Review: The Amsterdam Dungeon


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Prior to my flight, I booked my ticket already for Madame Tussauds. I was an early bird trying to see as much as I could in one day. 

I appreciated it later that I started early in exploring Amsterdam. I had Madame Tussauds on my own for at least an hour. I took photos as much as I could without any competitions and queue (waiting for other tourists to finish their photo sessions).

Anyway, this lady at the counter where I showed my receipt printout offered me the discounted price of the ‘The Amsterdam Dungeon ‘. It was offered only to me at Euro 9. 

I grabbed the offer and after having enough of Madame Tussaud, I headed to the ‘The Amsterdam Dungeon ‘. 

It was just few like 3-5 minutes walk from Madame Tussaud. 

As I mentioned, I was an early bird. It was still closed when I reached there though there was already a queue. 

At past 10am, they started to set up the main entrance and few minutes later we were on our way to enter the dungeon. 

It was really scary but it is worth the tour. 

There were actors who entertained us and took us from one room to the other. It was dark and really like a dungeon. 

This is not for faint-hearted people because it can really be scary. If you are up to an adventure, go for it. You will really have fun.

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos because cameras are not allowed.

Here’s the details.



Posted in Netherlands, Reviews, Sightseeings, Travel | Leave a comment

Side Trip to Hanoi, Vietnam


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I am quite oblige to travel back home every year because of my son’s vaccines. Otherwise I prefer to spend my vacation in other destinations but my son’s vaccinations come first in my priority.

To compensate this desire to  travel, I usually plan a ‘side trip. This year I decided for a side trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. We spent one week in Hanoi and almost two weeks in Pinas. It was kind of our birthday gift also to Mom who celebrated her 69th birthday last April 2015. 

I luckily got our tickets on promo but not the mega promo sale like the ‘piso fare’. (Okay. Now you know which airline I am talking about. lol!)

It costed me around 18,000 pesos for a round trip airfare from Manila to Hanoi for two adults and 1 child (age 3).

Anyway, I kind of regret our Hanoi trip  on the first day. I didn’t find the place fascinating. It was so crowded. Nothing special except maybe for the yummy and reasonable food.

Busy Streets

Luckily I booked for overnight Halong Bay cruise. This rescued our disappointing trip in Hanoi.

The Halong Bay was beautiful. The islands. The nature. It was mesmerizing.

Halong Bay

You woke up with a beautiful and tranquil scenery as the ship was docked in the middle of Halong Bay.

This was my ‘eureka’ moment and realized that I have a desire to own a yacht (big smile). So I added it in my  bucket list. :-D

We went also to this big cave and a beach in another island. We really enjoyed our overnight cruise in Halong Bay.

Here are few frugal tips.

When you are staying overnight in a cruise, it is frugal to bring your  own drinks. All beverages in the cruise are chargeable.

Halong Bay is approximately 3 hours drive from Hanoi. It is best to have an overnight stay so you will enjoy the cruise. 

On the way to Halong Bay, the bus will have one or two stopovers. Allocate some budget if you are interested to buy some souvenirs during the stopover. 

Before you step out from the hotel on your first day, ask the receptionist to explain to you their money. It is confusing. Their smallest bill is 1,000VND and in general they drop the zeroes when giving the amount.

For instance, the bottled water is 10,000VND.  They will tell you only 10 VND, not 10,000VND.


During our trip, it was hot. We always had water with us. Beware of these people selling water bottle in the tourist area. It’s almost double the price.

We went to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. The queue was very long (and it was really hot), and we spent only few seconds in the mausoleum. Actually, you only pass by as his body was guarded.

If you are not into museums, you can skip this itinerary. 

Hanoi Cathedral


Posted in Travel, Vietnam | Leave a comment

OFWs: Convenient way to pay your PAG-IBIG mortgages

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We, OFWs, always look forward for our annual leave. It is like a yearly culmination of our hard work and a time to be united with our family after months or years of being away.

That’s why we consider our vacation as sacred time specially those whose children and spouse are left behind back home. 

