After my recent holiday that included some great diving in Indonesia I eventually came back to Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. The island where I had been working for a long time and was really looking forward to come back to. This time I came back with a old colleague of mine from Island Divers, he is a great guy from England who is nicknamed Jez. He is building up his own dive shop in the Andaman Islands in India , and took a trip down memory lane by going back to Phuket and Phi Phi Islands when the season was over for him in India.
I met Jez accidentally on Bangla Road, a famous road in Patong on the island of Phuket, when I had a stop there to have some dive equipment serviced. We went for a beer in a Irish bar and shared stories from the last time we saw each other. A couple of days later we headed for Phi Phi Islands. I was supposed to go back to work and Jez would just like to do some diving and visit old friends.
We arrived in the harbor of Phi Phi Islands and found Island Divers, the dive shop we both had worked in. It was different from when I left it for my holiday and Jez also had a bit of a hard time recognizing it after being away from it for so long. Almost all the staff who had worked there when I left had moved on so everyone, except two, was new to me. The island had also changed with the, in my view negative, introduction of an a go go bar and the building of something that looked like a shopping center.
As I actually arrived back to Island Divers almost four weeks later than planned the owner had been forced to replace me with another instructor. It meant that if I started working there again we would be more instructors then good is. So I decided that it was time for me to move on from Phi Phi Islands for a while and see what else the diving world had to show me. A decision that was easy to make as I already had a plan.
When I dived in Indonesia on my holiday I did so with Bastianos Dive Resorts, and the thing is that they offered me a job. I declined it then as I already had a job and I could not let my current boss down by quitting on him. But as the table turned now, with to many instructors in the dive shop on Phi Phi Islands, I sent an e-mail to Bastianos Dive Resorts and told them that I was available if they still needed me. The next day I received an e-mail from them with a positive reply. I was offered the Dive Resort Manager position for their resort on Bunaken Island for a period of six months. A very good position as it include the responsibility for 35 employees, rooms which can accommodate 80 people, a dive center, a spa, a bar, a restaurant and much more.
With a job secured me and Jez had a great week or so on Phi Phi Islands. We went out diving some days with Kenny, the owner of Island Divers and some other guys. The evenings was spent in nice restaurants and good bars. And whatever available time I had was used to pack all my stuff. After a couple of years on the island I was stuck with 60 kilo or more of things, and the challenge was to get the weight down. I tried to sell some of it but ended up with throwing away some and giving away most. In the end I was left with around 40 kilo.
The day came when I left the island together with Jez. He headed up to Bangkok and I went to the airport to catch a Silkair flight to Singapore. I did expect some problems with 40 kilo of luggage, and It was not completely problem free. They accepted 20 kilo of personal luggage and since I was going to Manado they also accepted 15 kilo of dive equipment. I had to pay for the 6 kilos I had extra, and it cost me 4000 Thai Baht in total.
I arrived in Singapore late in the evening and as my airplane departed for Manado in Indonesia early in the morning, I decided to stay on the airport during the night. And Changi Airport in Singapore must surely be best airport you can stay in when you need to make a night go away. I spent time on free Internet, free cinema, watched some television and enjoyed some great food before I fell asleep in a chair and woke up just in time for an almost free shower and then headed to the waiting airplane.
My flight arrived in Manado a little after lunch, and a driver met me and took me to the head office of Bastianos Dive Resorts. They arranged a hotel room for me and I used the rest of the day reading a book, eating and sleeping. Next morning I met up with the owner and had a meeting with her before we went to the harbor and rented a speedboat that took us to the resort. When we arrived at the resort it was already known that I was coming so I got a great welcome from the General Manager, a really nice Indonesian gentleman named Frans.
After a couple of days with many introductions I began to do the real work. Teaching diving, talking with customers, making sure that everything was good in the resort, solving upcoming problems and so on. It was great fun, and the good mixture of teaching diving and managing the resort was a great challenge which I enjoyed very much. After a couple of months where it was a bit like being a fish out of the water with all the new challenges, I felt that I could manage it very well.
