Grab that coffee or glass of wine, and settle in for a long progress report from Ko Jum.
We had another productive week at Uza Beach Residence so I have a lot of updates on the various projects, old and new.
We continued work on “Sunset Suds,” “Walk This Way,” and “Orange Crush,” and kicked off a new project “What’s Your Sign.” Even in our downtime, many Helpers worked on small side projects, indicating how much potential we see in this place.
The week culminated with a party Friday night at Rock Bar, which is the bar just around the rocky point from Uza Beach. Since Uza Beach provides one of two entrances to Rock Bar, many of the partygoers got a first glimpse at our renovations and improvements to Uza Beach Residence. Unfortunately, you will have to settle for my verbal description and a few pictures. It’s much better in real life, trust me.
Since my last update, we’ve welcomed four new Helpers (two couples from Argentina) and said goodbye to one. We also said goodbye to Uza guest @ninaseetheworld who has been supporting our efforts for the last couple of weeks.
I also said goodbye to any future pictures I might take on my Nikon DSLR camera, which has suddenly developed a shutter malfunction. Nikon apparently is aware of the problem, and has issued a service advisory offering repair for free. But, I will have to wait until I get back to the States to send my camera in. Ironically, my camera says it was “Made in Thailand.”
With so many Helpers (and me not distracted by taking so many pictures), here’s a summary of what we accomplished this week.
The most exciting progress relates to “Sunset Suds.” The materials for the bar arrived early in the week, coming to us by boat and pickup truck. The deliverymen assembled the bamboo and thatched-roof Tiki bar for us.
Then came decision time: which way should the bar face? Ben and I had debated this for a few days, but now, having the physical structure here, we were able to test variations.
In the end, supported by the other Helpers, I convinced Ben that the front of the bar should face outward, toward the beach and yard. This would allow the music, lights, and bar scene to spill out onto the beach, and would allow the bartender more storage area behind and out of sight.
We spent the next morning filling the bar area with more sand, placing large cement blocks under each leg, and adjusting sand height until the bar counter was level. We had quite a “fireman’s line” going to shovel sand into a bucket, pass the bucket up to the bar area, dump the sand, and pass the bucket back.
Filling the bar area with more sand required that we add another step down to the additional seating area that we had created last week. A few of us combed the beach at low tide for big rocks that we could use.
In the additional seating area, the long wooden table looked great with its new coat of varnish and tree branch legs. The installation was a bit tricky, trying to keep the long board stable and level, but we managed. As you’ll see in the picture, this is really more of a counter, not table, as it’s only about 15 inches wide.
We also finished the electrical wiring to the bar. We had to dig up a bit of the sandy bar floor to bury the final bit of piping, but that was pretty easy. We also went back and buried the electrical and water pipes leading from the restaurant across the yard to the bar. We installed an overhead light in the bar and a floodlight behind the bar to highlight the jungle backdrop.
The restaurant had some decorative lighting that was not being used. These were 2-foot long plastic tubes with blue, red, and green lights inside that “drip down.” We thought these would look cool hanging from the large tree that towers over the bar and seating area. The animated lights would be visible from the beach and would hopefully attract curious customers.
So we ripped out the wiring and tube lights from the restaurant and re-wired all the connections. We hung the strand of tubes from the tree, making sure the tubes hung at different levels and were visible from both restaurant and beach. The most difficult part of this project was fighting the red ants that incessantly crawled up our legs.
We also found a string of Christmas lights in the same color as the tubes. We ran these lights around the roofline of the bar and down two of the supporting columns.
With the flick of a switch we admired our work – fabulous – everything was working! Coming back from dinner later that evening along the beach, it was great to see the animated lights highlighting Uza. They created a welcoming rhythmic glow, kind of like the “come here” index finger gesture.
Project “Walk This Way” also saw a lot of action this week.
To my pleasant surprise, Ben had purchased a second Tiki hut structure that matched the look of the bar. This second structure was basically a raised platform with a thatched roof and small, low table in the middle of the floor. We put this structure across the yard from the bar. It will be another great place to relax, order a drink, and watch the sunset. The Helpers have already been enjoying it as a place to congregate in the morning before work with coffee, or after work with a beer.