For my case, I have two primary agenda for my vacation in Pinas. First and the most important is my son’s vaccinations. Ok, don’t raise your eyebrows here. You are not the first one to ask. They often ask me why we have to travel all the way back to Pinas for vaccinations.

My son spent his first two years back home. He completed all his vaccinations without fail (thanks to my Mom and sister). Following this, he has scheduled ‘booster vaccines’ and different ones.

We tried to show his baby’s book here but it was quite a challenge. So to ensure that my kiddo doesn’t miss any vaccines, we go home every year.

And we trust wholeheartedly his Pediatrician. :-D

Second reason is to process all necessary documents and updates like banks, PAG-IBIGs, and so on.

We took a PAG-IBIG housing loan which I regretted later. I wrote about it here.

So now, we have to make sure that the dues are paid monthly. I don’t like taking a cold cash to PAG-IBIG office for payments. That’s too dangerous.

So we opted for cheque payments. Every year I go back home, I submit cheques equivalent to one year of payment. All I have to worry then is to make sure that there’s enough fund in the bank account when PAG-IBIG will draw the cheque.

This kind of payment arrangement with PAG-IBIG has really been convenient for us and I personally recommend this to OFWs.


Asking your family members to pay PAG-IBIG dues can be tricky. There’s possibility of mismanaging the funds. Either there’s an urgent need of extra cash or it’s stolen.

So for me, payment cheques are the safest and most convenient way.

Checking Account Opening

I haven’t had the chance to open a checking account in Pinas. I am using my sister’s cheques for our PAG-IBIG payments. Most of the banks require around 25k to be deposited for at least six months. 

I had the chance to inquire with Metro Bank before I left last June 2015. Too bad, I inquired very late.My return flight is the next day and I inquired in the afternoon before my flight. 

As far as I remember, they require only a maintaining balance of 10k and they can issue you the cheque book immediately if it is available in the branch.

I would like to have cheque payments also for our insurances. I tried the online payments before unfortunately I am not receiving the official receipts. I had to fight with the customer service and until now it is not yet sorted out.

So I started paying over the counter.

When you go back home next time, try this payment option. I highly recommend it.

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Review: Hanoi Holiday Gold Hotel (Hanoi, Vietnam)



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Along the main road. Friendly and helpful staff.

This is how I can best describe the Hanoi Holiday Gold Hotel where we stayed during our trip to Hanoi last May 2015.

We found this hotel only through internet search. We were looking for affordable budget hotel and this came up. We read the reviews in Tripadvisor and it seemed good.

We arrived at around three o’clock in the morning.

When we arrived at the hotel, there was foldable bed at the entrance. The receptionist was wearing a sleeveless undershirt.

I guess the employees, who were working on evening shift, were sleeping there.

As my son was already in deep sleep, they gave us the room key and advised that we could do the check-in formalities later in the morning.

I requested a room on lower floor because it would be difficult to go up and down for my Mom. They had given us a family room on first floor. There’s two big beds, washroom, cupboard, desk table and free coffee and tea facility along with the water kettle.


Prior to our trip, I was concerned about the possibility of dengue. Let’s face it. It’s a third world country like my home country where dengue is quiet common.

Though I applied mosquito repellent lotion to my son but I got worried the next day because mosquitoes were flying around our room. We informed Tony, the receptionist, and they sprayed the room. After few hours, it was gone.

We arranged almost everything through them. Airport pick-up and drop-off. Halong Bay cruise. Day tour.

As our trip to Halong Bay was in between our stay in the hotel, we left our luggage to them and just carried our overnight stuff.

On our last day, we supposed to have a late check-out until 6pm but we changed our mind. Our flight was at 2am, so we decided to just check out at around 10pm.

Their hotel was fully booked so they could not extend our stay. Luckily they have a sister hotel nearby, like two minutes walk only.

They also helped us carried our luggage to the other hotel.

Room Type: Executive Room

Room rate: USD 25 per night inclusive of 10% tax

Inclusions: Breakfast and one way airport transportation (pick-up or drop-off)

Breakfast was basic but good, reasonable for the price we paid for the room. There are four breakfast options.


