So I figured it’s about time to start a blog to chronicle this project I’m a part of – the creation of a dive center on Ko Lipe. It’s a challenge of epic proportions to say the least. Consider we’re building a dive center from scratch. Refitting a boat. Negotiating contracts and licenses. Dealing with the expected mountain of bureaucracy. Trying to source supplies and materials for the boat and shop and not even knowing what some of these things are called in our native languages. All this and more in a country where neither of us speaks nor reads the language.
Thus I was not terribly surprised when, last week, I found my first white hair.
And I have it easy really, because everything rests on Eric’s shoulders. All the pressure is on him, and honestly, I cannot say I would be ready to be in his shoes right now.
You have to admire his tenacity in the face of everything we’ve been through. Whatever challenge he faces, he always finds a way to deal with it. And we know there will be many, many more. For every small win we achieve, we uncover a whole set of new obstacles. For every one thing that goes right, many more seem to go wrong. The language issue is, to a big extent, at the heart of our challenges, but there’s also a different culture and style of working to deal with. And of course, laws and regulations that are very different to those in France or the USA.
This being said, we are making progress, slowly but surely. Construction on the dive boat is moving along at a good pace, and thus far, we’re happy with what we’re seeing. It’s gratifying seeing our design come to life, a design that incorporates the best elements of the various dive boats we’ve worked on over the years. We’ve put in details that are diver and safety oriented, practical and functional. And of course, she will be beautiful when she is completed!As for the shop, we hope construction will start at the beginning of July. We’ve finally finalized the building plans and have started to order the building materials – concrete, steel, etc… 200 tons worth to be shipped to Ko Lipe, can you imagine?!?! We just hope the rain stays away for a little longer. So far, here in Satun at least, it’s been a very hot and dry couple of weeks, which is probably what allowed the boat builders to work as quickly as they have been. Fingers crossed this dry spell stays with us.
As for life here in Satun City, we’re getting used to it here. At first, it felt impossible to find anything or get anything done, as hardly anyone speaks English here. On the bright side, we quickly discovered how cheap everything is here. One of our favorite dinnertime meals in our earlier days, when we were still staying at the hotel, was this local street side restaurant a 5 minute walk away. It’s an unassuming place that turns out some pretty good food. Our regular order was 2 plates of roast duck and a plate of spicy crispy pork on rice with a large Leo, all for a grand total of about six bucks US – sweet!
It’s a very small city, which makes it easy to get around and means short travel distances. But being a very small city, there’s really not a whole lot to do. If there is a movie theater here, we haven’t found it yet. The closest thing to a mall here is the big Tesco Lotus about 15km from the center of town, which is basically a supermarket/office supply/furniture/hardware store in one. However, the surrounding countryside is really quite beautiful. A few minutes drive from the main road that runs through the city takes you into pristine countryside surrounded by forested limestone cliffs. Here you can find dense jungle, fields of coconut palms, rustic villages, herds of cows walking home along the opposite side of the two-land road and of course the random chicken running along the side of the road. I do like how green this city is.
Life for us here improved substantially two weeks ago, when we finally moved out the Satuntanee Hotel and into a house! Being confined to a small hotel room for hours on end, especially before we bought a motorbike, drove us both a bit mad to say the least. We could only walk so far and for so long in the blazing heat and were entirely dependent on our logistics man/interpreter/all-around assistant San to drive us around. The only saving grace of that hotel was the free wi-fi, fast enough to download movies in a matter of hours, hallelujah! In case you’re wondering, the main reason we’re basing ourselves here in Satun, for the next few months that is, is because our boat is being built here. And the fact that all related administration for the dive center is done here. Travelling back and forth from Ko Lipe is simply not an option. Especially on days when the sea is rough, and now is when it gets rough. Some trips really feel like a death-defying experience, but it’s all part of the adventure.
We were quite lucky to find this house. It’s a little bit outside the city center but with the city being as small as it is, it’s not a big deal. It takes us less than 15 minutes by motorbike to get to our boat, which is on the “other” side of the city. We’ve got a living room, an office, a bedroom, a dining room, and a massive kitchen which I am enjoying immensely. The house is big enough to store almost all of the furniture and supplies we’ll be buying for the shop on Lipe, thus it doubles as storage space for us here, a huge bonus. The only thing we’re lacking is a good internet connection. At the moment we’ve been relying on my USB aircard and Eric’s iPhone but unfortunately the mobile service out here has been unpredictable. Which is frustrating to say the least when there are a million things we need the internet for. Once we get our internet connection sorted, hopefully tomorrow, you can expect to see a lot more photos and updates from us. Stayed tuned!