March 27, 2006

Musical Chairs
Marigot, St. Martin

I've been in Sint Marteen/Saint Martin for three nights, and spent each one in a different location.

I walked off the airplane with a list of potential spots to stay, but needed quarters to start making phone calls. Chance pulled me into a tiny tourist-trinket store in the airport where I met Esmee Thomas (an outgoing woman of small-stature in her early 60's running the shop).

Generally familiar with the hotel scene, she took a look at my list and dismissed most as too expensive. Andy had paid $51 a night when he was here, so I knew about what to expect for first night rates. Esmee made a call to an acquaintance at Marge's Guesthouse, instructing him hold a room at the agreed upon rate, and even offering to drive me there if I waited around until she closed shop in an hour and a half (which I took her up on).

On the drive over (the long way with pleasant tour) Esmee mentioned a room at her home that she'd rent out to me for $25 a night if I was interested, but she needed a day or two to get it in order.

Friday night I paid a painful $50 for a spacious guesthouse room in Dutch Cole Bay with plenty of amenities, including a kitchenette. I woke up early on Saturday morning, compiled a new list from an Internet cafe, made some calls, caught a bus to the Dutch capital of Philipsburg, and started hunting. I only had a few hours to find a new spot, as leaving your gear in a room past the 11:00 hour typically implies paying for another night.

I ended up securing a bare room at the Spanish speaking Jose's Guesthouse (in the seedy part of town) for Saturday night. The lackluster room reminded me of the hole I stayed at in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for $6 a night—except I was paying the posted rate of $35!

Aside from the guesthouse's excellent proximity to the Philipsburg beach, boardwalk, and shopping, it upset me that paying only $15 less for the night meant the sacrifice of personal security, working hot-water shower, A/C, television, kitchenette with mini-fridge, and toilet seat. What a rip-off (but the cheapest I was able to sniff out that morning).

US$25 a night

Sunday night found me at Esmee's home in the French capital city of Marigot. The room, an offshoot from the porch, is about the same width and length as the interior of many SUV's, with space for little more than a bed, table, and floor fan. The bathroom (and everything else needed) is inside the house.

Even though it's at the sacrifice of some comforts and privacy, I would much rather give my money to Esmee and experience local life out of her home than an overpriced guesthouse.

If I wanted to spend another morning searching, I could probably find a place far outside of town for $25 a night, but it's just not worth the effort. At the moment I'm enjoying the local scene(s), and plotting how to best get to (the clothing optional) Orient Beach in the northeast part of the island.

Comments:

Andy HoboTraveler.com

March 28th, 2006

I am hoping to hear some good beach stories. Sadly in the Caribbean I felt overwealmed by how much I needed to work to live. It consume all my time working find rooms, find the beach, trying to minimize the cost. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

I was very tan when I left the Caribbean bacause I walked mile everyday of the week. I am losing the tan here in Antigua, Guatemala in Don Quijote with WIFI in my room and a color TV.

This room is very expensive in Guatemala it cost 13 Dollars and you can get a room for 3-4 easy. I guess I am paying for WIFI.

I am thinking or trying to understand why the world wants us to work so hard to go places. It misses the idea of being on an endless vacation completely.

Andy of HoboTraveler.com in Antigua Guatemala and on the 2nd to JFK then on 10th to Budapest.

St. Martin

Craig | travelvice.com

March 28th, 2006

Andy,
I agree completely; the effort that must be exerted in this region to find modest accommodations and services is tremendous. I'm burnt out myself.

I sadly lost a lot of my bronze during the month I lived in Bequia and the countryside of St. Vincent (I believe I made a trip to an unimpressive beach only once during that time). It's hard to stop thinking about the beauty of the Tobago Cays every time my feet touch sand.

The beach scene here is calm, but Orient Beach today offered some of the most action I've seen in a while. And I'm now the proud owner of a sunburnt ass, after spending the entire day in my birthday suit with the nudists!

…now I wish I hadn't thrown away that bottle of aloe when I did my 3-month backpack cleanout a few weeks ago. oops. :)

Erik

March 29th, 2006

What about Maho beach?! I've always wanted to go to St Maarten solely for that beach just off the airport runway and the commercial heavies flying 50 feet overhead! But then, before travel became my own vice as well, I was an aviation nut, and still am today. I just can't make a career out of it because my hearing sucks. :(

St. Martin

Craig | travelvice.com

April 3rd, 2006

Just for you Erik! :)

Maho Bay

By the way, I guarantee you would hear these guys!

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