How I went on a bicycle tour and fell in a ditch, in Bali!

On the beach in Sanur, Bali.
On the beach in Sanur, Bali.

Last week, I told you that I would be back to writing about our time in Asia, and indeed I am.

In the summer, The Music Producer and “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I went to one of my favourite continents for the summer – Asia.

The beauty of Asia - waterlilies!
The beauty of Asia – waterlilies!

We went to Thailand and you can read all about it in the following posts:

"The Tall Young Gentleman" having fun in Bangkok.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” having fun in Bangkok.

But you know, we really had a full summer because not only did we go to Thailand, but we also went to Indonesia. Bali to be precise!

I looooooove Bali. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that I have a love for it which is far different to the love that I have for Thailand.

Local Balinese men in Ubud, Bali.
Local Balinese men in Ubud, Bali.

I first went to Bali in 1999. I had just left England and was doing my around-the-world travels before moving to Germany and starting a new life as such, I was a rich little girl. I had British pounds and I was willing to spend them. Not only that, but my pounds were worth a lot.

Even now in 2014, a £100 is worth 2 million Indonesian Rupiah or IDR. Imagine what it was worth fifteen (15) years ago!

I'm a Millionaire!
I’m a Millionaire!

I was a millionaire!

Many times over.

Did I spend all my millions?

You can bet your nelly I did!

And some!

A young Balinese man.
A young Balinese man.

Of course, with lots of money, came lots of attractive boys who wanted a piece of it.

Did they get any?

Now that would be telling!

Cue 2014. I was back in Bali. This time with husband and child in tow.

Utari House at Alam Shanti, Bali.
Utari House at Alam Shanti, Bali.

We were staying in a lovely house, behind a rice paddy, in a beautiful Balinese resort in Ubud. I found out about this resort after hearing lots of amazing chatter about it from Australians. On Tripadvisor!

Apparently, these Balinese resorts were so good that there was a two (2) year waiting list.

A two (2) year waiting list!

I had to find out more.

Enjoying the swimming pool at Alam Shanti in Ubud, Bali.
Enjoying the swimming pool at Alam Shanti in Ubud, Bali.

I did.

I wasn’t able to get the units that I wanted with private spaces, but I got one better. They offered me a secluded house, set back in the rice paddies with a full breakfast, tea and cake every afternoon, free shuttle service into Ubud, and a shared swimming pool that was hardly used by others, for only $75.00 or €60.00 a night.

Yes, please!

That resort was called: Alam Shanti and our house was called: Utari House.

Staring at Monkey Gods in Ubud, Bali.
Staring at Monkey Gods in Ubud, Bali.

Bali was truely a paradise and Ubud was a marvel, but you can’t spend all your holiday drinking cocktails and staring at monkeys all day.

Can you?!

At least I can’t.

We decided to do some activities. One of those activities was bicycle – riding.

Ha!

Let me tell you. I’m not a very good cyclist. In fact, I only learnt how to ride a bike in 2011. Yeah, just three (3) years ago!

Of course, that didn’t stop me from booking a cycling tour in Bali. Far from it. I looooooove adventures and the unknown, so I contacted a company in Bali called: Banyan Tree Bike Tours.

A traveller breakfast of banana pancake, chocolate spread, a hot beverage, and freshly-made juice.
A traveller breakfast of banana pancake, chocolate spread, a hot beverage, and freshly made juice.

They were very quick with confirming whether we could join the cycling tour and so the next day, we were picked up at 07:30 in the morning. Because it was pretty early, we had an included breakfast of banana pancakes, chocolate spread, tea or coffee and fruit juice. I don’t like banana or chocolate but I tried my best, and managed to eat the pancake by swirling bits of banana around my plate, in order to be as polite as I possibly could.

Our little band of cyclists in Bali.
Our little band of cyclists in Bali.

During breakfast, we also met the other members of the group: three (3) older German ladies, one (1) young Italian couple, an (1) English girl from London, and ourselves, a family of three (3).

