. During the first birthday of my friend’s son, we got to enjoy a cup of coffee after a long, long time.

Sweet dreams are made of these. ☺️

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  1. October – Getting into OTWOL

I remember my indifference to the James Reid and Nadine Lustre (Jadine) love team as I would hear about their movies. But when I started watching their TV series, “On The Wings Of Love”, I was instantly hooked! There’s something very charming about their portrayal and they have such strong chemistry. I actually watched a few episodes in Japan just to catch up, until my access was blocked.

  1. October – Tried yoga again

I discovered a yoga studio just a 10-minute walk away, and the price isn’t bad! The yoga instructors are so friendly and professional as well. Having never practiced it seriously, though, I was wobbly as ever and ungraceful. They offer Ashtanga, Hatha and Bikram yoga sessions.

I feel bad I haven’t been able to go back in the past month. Work has been crazy, and I felt myself wallowing in whatever time I could get to sleep or rest or just go out to unwind. I suppose that goes with the holiday season.

In case you’re interested, the name of the yoga studio is iBreathe Yoga Studio. Check out their Facebook page !

  1. October – Tokyo!

No words can describe how exhilarating and unbelievable it still feels to realize that I have already been to Japan, my dream destination. I felt so alive and so youthful during my stay there—exploring as long as my legs could carry me, and enjoying every morsel of food (glorious food!) because I would keep burning the calories from these anyway.

I’ll never forget the taste of ramen and chirashi. I’ll keep dreaming about it until the next time I’m back in Japan.

Garlicky #ramen at some random spot in #Shibuya 😍🍜

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There are a lot of things I would have wanted to do differently, but as they say, chalk it all up to experience! At least I have a better idea of how train stations in Japan work, and man, it is confusing! But ultimately, knowing that I can actually plan and pay for my own travel whims is one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world.

  1. November – Starting a blog

My six-day Tokyo trip changed me—I bounced back with renewed energy and enthusiasm at work (also lost some weight, which is usually the case when I travel abroad), and I got to think about what I would want to achieve in 2016. All this inspiration pushed me to finally start my own website and share all these stories with you.

I hope you’ve been enjoying my posts so far. I plan on posting more frequently, it’s just that I suffered from a torn hand ligament. Hopefully I can dive back into writing more often as soon as I’m done with therapy.

It took me an hour to write this, and now it is officially 3 hours away to 2016! I hope you had a fulfilling 2015, and I wish you a blessed new year.

4 Must-See Places in Shinjuku, Tokyo | steppanyaki

As much as I’ve dreamt of going to Japan since I was a little girl, I know very little of the specific touristy things that can be done per area in Tokyo.

So you can just imagine how stressed I was because of the ton of researching I had to do before our trip in October/November. Thankfully, it pays off, my friends. Because if you’re traveling on a budget, knowing where to go will definitely come in handy.

I’ve listed down some places worth checking out in the Shinjuku area. Enjoy!

  1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The first touristy spot we went to was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a skyscraper that has an observation deck at the top floor. You might hear of Sumitomo Building, where you can also get a view of the cityscape, but go here instead. It’s free!

We came a little late at night--maybe between 8 and 9 pm, so I had to photoshop this picture to minimize the glare.
We came a little late at night–maybe between 8 and 9 pm, so I had to photoshop this picture to minimize the glare.

There’s also a little shopping area on the same floor as the observation deck. Definitely souvenir-friendly finds!

ultraman tokyo metropolitan building steppanyaki
Pick your Ultraman!
super mario tokyo metropolitan building steppanyaki
Plushie friends! Do the Mario!
cat bus mononoke tokyo metropolitan building steppanyaki
The price can be a bit steep but I didn’t find any other Miyazaki specialty shops anywhere else.
Totoro magnets!
Totoro magnets!
Thought of getting my mom one of these beautiful Japanese handkerchiefs.
Thought of getting my mom one of these beautiful Japanese handkerchiefs.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Building is located at 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan, and is open Mondays to Fridays, 8 am to 6:45 pm. Best to go before sunset, so you get the best photos, and glare-free, at that!

Walking outside, my friend Kim and I saw that there was a food truck and outdoor mini-concert happening:

Biggest regret ever not trying out the food truck stuff.
Biggest regret ever not trying out the food truck stuff.

2. Tokyu Hands in Takashimaya Mall, Shinjuku

I was so excited!
I was so excited!

On our second day in Shinjuku, we headed straight for the Tokyu Hands branch nearest to our AirBnb. It was in Takashimaya Mall, a famous Japanese mall chain that I’ve also been to in Singapore.

I’ve heard a lot about Tokyu Hands–it’s a crafts store slash supplies store slash accessories store slash everything! If I were to liken it to stores found in the Philippines, it reminds me of National Bookstore and local department stores. I saw gloves, smartphone cases, stationery, facial care products and more!