The diving was really great as well. Bunaken Island do not have a lot of large pelagic marine life, but there are fantastic corals surrounded by an abundance of marine life and good visibility. We saw on a regular basis green turtles, hawksbill turtles, white tip reef sharks, black tip reef sharks, napoleon wrasses, bumphead parrotfishes, pygmy seahorses, spanish dancers and a lot more of really good stuff. And from time to time special marine life like pilot whales, dolphins, thresher sharks, sea cows, tiger sharks and other stuff showed up. It is not difficult to see why many divers hold Bunaken Island as one of the best places for diving in the world.
After 5 months of hard and rewarding work I was told it would be difficult for Bastianos Dive Resorts to sponsor my work permit longer then the agreed six months. It is quite hard to work legally in Indonesia and it require a great deal of money for permits and so on to do it. This was not a problem at all for me as I felt they had treated me fair and six months was what we had agreed on in the first place. At the same time I got the good news that my old manager and good friend Wayne from Island Divers would come to the resort. Wayne is a great mate from England who hired me to work on Phi Phi Islands, and who I worked for as long as I stayed there. He had left his job as manager with Island Divers just a couple af months ago and was now working full time as videographer.
Wayne came to Bunaken Island on my request to make a underwater DVD for Bastianos Dive Resorts who has a goal to sell it to their customers and use it as a marketing tool. We worked closely together on the project as I went diving with him to point out interesting marine life, we edited the whole movie together and I added some of my still photos to the finished DVD. It took us a full month to make a DVD of both the resort in Bunaken Island and Lembeh Strait that turned out very good. I know we both feel pretty proud of the job we did. It was shown to several customers and the management of Bastianos Dive Resorts, and they was all ecstatic and the customers was interested in buying the DVD even before it was completely done.
When the DVD was done my time as a Dive Resort Manager for a beautiful resort on Bunaken Island was over as well. The time I was there developed me further as a dive instructor, manager and person. To meet so many fantastic customers through my position developed me, and working together with all the dedicated and incredible members of staff was no less than a privilege. As the management of Bastianos Dive Resorts said it; we made a stable platform for the resorts to continue their growth in the future during those six months. It is six month of my life I will always cherish and never forget. I do humbly thank Bastianos Dive Resorts for giving me the chance in the position I got and always believing in me.
Wayne left Manado one day ahead of me and went with Silkair to Singapore where he had to service his video camera. It got some problems while videoing underwater for the DVD we was making, and it had to be looked at by professionals. I went the day after on a flight from Manado to Jakarta with Garuda International. I had a hard time leaving Bunaken Island and all the friends I made there, but when I reached Manado I felt very lucky to have been able to experience what I had experienced the past six months. The detour to Jakarta was made to meet up with some friends I had got on Bunaken Island. I stayed there for 5 days and in between meeting friends I also had time to check out some of the special things Jakarta has to offer and being really sick. When my time was up in Jakarta I took a Jetstar flight to Singapore and headed to my favorite hotel in that small country, Bayview Hotel in Bencoolen Street.
It was good to be back to civilization after more or less six month on a island when I arrived at my hotel. The day after me and Wayne connected again as he had to extend his stay in order to service his video camera properly. We has around five days together in Singapore. I acted as guide and was able to show Wayne some places he had not seen during his recent visits to Singapore, he had some money burning in his pocket so we did some shopping, had some inexpensive but good food and so on. And on one evening we met up with Bart who is a guy from Poland who worked together with us at Island Divers on Phi Phi Island, and as it turned out to be his birthday there was a big party.
Everything has an end, and the days really fly when you have fun. So the day came when I checked out and headed to the airport for my flight with Tiger Airways to Bangkok, and Wayne went to the Andaman Islands to do some work for our friend Jez. I had already made a reservation in Bangkok for a little favorite hotel of mine named Cozy At Ten. It is a small, but really nice and centrally located, hotel that I often use when I am in Bangkok. So I arrived at the hotel late at night and enjoyed the feeling I often get when I am in the City of Angels. I have been in Bangkok so much since I left Norway that it has almost become home for me in a strange way.
I have now been in Bangkok for ten days in order to wait for my brother who will arrive in two days. The days has been used working on my websites, visiting friends, doing some necessary shopping and enjoying the atmosphere here. When my brother arrives we will have 15 days together to explore Bangkok and hopefully do some diving in Sipadan, Malaysia.
(This blogpost is from December 4, 2007 and was originally written for another blog I had)