Our guide was a well-travelled guy called Nyoman. He told us about Bagi, who was one of the partners of the company and spoke a million languages which he picked up during his time on ships. After retiring from his travels, he decided to set himself up, offering bicycle tours to visitors and tourists.

I chose this tour as I heard that it was a tour with a difference in the sense that they went off the beaten path, and also that they had people to assist if you were tired, or not as experienced as you thought.

The Music Producer with his shiny helmet, bravely smiling.
The Music Producer with his shiny helmet, bravely smiling.

I was impressed by the look of the shiny new bikes with brakes which we had to test before we left the premises. We were also given helmets and bottles of water, which we could put in the pouch-like bit of the bike.

On testing my bike, I had a bit of trouble actually getting on and I could see the face of Bagi slowly fall as he thought I couldn’t ride at all! Happily, I changed bikes and managed to get it together, so that we could get started.

Some of the refreshments that the group got to sample - I can't remember the details except that it had coconut in it!
Some of the refreshments that the group got to sample – I can’t remember the details except that it had coconut in it!

Remember, how I said that I only learnt how to ride a bike a few years ago. Well, what I didn’t tell you was that after my cycling lessons, I went to Poland, rode a rented bike, and promptly had an accident!

Nobody was hurt, but I was a bit shaken, and didn’t ride for a while as I had been on a busy road.

Now, before we got to the unbeaten path in Bali, we had to ride on the roads and they’re busy. Very busy. Ubud is a small place, with very narrow roads, and lots of traffic which the road was not really suited for.

Gulp!

Nyoman and and the young assistant - Kode - assigned to me on the Banyan Tree Cycling Tour, Bali.
Nyoman and and the young assistant – Kode – assigned to me on the Banyan Tree Cycling Tour, Bali.

I bravely rode with our group until we got to the entrance of the forest and after fifteen (15) minutes, I realized that I was completely out of my depth! I hadn’t really ridden for a year, I was riding really slowly, and I began to get upset because I thought that the other riders would dislike me as I was keeping the group back, and they had to wait for me.

The Music Producer had been ill and wasn’t at his peak, but he was to ride with “The Tall Young Gentleman” as he was the only child present, and I didn’t want them to lose the enjoyment of the day.

I had insisted that they rode on ahead.

Thankfully, the management of Banyan Tree knew what to do. They assigned one of their assistants to me – a young man called Kode – and we rode at my very own slow pace.

They were really lovely and even offered to carry my bike for me when I was really tired. I loved that they asked, but I rejected their offer as I really wanted to reach my goal of cycling the tour myself. As a result, I got a lot more respect from the tour assistants for that, and the ice was broken.

Local children and myself (can you see me?) squatting in Bali!
Local children and myself (can you see me?) squatting in Bali!

For the mere fact that we were slowing down gave me more opportunity to look around at my surroundings, and marvel in the glory of its untouched beauty. At one point, we ran into a bunch of children outside a local school. I asked that we stop and began to chat with them. They were very eager to talk to me. I stayed a little and asked for their names, did a little small talk, and showed them some photos on my phone.

They found my photos hilarious!

Local cows from the rural villages.
Local cows from the rural villages.

We went through the remote back roads and met some of the local farmers.  We saw a few scarecrows, and a couple of local people discreetly bathing in the streams. We saw statues of local gods and we went through the rice fields, the rural villages, the local jungles, the green plantation, and rural communities. We respectfully also went through ancient Hindu compounds and ceremonial temples.

As we went further and further into the rural community, the roads began to turn into paths, and the paths began to turn into stones and dirt. We also got further into the rice fields which had streams and rivers flowing by. I had been very careful as the way was extremely narrow and in my mind, I had just congratulated myself on my prudence, when my bike began to stumble over the rocks on the dirt path. I was very conscious that there was a river parallel to where I was riding, and in my panic to avoid falling off, I swerved to the opposite side of the river.

Craaaaash! @leviathyn.com
Craaaaash!
@leviathyn.com

I crashed.

One leg was in the river and the other was in the ditch!