Here are a few of my favorite products from Tokyu Hands:

Totoro plushie wonderlan d :)
Totoro plushie wonderlan d 🙂
Danboard--the cutest cardboard figure
Danboard–the cutest cardboard figure
Sushi, Mt. Fuji and other iconic Japanese stickers--I had to try very hard not to give in and buy everything!
Sushi, Mt. Fuji and other iconic Japanese stickers–I had to try very hard not to give in and buy everything!
More kawaii finds ^__^
More kawaii finds ^__^

Tokyu Hands has several branches throughout Japan. This branch is located in Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. It is open 10 am to 9 pm daily.

3. Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

Just the sight of the entrance instantly relaxed me.
Just the sight of the entrance instantly relaxed me.
Cute kids foraging for leaves :)
Cute kids foraging for leaves 🙂
Rakutei--think it's a traditional tea house. You have to pay an extra 700 yen to get in and have some traditionally prepared green tea.
Rakutei–think it’s a traditional tea house. You have to pay an extra 700 yen to get in and have some traditionally prepared green tea.
This place is huge! And seeing Japanese architecture like these makes everything worth it
This place is huge! And seeing Japanese architecture like these makes everything worth it
I spent about a good 30 or 40 minutes just sitting on a bench at this end of Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. I feel instantly relaxed just thinking about this spot.
I spent about a good 30 or 40 minutes just sitting on a bench at this end of Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. I feel instantly relaxed just thinking about this spot.
The colder climate lets all these beautiful flowers bloom.
The colder climate lets all these beautiful flowers bloom.

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is a haven for both locals and tourists–and it is breathtaking in autumn. I spent a good two to three hours walking its expanse, and it is hands down my most unforgettable memory during my Tokyo trip. Taking time off and just navigating Shinjuku on my own was a bit scary, but with handy GPS, I was able to find my way here. It was the perfect place where I found time to reflect, rest and recharge.

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden is located at 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan, and is closed on Mondays and during national holidays. The entrance fee costs 200 yen.

4. Robot Restaurant

One of the things I was most excited about was seeing the Robot Restaurant show. It’s basically a robot show where scantily-clad girls ride robots and fight and stuff. I have no idea what exactly the shows are about, but I thought my boyfriend would enjoy it, so I bought tickets as a birthday gift. These cost us 6500 yen each.

Robot Restaurant is located at the West side of Shinjuku JR station (the place with the Godzilla peeking out behind a building!). It’s a bit of a walk, maybe 15 to 20 minutes (at least for tourists like us who don’t walk as fast as the Japanese do). It was a busy night, what with it being Halloween.

I am absolutely poor with directions and it was a good thing I had my boyfriend with me to locate Robot Restaurant using GPS (we tried asking directions, but to no avail). Thankfully, we found a “Robot Restaurant” sign and as it turns out, it’s just where you confirm your reservation for which show. The actual show is located across at the next street.

There are three shows each night, and you get the cheapest rate for the very last show. The only problem is by the time the show is over, the train stations might already  be closed and you’ll be forced to get a cab (which can cost you as much as 5000 yen).

What an epic opening performance! I loved the high energy, the Japanese costumes and the lit drums.
What an epic opening performance! I loved the high energy, the Japanese costumes and the lit drums.

As you can see, the performance hall is actually very small–3 rows each on each side. Customers can order snacks, drinks and bento boxes to enjoy while they watch the show.

Now, if only samurai were as cool as this.
Now, if only samurai were as cool as this.
I love all their costumes and wigs!
I love all their costumes and wigs!
Mix of old and new :)
Mix of old and new 🙂
After the drum performance, the show now shifts to a world wherein a planet inhabited by only sexy women (LOL) get attacked by robots. Here's a Sailormoon-clad performer riding a dinosaur.
After the drum performance, the show now shifts to a world wherein a planet inhabited by only sexy women (LOL) get attacked by robots. Here’s a Sailormoon-clad performer riding a dinosaur.
We were seated at the very front row, and sometimes the organizers had to put chains to prevent the audience from being accidentally hit by the robots or the performers.
We were seated at the very front row, and sometimes the organizers had to put chains to prevent the audience from being accidentally hit by the robots or the performers.
The girls of Robot Restaurant, in their signature cabaret-like outfits.
The girls of Robot Restaurant, in their signature cabaret-like outfits.

If you’re looking for something unique, then Robot Restaurant is for you. Don’t expect a deep plot line or anything; it’s a show full of senseless fun, cute girls and electronic props, mostly inspired by popular anime series. It can get campy, so just don’t take anything seriously and just enjoy the silliness of it all–6500 yen and all (burned a hole in my pocket, haha).

Robot Restaurant is located at Kabukicho, 1 Chome−7−1, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, and has shows every 7 pm, 8:30 pm and 10 pm. You have to be there 30 minutes before the show.

I hope this list of things to see in Shinjuku has been helpful, if you’re planning on visiting Tokyo. Please leave a comment below or share this link if you liked this post! 🙂