After 2 months of renovations, Uza Beach Residence is looking fantastic and operations are in full swing. I’m happy to report that we were fully booked over the New Year, and it looks like that trend will continue during the high season. This is quite an accomplishment given the condition of the property when I arrived in early mid-November.
Most, if not all, of the existing projects are in maintenance mode at this point. Here is what's going on:
Project “Walk This Way” only requires a quick daily routine of raking leaves off the sand walkway and straightening the coral border. We haven’t yet been able to train the cat NOT to poop on the walkway. She (or he?) is enjoying the largest litter box in the world.
Project “Orange Crush” trickles on as we find things that we forgot to paint. For example, we decided to paint some of the concrete posts along the road in the same bright orange as the main building.
Project “What’s Your Sign” also continues on a slow burn, thanks to our creative sign-painting crew. They’ve recently created a bunch of new smaller signs that highlight guest services (e.g., kayak rental, motorbike rental, and island tours), cocktail list, and recycling bins. They created a big wooden “Uza Beach Restaurant” sign that we hung from the large tree on the beach, again fighting the nasty red ants and balancing on the wobbly ladder. The sign is very visible and will hopefully increase traffic to our restaurant.
As a spin off of “What’s Your Sign”, we have also re-written the menus, and built podiums out of driftwood to place the menus on. The podiums are located at the street and beach entrances to the restaurant, so passers-by can review menu items and prices. Now we just need to translate the menus to Thai so the cook knows what to prepare!
Project “Sunset Suds” is alive and well. In fact, the BAR IS OPEN! We have a night shift from 6:00pm to 10:00pjm. We are still working out the day shift, which arguably might be more important.
Project “Cuckoo for Coconuts” has not seen a lot of action – other than making some matching lamps for the menu-podiums. These aren’t done yet.
The majority of our time recently has been spent helping Ben manage the day-to-day operations of the resort. I’m calling this ongoing project, “Squeaky Clean.”
We have been cleaning the bungalows and villa apartments, cleaning the public areas, emptying garbage, and setting-up and breaking-down the restaurant each day. It’s not glamorous work, but it’s a critical part of running a resort. If you read reviews of hotels, “cleanliness” is very frequently mentioned. We want to excel here.
Speaking of excel, I have created some Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to help us manage the day-to-day. (Those of you who know me from a work environment will not be surprised by this bit of news.)
First, I’ve created a spreadsheet to track room cleaning and room set-up. For every room, we log who’s cleaning the room, and what “clean” means. We also then log who’s setting up the room, and what “set-up / ready” means. I donated two “cleaning kits” to Uza Beach Residence, complete with buckets, scrub brushes, cleaning agents, and rubber gloves in order to elevate the standard of “clean” and “ready”.
Second, I created a spreadsheet to manage bookings. We now know who the guest is, where they booked from, what kind of room they want, how long they are staying, and any other special notes about the reservation. The spreadsheet is basic, but it is a vast improvement over the pen/paper process used previously. Fitting the reservations into the bungalows and villas with the right lengths of stay and room/bed requirements, with no overlap or conflict, is like a working on a jigsaw puzzle. Using a digital solution like Excel is fast and convenient if changes need to be made. We can even download reservation information from Booking.com and Agoda.com!
Third, I’m working on a financial model for the property so we can better manage revenue, costs, and profits, as well as re-investment in supplies and inventory. I’m not sure Ben is ready for this, but we’ll see. It’s been a fun exercise for me, at least.
Aside from the Uza Beach projects, I had a little project of my own to work on. I had to renew my Thailand visa. I was approaching my 60-day limit!
So I took a few days off volunteering to head up to Krabi Town to renew my visa. I decided this was easier (though more expensive) than doing a “visa run” to the border of Thailand and Malaysia. I took a boat, then bus, then taxi to the Immigration Office where I paid 1,900 baht to stay another 30 days in Thailand. I also rendezvoused with a friend of mine in Krabi, and he accompanied me back to Ko Jum for a day. It was fun to show a friend my secret island home.
With Uza Beach projects under control and my new visa in hand, I was ready to take a break and celebrate. What better way than New Year’s Eve!
As the year drew to a close, we hosted another big beach barbecue on December 31 to bid farewell to 2015. We had our normal menu of chicken sandwiches and grilled potatoes. Two of our French Helpers made mayonnaise from scratch. That was pretty impressive, and tasty. At midnight, we lit fireworks on the beach – not sparklers but the real ones that launch into the air and explode. We could also see fireworks going off on Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta islands.
The year 2015 was a year of change for me – perhaps the biggest in my life. Bigger than leaving Electronic Arts after 13 years. Bigger than buying a house in San Carlos. I’m grateful for the “wake-up call” to alter course and head to a more meaningful and impactful destination. I won’t get there in 2016. My journey is just beginning, I hope.
Happy New Year!