My pink shorts were no longer so pink, my trekking socks were drenched and soaking wet, and blood was pouring down my right leg.

I was bleeding! @fanpop.com
I was bleeding!
@fanpop.com

OMG!

My guide – Kode – came running and gave me the once over. He wanted to call for more assistance, but I insisted on going on, once I had calmed down.

I realised that I had probably taken on more than I could effectively chew, but I really wanted to continue on the rural bicycle tour.

So I did!

I'm looking at you my girl! The eyes! THE EYES!
I’m looking at you my girl! The eyes! THE EYES!

Here’s the info:

WHAT IS THE BANYAN TREE BIKE TOUR?

The Banyan Tree Bike Tour is a Balinese owned and operated business dedicated to showing visitors Bali’s amazing culture and countryside.

WHAT IS THE BANYAN TREE CYCLING TOUR ABOUT?

The Bali Cycling Tour is a spectacular Bali adventure of mountain cycling away from the hustle and bustle of the regular tourist path. The tour takes you cycling through the natural hidden beauty and spirit of the real Bali where you can meet villagers, cycle through rice terrace and mountain farms, and learn about the spiritual and philosophical background of the Balinese people.

Phew!

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND BALINESE?

Nope!

These tour are in English. If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, as most of the staff members spoke a multitude of languages, and are dedicated to ensuring that you enjoy your time and experience with Balinese nature and culture.

The Hindu god - Lord Ganesh or the elephant god.
The Hindu god – Lord Ganesh or the elephant god.

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good walking shoes, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, toiletries, a camera, mosquito spray, sun-cream, and a huge smile!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes, this cycling tour includes a healthy breakfast, as much bottled drinking water as you want, and a buffet lunch.

The cycling tour costs:

  • IDR 550,000 or $65.00 for adults.
  • IDR 350,00 or $40.00 for children under 12.
  • IDR 150,000 or $20.00 for children under 5 using a child-seat. I recommend bringing your own child-seat.

Return transport is included and they will collect you from Ubud, Kuta, Sanur, and Nusa Dua. Don’t forget to tell them about your bicycle level!

I know my level mummy - the best level!
I know my level mummy – the best level!

MY VERDICT:

A wonderful day. I really learnt more about the hidden beauty and culture of Bali. It was lovely to meet local farmers and members of the community.

I also learnt a lot about myself.

I shed tears a few times, my chest hurt from the strain and struggle of going up those hills, and my legs ached and burned, but I’m not a quitter!

Everyone should go on a cycling tour of sort every now and then, if only to make sure that you’ve still got it!

Highly recommended.

WHAT IF THE BANYAN TREE CYCLING TOUR ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

For more information please contact: Banyan Tree Cyling Tours.

Yay! I made it! Phew!
Yay! I made it! Phew!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a discount, all opinions and the wonderful lunch that I throughly enjoyed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so next week I will be continuing our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar and you can read what happened to me on that volcano……!

Christmas is coming, with more exclusive productions, and merry-making at German Xmas Markets. Whoop! Whoop!

Last week, a British company contacted me and asked me to contribute my expert knowledge on Germany and Britain. You don’t need to ask me twice. Here it is: The 5 best differences between Germany and Britain.

Additional National Theatre Live productions are also coming up and can be seen at the Cinestar Berlin – Original such as:

For the rest of the year, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Fashion Week is coming up and will take place between January 19th and January 23rd, 2015. Save the Date!

December is going to be merry!

Watch this space!

Happy as Larry!
Happy as Larry!

Have you been on a cycling tour? Have you ever been to Bali?

See you in Berlin.

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25 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Berlin, you’re my BFF!

The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!  Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung - Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)
The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!
Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung – Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)

You know how I love this glorious city right.

You know.

This city called Berlin.

I mean, I shout about it loud enough and it was just under a year ago that I introduced myself to you on this blog, when I wondered what the heck Berlin was all about anyway!

I mean, what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the big deal is my good man.

