Salvador: Jeepneyjinggoy 2018, traveling upgraded

Took a trip back in time at Kawagoe, Tokyo's Little Edo. (Contributed Photo)
Took a trip back in time at Kawagoe, Tokyo's Little Edo. (Contributed Photo)

LET me say this again — I AM GRATEFUL. The Philippines won the coveted pageant crown and I feel like I did, too, after a year of extensive traveling to new destinations and favorite spots. This year though was a bit special, the adventures were upgraded - stayed in luxury hotels, dined in the best restaurants and flew business class.

Before Boracay’s closure I “hid” in Savoy, the part of the island which reminded of the island’s early years - quiet, peaceful. I am praying the island will return to that state.

From one beach to another. After years of hearing how beautiful Tawi-Tawi is, I can finally say I agree. Thanks to the region’s DOT, I got to bask in Bongao’s beauty from the clear waters of Panampangan Island to the top of Bud Bongao. The local cuisine’s specialties left an imprint on my palate.

So did the lechon of Carcar. Who would have thought I’d make an effort to hit the road before sunrise to have lechon for breakfast? There’s always a first time and the experience was worth getting up early for.

The return to Japan on Sakura season jumpstarted the upgraded year of traveling abroad. After a luxurious stay at the Bluewater Maribago Resort in Mactan, Cebu, I got an upgrade and flew to Tokyo on Philippine Airlines’ Business Class.

Aside from ticking off bucket-listed destinations, like seeing Mount Fuji from one of the Five Lakes (actually, I caught the peak’s magnificence on a cloudless day from two lakes), I got to visit new spots — Odaiba, Kawagoe (aka Little Edo), shopping places like the Oi Racecourse flea market, Gotemba Outlet stores and the Ginza Six luxury mall.

With my Davao friends, I revisited Gunma Prefecture and finally got to experience one of its famous onsens in Ikaho and shopped at a Kokeshi Doll factory. It was exciting to tour Nikko’s World Heritage Sites again.

Back in Tokyo, I joined them in Asakusa, viewed Tokyo from two of its famed towers and took a river cruise. All throughout the trip, we sampled all of Japan’s cuisine, including the best beef, and admired the meticulousness of a tea ceremony.

Coming home on a PAL’s new tri-class plane and upgraded to a Premium Economy seat offered the luxury of rest after days on the road. But not long after, I flew to Bangkok again. Yes, on an upgraded seat of PAL.

I was spoiled at the Shangri-La by the Chao Phraya. I was given a corner room with a terrace overlooking the river, access to the club lounge, exquisite Thai dinner, and an indulgent spa treatment. It was the same at Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park but with a hip vibe, like drinks at the chic rooftop bar.

Back to the PH, another treat was waiting at Anya in Tagaytay. It was great to bond with a good friend while enjoying the luxury of the new resort.

In Iloilo, I got to stay in a Megaworld’s new development and admire the first contemporary museum outside of Luzon. Everything about this new hotspot is impressive.

I was ecstatic to see two of Cebu’s newest hotels before it actually officially opened — the Bai Hotel and Seda. Both have their own unique strengths in their offerings and location. They're certainly worth checking out. The hotels have been formally launched this year.

Locals have more reasons to travel now more than ever with Cathay Pacific providing a direct flight to Hong Kong. I revisited HK via Cathay Dragon’s Business Class (I’m lucky) and stayed at a favorite address, the Marco Polo Hong Kong hotels (with lounge access, of course. Grin ;) saw a couple of new sites in the city; and had loads of fun in Disneyland (again). It was an advance birthday celebration.

The actual celebration though was in Bangkok. From Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific flew me to a Thailand city on business class. The very elusive capsule seat on business class was no longer a dream.

Staying by the river again was fantastic. Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel is an iconic place along Chao Phraya. The new luxury mall across it is an added attraction to many in the area.

Coming home, I got another upgrade on PAL. What can I say, the Universe is very generous.

If I may borrow Cathay Pacific’s words, 2018 for jeepneyjinggoy is a year well-travelled. For all these, I am thankful. I am asking for the same, if not more, in 2019.

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