One is the traditional Vietnamese rice noodles. I would say this was really good.

Second is the American breakfast which consists of slice bread and omelet.

Third is the continental breakfast.


Our overall stay was good in this hotel.

Frugal Expat’s rating: 3 hearts – Love much... 

You can read about frugal expat’s rating here.






Posted in Hotel, Reviews, Travel, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Celebrating my birth month


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August is my birth month. My birthday this year falls on a weekday and a busy week also. 

I guess when we age, I mean when we mature, birthday celebrations are no longer that very important. 

For my case, I had to even remind myself when I woke up in the morning that it was my birthday. 

I gave thanks the man up there for giving me another year of good health, happiness and abundant blessings. 

We decided to celebrate my birthday in the weekend. Nothing grand. 

We holed up ourselves in a hotel in Dubai, enjoy the pool with my kiddo and dinner with my good friends and love ones.

My sister works in a hotel so we managed to get a special rate for family. I got also a 50% off in our dinner in one of our fave restaurant.

I guess the only thing that I splurged was traveling with a hired driver. lol!

I was feeling tired really to drive to Dubai after an exhausting week. I calculated the cost of renting a car plus the petrol and parking fees, I realized that I was saving only AED100.

So on Thursday evening, we sat relaxed in a car as the driver drove us to the hotel.

It was fun and thanks to  my best friend and her hubby who traveled all the way from Ras Al Khaimah to surprise me. BIG hug BFF (best friends forever)!



Posted in Family, Finances | Tagged | Leave a comment

Proud Policy Holder of Philam Health Invest


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When I went for my annual leave last June, one important task that I needed to tick off from my long ‘to-do-list‘ was to finalize and sign my Philam Health Invest. 

Before heading to our ‘side’ trip to Hanoi (which I still have to write later  **smile**), we stayed for couple of hours in one of the budget hotels in Manila to rest because we arrived in the morning from Abu Dhabi. Our flight to Hanoi was later only in the evening.  

I took this opportunity to meet the Philam agent, Mr. Genesis Alvaro, whom I met online only. I highly recommend him. So far, we made two transactions already –  Philam Health Invest for me and my brother – and I have no complaints. He is very cooperative. Drop me a note if you need his contact details. 

There’s a story behind this actually. When searching for insurance, I already found Genesis in some websites. Sorry, I cannot remember exactly where. I sent him an inquiry which he  replied promptly and sent the quotation.

Then few days later I was contacted by my high school classmate and she advised that her brother was also a Philam agent who is based in Davao. Genesis was a stranger whom I met online only. So I was convinced to deal with my high school classmate’s brother which I actually regretted later.

I finalized with him (my high school classmate’s brother) the Philam Health Invest for my husband but his service was not good. You know this kind of insurance agents who are only after for commissions and after that they disappear. Well, he didn’t literally disappear but he was not very helpful anymore. 

My parents used to be insurance agents too when we were growing up. It was their additional source of income. So I understood the monetary rewards after closing an insurance deal. 

So I contacted Genesis again for the Philam Health Invest for me and my brother, and I am very happy that he is my insurance agent. In fact, I recommend him always to my OFW friends. 

Anyway, back to our original topic. Months prior, Genesis and I had been communicating already through Facebook. So our meeting was kind of wrapping up everything only including the signing up of the application form. 

As per the insurance commission in Philippines, you have to be physically present in the Philippines when signing the insurance application. 

I am sharing here the factors why I chose the insurance with critical illness benefits. Note that I am neither an insurance agent nor a personal financial expert. 

First and foremost – My stand on Buy Term (Insurance), Invest the Difference (BTID) Strategy.

Term insurance is a basic type of life insurance. If the policy holder dies during the time period which is outlined in the policy, then the beneficiaries  will receive the benefits. 

The premium for term insurance is very reasonable compared to insurance products that are bundled with investments instruments (also known as VUL or Variable Universal Life Insurance).