It’s the fact that the city of Berlin. THIS city of Berlin, has been together in peace and harmony for 25 years.

That’s right.

25 years!

A few days ago was October 3rd.

October 3rd is the public holiday given to the German people to honour the Re-Unification of the two German States previously called the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or DDR (Deutsche Democratic Republic) otherwise known as East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) otherwise also known as West Germany.

You are leaving the American Sector! Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis
You are leaving the American Sector!
Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis

WHY WAS THE BERLIN WALL SET UP IN THE FIRST PLACE?

It’s a little complicated but after WWII, Germany was split up and divided by the allies as punishment, and you only had to look at the city of Berlin to see who the Allies were namely: Great Britain, France, USSR and the United States.

It was not long before arguments and squabbling took place in the international political arena and simply put, the Eastern and Western Bloc decided to go their separate ways and an Iron Curtain ensued.

East Germany took it further and built a wall in Berlin, cutting a line through the entire centre of the city. This wall was supposed to prevent East Berliners and citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West, but the Wall was unable to stop the mass of people from fleeing. As a result, in 1961, the ruling Communist Party in East Germany began adding more border fortifications to the Wall, creating a broad, many-layered system of barriers.

In the West, people referred to the border strip as the “death strip” because so many people were killed while trying to flee. I have seen this death wall myself as I live in East Berlin and not 10 minutes away, is the main local park called “Mauer Park.” The suburb of Prenzlauerberg where I live, is enormously trendy and gentrified, and if you’re “in,” or want to be “in,” you strive to live here.

However, let it be noted that “Mauer” in German, means “Wall.”

With the downfall of East Germany in 1989, the Berlin Wall that the Socialist Party tried to use to maintain its power, also fell. The fall of the Wall marked the definitive end of its dictatorship.

The Berlin Wall enclosed West Berlin from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989,

The Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall.

STREETS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE WALL?

In May, I went on a brilliant walking tour with an organisation called the Real Berlin Experience Walking Tour in one of my favourite places, and where I first lived in Berlin – Kreuzberg. You can read all about it right here! In my post, I mentioned that Kreuzberg had the Berlin Wall running right through the middle of it and that during the happy confusion when the Wall actually fell, young people were leaving the East to go West, or leaving the West to go East.

In Prenzlauerberg where I live now, the same thing occurred. There is a street called Bernauer Strasse on which the Berlin Wall also lay. In fact, it was pretty horrid for all concerned, as you could actually see the other side of the Wall from your kitchen window but you couldn’t go to the Western side without being shot!

Smashing through the wall! Photo@ frizztext
Smashing through the wall!
Photo@ frizztext

Imagine the frustration, pain, and horror.

Many people tried to escape to freedom and found ways to be creative by sailing across in a hot air balloon, digging tunnels underground, pretending to have a funeral and lowering the “dead” person into a pit, hiding inside the seated lining of a Volkswagen car, etc. All for a life of freedom.

It’s easy to forget that this situation was only 25 years ago. Most of you reading this blog, are probably older!

SO HOW DID THE BERLIN WALL ACTUALLY FALL?

Read on…..!


2 May

Hungary begins dismantling the fortifications on the border to Austria.

People demonstrate against the election rigging in front of the Sophienkirche (church).


7 May

Local elections in the GDR. Opposition groups prove that the results were faked. People demonstrate against the election rigging in East Berlin on the seventh day of every subsequent month.


4 September

First Monday Demonstration in Leipzig. 1,200 people gather outside St. Nicholas’ Church. Their demands include freedom of travel and democracy.


9 /10 September

New Forum’s initial call-out becomes a signal for change. Further grassroots movements follow.


11 September

Hungary officially opens its western border for GDR citizens, risking a breach in its diplomatic relations with East Berlin.


30 September

West Germany’s foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher informs the East German refugees in the Prague embassy, that they will be allowed to leave the GDR.


3 October

The GDR government bans travel to Czechoslovakia without passports and visas, to stem the mass exodus. Special trains transport people from the Prague and Warsaw embassies to the West, through the GDR. There are violent clashes with police along the railway line, as well as in Dresden.