We needed a walkway – and electricity – to this second hut. By now, we were good at both tasks, so we put our heads down and got both done in a morning. Simultaneously, after living with the main path for a week, we decided it as too narrow. So we embarked on widening the entire walkway by a foot. The digging doesn’t seem to end!
Leveraging the experience, skills, and materials from “Cuckoo for Coconuts” as well as people-power from so many Helpers, we installed the same coconut shell outdoor lamps to light the paths between restaurant, beach, Tiki bar, and Tiki hut. This meant digging the long trench; feeding wire through the pipe; burying the pipe; bending iron rods for the stands; cutting, sanding, and varnishing coconut shells; gluing the sockets to the shells; and completing the wiring. In a couple of days, this was done and the lighted path looks great.
With a new-and-improved look to Uza Beach Residence, and with more paths and destinations on the property, we decided to make some signs to welcome guests and guide them around the property. And so, we kicked off “What’s Your Sign” project. We created two large signs that we would place on either side of the main road, welcoming guests to Uza Beach Residence.
We also created smaller signs to put on a post, which would indicate the direction to the bar, beach, restaurant, bathroom, etc. A couple of the women were very creative and artistic, so they led this project; however, I showed off my creativity by making a small “San Francisco / @dannyboytravels” sign that I plan to place at Rock Bar. (They have a post with a bunch of different signs pointing to various cities and countries.)
We will also create signs in the shape of arrows that say “Uza Beach This Way (X km)” and will place them around the island. Rock Bar has done this and it’s really cool. You see the signs to Rock Bar in the oddest locations. I think I mentioned that on one of my motorbike rides I was in a pretty remote area, and lo and behold, there was a sign for Rock Bar. Funny.
In between the hard labor of digging ditches and moving sand, we continued with some of the easier projects. As anticipated, “Orange Crush” continued. We painted the side of the restaurant and back of the bathrooms. This required a few of us to climb onto the roof and paint upside down. It was hot up there, but we were rewarded with a unique view of the property.
We also painted the wall next to the steps leading up to the villa. We were running out of the beloved orange paint, so we painted one section of wall orange, as a kind of highlight or continuation of the Uza theme. We painted the rest of the wall white. We also continued re-painting some areas of the ceiling in the villa patio.
The first step with any of these painting projects is to scrape off as much of the old, flaking paint as possible. The scraping seemed to be endless. The more flaking paint we scrape, the more the paint flakes. In the end, we did the best we could, and the walls looked great.
However, within two or three days, there were small, muddy handprints all over one section of wall, as well as the columns I had painted a few days earlier. Was a kid running loose on the property? No, it was the damn monkeys! We are not yet sure what to do about this recurring problem. We don’t want to be constantly washing and/or repainting the walls.
Some other side projects we worked on include:
- Building a storage area and “For Rent” sign for the kayaks that is visible from the beach.
- Fixing the lighting along the walkway up to the villa.
- Installing slack-line posts on the beach in front of Uza. (One of the Helpers has a slack-line which provides fun entertainment in the evenings.)
- Making table ornaments and ash trays out of sea shells.
- Cutting the grass in the yard.
- Picking up garbage along the street in front of the restaurant and bungalows.
In my spare time, I did laundry, hunted for squid, and took a few long walks on the beach.
So it was a busy week, with ups and downs for sure. But frequent swims, freshly cooked lunches, beautiful sunsets, and the continual challenge of new tasks (and, yes, plenty of water) kept us moving forward. The transformation of the property is happening, and it's really exciting. We aren't ready to stock, staff, and open the bar yet – but we are getting close. And now we have aspirations to build a rock barbecue. The peak season is coming, and we'll be ready.
Even though our bar wasn’t open yet, the neighboring Rock Bar was open, and they had a big party on Friday night with live music and barbecued kebabs. As anticipated, the party created quite a bit of foot traffic, which gave us the perfect opportunity to show off our upgrades to the Uza Beach Residence. We made sure our drip-lights, floodlights, and walkway lights were all fully functioning and highlighted the new Tiki bar, Tiki hut, and signage.
Stay tuned for my next update. We put the finishing touches on the bar area and celebrate with a beach barbecue. And I move out of the villa apartment and into my own jungle bungalow!