Beach in Philipsburg

To celebrate the end of the Kaplan and NBME Comprehensive exams, and to get some last minute duty-free, tax-free, bargain-friendly shopping done before we leave the island, Eileen, Abe, Hugo (Abe’s uncle who is visiting), and I went to Philipsburg for the day.

Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch Sint Maarten and the political, business, and tourist center of St. Maarten with all the cruise ships docking here. Downtown Philipsburg consists of two main streets: Front Street and Back Street. Front Street has more tourist-geared shops whereas Back Street in general has more businesses for locals. Front Street feels a lot like an outdoor mall, especially with stores like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Bvlgari, LaCoste, and its plethora of jewelry, electronic, and clothing shops. By the coast line of Philipsburg is the Boardwalk, also with its row of shops, hotels, and restaurants, and in front of the Boardwalk is the beach.

The four of us had an awesome time and it was the freest that I had ever felt for a while. Abe and his uncle both bought new cameras for a really good price. Abe got this really awesome Sony camera that looks like a point-and-shoot but has one of those big lenses you find on professional cameras. It shoots amazing panoramas easily.

Benji, Eileen, Abe, and Abe’s uncle Hugo at Taloula Mango’s

We had lunch at Taloula Mango’s Cafe, which is downstairs from the famous Blue Bitch Bar on the boardwalk. Being from the south, I grew up on Chicken-and-Dumplings, and Taiwanese dumplings as well… At Taloula Mango’s, I got to try the Caribbean version with the Conch-and-Dumplings. The conch was tender and the dumplings were thick and extremely filling, perfect, because I was hungry.

Afterwards, we went over to the “world-famous” Guavaberry Emporium where you can sample and buy Guavaberry liqueur. I’m usually not an alcohol drinker and if you ask me to differentiate between rum, vodka, or brandy, I probably won’t be able to do it. But I found the Guavaberry rum to be really good. The Guavaberry smoothie was also really good. I figured since I’ve been here for two years, I just had to try it at least once before I left.

Afterwards, we spent the afternoon at the beach in Philipsburg, in front of the Boardwalk. These past few weeks, I hadn’t gotten very much sleep with exams after exams to prepare for. With the nice Caribbean breeze and sounds of the calm waves around me here, I could finally rest for now. What a great way to end the week. The feeling of being done with the island, being done with Basic Sciences, was surreal. The next few days that I remain here in St. Maarten will be all about saying goodbye to the people that have helped me out along every step of this journey, packing or donating all the things I have accumulated here the past two years on the island, and spending one last time with friends before everyone parts our own ways, wherever that may be.