7. October

On the 40th anniversary of the GDR, several thousand people demonstrate in Berlin outside the Palace of the Republic.  In numerous East German towns and cities, similar protests are broken up by force.


East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.
East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.

9 October

Despite fear of military repression of the Monday Demonstration, 70,000 people take to the streets in Leipzig. The police, military and civilian forces do not intervene.


11 October

The single ruling political party calls for people to stay in the GDR, offering a “dialogue” concerning the country’s further development.


16 October

The number of people at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig doubles. The security forces do not intervene.


18 October

Erich Honecker is forced to resign after 18 years in office. Egon Krenz is made the new secretary-general of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).


24 October

Krenz is also elected chairman of the State Council and the National Defence Council. 12,000 people demonstrate against his appointment in Berlin that evening.


30 October

300,000 people take part in the Leipzig Monday Demonstration.


4 November

The largest demonstration in the history of the GDR takes place in Berlin.


7 November

The government of the GDR, and the Council of Ministers collectively resign.


8 November

The Central Committee Politburo, the highest body in the GDR, resigns. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl links economic and financial aid for the GDR to three conditions: the opposition must be legalised, free elections must take place, and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) must renounce its claim to sole authority.


9 November

The Wall falls, prompted by a vague, but now famous, announcement of new travel regulations at a press conference. Tens of thousands of East Berliners rush to the checkpoints and force the border open.


22 December

The Berlin Wall is officially opened at Brandenburg Gate. The first concrete section is removed from its beams at 0.30 a.m.


23 December

The offices issuing passes for the GDR in West Berlin close for good. West Germans no longer need a visa, or have to change a certain amount of money, to enter the East.


1990 Chronology


31 August

The Unification Treaty is signed in East Berlin.


3 October

Germany celebrates the “Day of German Unity” also known as “Re-Unification Day.”


Climbing up the Berlin Wall. Freedom! Freedom!!
Climbing up the Berlin Wall.
Freedom! Freedom!!

25 YEARS AFTER THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

It was the people who took to the streets en masse and courageously resisted a dictatorship, enabling both the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Peaceful Revolution. The 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is again going to mobilise as many as people as possible.

Berlin is inviting Berliners, eyewitnesses who were here, and people of the world, to actively participate in the anniversary celebrations as balloon patrons, and to tell your personal stories about the Berlin Wall.

Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.
Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.

You, and I, are invited to be involved in looking back at the events of 1989, and reflecting on the connection to the present.

The stories, memories, and wishes expressed by balloon patrons for a peaceful world without walls, are going to be seen and collected at www.fallofthewall.com. The result will be a unique online gallery that commemorates and reflects on the Berlin Wall from today’s perspective. If you want to be a part of this unique moment, then please go to the website here.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken  © Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013)
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken
© Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013)

From the 7th to the 9th of November 2014, Berlin will once again be (temporarily) divided from Bornholmer Strasse to Mauerpark, and the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse to the Reichstag, past the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie to the East Side Gallery. 8,000 luminous, white balloons will mark the former course of the Wall. For more info about this: go here.

The highlight of the 25th year anniversary is a spectacular community event that will send all the balloons soaring into the sky. At the Brandenburg Gate, the Staatskapelle Berlin will play a live broadcast of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with “Ode an die Freude” under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. For more info about this: go here.

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate  © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013).
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate
© Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013).

WHAT IF THE BERLIN WALL ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

As if!!

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.
Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the currywurst and bratwurst that I’m sure to be happily scoffing in the next few weeks, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

As I told you last week, my huge surprise for you is that next week, I will be going to France! I can’t believe it. On my first (1st) ever press trip! My next post will be about Northern France. Yipee!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be amazing.

Watch this space!
19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun. Photo@ artwork images - Klaus Lehnartz.
19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun.
Photo@ artwork images – Klaus Lehnartz.

Have you been to Berlin? Where were you in 1989?

See you in Berlin.

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