Some financial experts recommend on buying a term insurance and investing the difference (from the VUL premium). 

This is a good strategy and I am in favor of it. Why not?

However for my case, I opted for VUL because of the what if’s scenario. In the first place, that is why insurance is called insurance because it gives protection and benefits for any eventualities that may happen,  right?

God forbids but if I am diagnosed with critical illness, my basic health insurance will not be enough. Chances are I will encash all my paper assets to cover my medical expenses. What if during this time, the market is down. 

I know.. I know.. I need to diversify my investments but at the bottom of my heart, I really do not want to encash any of my investments for medical purpose unless if I am left with that choice only.

That’s why I opted for VUL. At least, it has the investment part of the insurance. I am covered and I have the health fund in addition to my standard CIB (critical illness benefits) coverage. 

You will never  know when you will need it. I hope that I will never ever need it in my lifetime. 

Why Philam Health Invest?

I have been shopping for an insurance that will cover me in case of critical illness diagnoses. 

I inquired before with Sunlife but unfortunately they don’t offer this for OFWs. I can avail the product but not with the critical illness.

Then I found out about this Philam Health Invest. I inquired also from Axa Philippines because they have one. 

I  did my comparisons and finally I opted for Philam.

I considered many factors but these the primary reasons why I chose Philam. 

Cost. I almost signed up for Axa because it was way cheaper than Philam. With Axa, I would be paying only a fraction compared to my Philam’s premium. 

I asked myself many times. What’s my main purpose of this insurance?  It is to cover the medical cost in case (God forbids) I am diagnosed with critical illness. 

By then, I am no longer an OFW and we all know that hospitalization cost in Philippines is expensive. In fact this is one of my concern when we will go back home for good.

The product from Axa and Philam would be suitable for my purpose. 

The payment period vs the total premium cost. Personally I am not fond of long term financial commitments. These due dates are like a ghost who is haunting me all the time until I pay it off. 

AXA is 20 years payments. I really didn’t ask if I can have a shorter payment period.

With Philam, you have options and I opted for 7 years payment. 

When I crunched the numbers, I realized that the difference in the total premium for both (20 years payment and 7 years payment) is not big.

For my age, the total premium in AXA is Php 635,000 payable 20 years of payment while it is Php 686,413 for Philam payable for 7 years.

It is painful to think that you are paying a big chunk of monthly premium. But I guess like any other financial facilities like loans, the longer the payment term, the cheaper the monthly due is. 

The added value. The quotations I received from AXA and Philam have both 1 million coverage or face amount. This is the amount that I will be paid in case of critical illness is diagnosed.

But what is the value of 1 million after 10-15 years from now considering the inflation factor? 

One option to address this concern is increase my coverage. Maybe like 5 million or more but it means that my premium will also go up. 

With Philam Health Invest, it is bundled with mutual fund investment. This can also address my concern about the future value of 1 million. 

I thought also that if we really run out of funds for my son’s college education, I can also utilize this to finance his tuition fees. Anyhow, he is just 3 years old. 

For me, this is an important added value. 

The investment return in Axa Health Max is lower also compared to Philam Health Invest. 

Verdict. Obviously I am in favor of Philam Health Invest because that’s what I have chosen. The monthly premium is not a joke. It is costly. Period.

But I considered this thing with utmost priority in my financial house. It gives me peace of mind. Actually, I had been thinking of this for almost two years already but I kept on delaying it.

Then earlier this month, one of my colleague (a Filipina also in her early thirties) was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she wanted to take a similar kind of insurance, she was refused because she has been diagnosed already with CI. 

This prompted me and somehow pacified the pain of paying a pricey premium. 

If you have other financial commitments but wanted the insurance coverage with critical illness benefits, then I recommend AXA Health Max because it is really affordable.

By the way, I got an Axa Health Max for my son because Philam doesn’t offer this product to minors. 

Now, my family (husband, brother and I) are proud policy holder of Philam Health Invest.


Posted in Family, Finances, Insurance, Investments | Tagged , | 4 Comments