There are many different types of bale in Bali, but the type that you’re most likely hang out in is the ‘bale bengong,’ which is a resting place – a relaxation pavilion – customarily sited in a corner.
The Balinese word ‘bengong’ means ‘lost in thought’, and ‘bale’ means an abode, so a bale bengong is literally a ‘contemplation house’, designed for reflection, dreaming and gazing. For the Balinese it might be a roadside snoozing platform, a gambling den, or a watch tower. Nearly every hotel and villa in Bali boasts at least one bale bengong. Often situated poolside, adjacent to the rice fields or the beach, or within some shady spot in the garden, the bale bengong is an enchanting, lazy, breezy gazebo where you might chill out with a book. A belvedere positioned to command a fine view; on the banks of a river gorge, perhaps, nestled into the side of a hill or perched upon a cliff top. It is the perfect place to enjoy a massage, or it can be a quiet spot to escape and practice yoga, or sleep in the fresh air. Furnished with cushions and maybe a low opium table, it could be somewhere to hang out with a friend or a lover, to talk and eat together, sip a cocktail at sunset, savour an alfresco breakfast or relish a romantic candlelit dinner.
A bale bengong might be created from traditional materials, such as bamboo, or dark, richly grained coconut palm wood crowned with alang alang thatch. A more upmarket design might incorporate teakwood or benkirai, and contemporary concepts might be characterised by ironwood shingle roofs and Palimanan stone bases. Roofs are pitched to provide an efficient run-off during tropical downpours, eaves are low to keep out the sun and the rain, and bases are high to prevent splash back.
Look for the bale bengong at your hotel in South Kuta, and be sure to allow yourself enough time to make the most of it.