A Palace on a Cliff: The Story of Bandung’s ‘Tebing Keraton’

The southwest view from Tebing Keraton. At the bottom of the valley is the Cikapundung river that flows all the way through the city of Bandung and beyond.
The southwest view from Tebing Keraton. At the bottom of the valley is the Cikapundung river that flows all the way through the city of Bandung and beyond.

When you hear the words ‘a palace on a cliff’, your imagination might take you to some place in Europe where medieval castles of some sorts are more likely to be found perching on such an odd place. Despite its name, Bandung’s Tebing Keraton (literally: Palace Cliff) has nothing to do with an actual palace (read the explainer below). But it is a cliff nevertheless, and the view from the top of this cliff is probably no less stunning than what you might see from a European castle on top of a cliff.

Located only about 13 kilometres to the north of the city centre, Tebing Keraton was ‘discovered’ and began to attract attention in 2013. By 2014, it had already become a hip — thanks to the social media! Thousands of people have come to visit it and it remains a popular destination today.

So, what’s special about this destination?

Sunset at Tebing Keraton.
Sunset at Tebing Keraton with Mt. Tangkuban Perahu (the ‘capsized boat’ mountan) in the backround.

The view, the view, and the view! Like any other high grounds (it is located about 1,200 above sea level), Tebing Keraton’s vantage point offers a sweeping vista of the surrounding hills, mountains, farms, forests, and towns (yes, you can see those things from the top). I think it is partly what makes it an attractive destination.

Another part of the attraction is that, despite its proximity to the city, the location was still somewhat less accessible (at least until last year). This makes going there feels like an ‘adventure’ for those who hanker after adventures but don’t have the resources to engage in one.

Looking east from Tebing Keraton, you can see Cibodas valley in the foreground with Bukit Tunggul mountain at the background.
Looking east from Tebing Keraton, you can see Cibodas valley in the foreground with Bukit Tunggul mountain at the background.

Access to Tebing Keraton has become much better now. About 65 percent of the road to the location have been paved with concrete or asphalt. The government has apparently recognised its potential as a tourism destination and has decided to build the necessary infrastructure to support it. The remaining 35 percent of the road is still quite rough and tough though. Hence, I think, the location is best accessed by motorbikes or on foot. (You can still bring your ‘city car’ up to a certain point but I would advise against going all the way up with it – it may break your car!)

This is what part of the road to Tebing Keraton looks like. I took this photo on the way down.
This is what part of the road to Tebing Keraton looks like. I took this photo on the way down.

The popularity of the place means that it will most likely be quite crowded at the weekends or holidays. That’s why I decided to go there on a weekday and, unless you don’t mind the crowds, I’d suggest you do the same.

To help me get to the place, I used the GPS and Google Map on my smart phone. To my surprise, I found it quite accurate up to the metres. So, I don’t think I need to give you a detailed account of the trip there like what other travel blogs have done.

Tebing Keraton Park's gate.
Tebing Keraton Park’s gate. The gate is a new addition to the park. The plaques on its wall say that it was inaugurated in May 2016.
Ticket counter to the park.
Ticket counter to the park.

I arrived there at about 3 pm and, as I had expected, it was comfortably quiet. There were not many visitors that day. The first ‘gate’ I had to go through is that of the parking post. The post is apparently managed by the villagers’ association. If you bring your own motorcycle like I did, you have to pay Rp 5,000 parking fee here (it’s about five times more expensive than the official parking fee for a motorbike in town). The parking is about 100 metres from there, near the actual gate of the park. Here, a wisnu or local (Indonesian) visitor has to pay Rp 11,000 to go into the park. A wisman or foreign (non-Indonesian) visitor has to pay Rp 51,000. These tickets include insurance.

Signpost showing directions where things are in Tebing Keraton park.
Signpost showing directions where things are in Tebing Keraton park.

After the gate the path branches into three. The left one will lead you straight to the the edge of the protruding, fenced-off cliff (where you can observe and marvel at the vista of valleys, mountains, and forests that are the main attraction of the place). If you go straight, you’ll find a three-story high observation tower. This tower is apparently a relatively new addition to the park. The path on the right side leads to the camping ground, which apparently is also a new addition to the park. They were put together with the gate in the mid 2016.

The three-story high observation tower of Tebing Keraton. Despite its height, the view from here is not much better than that from the protruding cliff.
The three-story high observation tower of Tebing Keraton. Despite its height, the view from here is not much better than that from the protruding cliff.
Tebing Keraton's fenced-off protruding cliff.
Tebing Keraton’s fenced-off protruding cliff.

‘Tebing Keraton’ Name Explainer

There at least two accounts why the place is named ‘Tebing Keraton’ . Both of them are of dubious origin. To the locals and before it became popular as it is today, the place was called Cadas Jontor, the Sundanese words for protruding cliff, referring to its matter-of-fact terrain. The first account says that the name was given by the earliest visitors who, probably awed by its majestic view, called it Keraton as an allegory for its majesty. The other account has some mystical aura about it. It is said that the place is actually the palace of some spiritual beings residing in the place.

Despite the warning posted on the fence, some 'daredevil' souls went over the fence just so that they can take selfies they can be proud of showing on their Instagram and other social media.
Despite the warning posted on the fence, some ‘daredevil’ souls went over the fence just so that they can take selfies they can be proud of showing on their Instagram and other social media.

Whichever account you believe in, the place is still a wonderful place to visit if only for the view it offers and its proximity to the city.

Best Time to Visit

Many people who have been here say that the best time to visit the place is  at dawn when the forest below and the mountains in the horizon are still covered in mist, not to mention the majestic sunrise you would not want to miss in a place like this.

I went there in the afternoon and just an hour or so before the sunset. I think it was no less wonderful to see the sun set from here too.

 

 

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Bandung’s Newest Park Hip: Teras Cikapundung

The iconic red bridge of Teras Cikapundung (the Cikapundung Terrace).
The iconic red bridge of Teras Cikapundung (the Cikapundung Terrace).

There have been a lot of hips about going to the public parks in Bandung lately. And that’s partly because, more than at any time in its recent history, Bandung has once again become a park city. Old and existing parks have been revived and new parks built at an uprecedented rate since the current mayor, M. Ridwan Kamil, took office in 2013.

It’s no wonder that providing more open green space and parks has been one of Mr. Kamil’s top priorities after taking office. He’s a top knotch architect and city planner with international accolades and award-winning projects before deciding to run for the top office in his own city. Reviving existing parks and creating new ones are part of his vision in making Bandung a happier place for its citizens.

The amphitheatre stage of the Teras Cikapundung with the red bridge at the background.
The amphitheatre stage of the Teras Cikapundung with the red bridge at the background.

Teras Cikapundung (Cikapundung Terrace) is one of these new parks. It’s been a hip in the social media for a while since it was officially opened early this year. I actually visited it once before when it was in the final stage of its construction. Now I thought it’s time to visit it again and see for myself what the hip is all about.

Teras Cikapundung (TeCi) is located on Siliwangi Street, a main road connecting Cihampelas and Ciumbuleuit Streets on the west side of the Cikapundung river and Tamansari Street on the east side of the river. The location used to be a dirty, makeshift river bank kampong. (You can Google-map it to see exactly where it is.)

The fish 'turtle pond' where endemic fish of the Cikapundung river is kept before being released back into the river.
The fish ‘turtle pond’ where endemic fish of the Cikapundung river is kept before being released back into the river.

The TeCi project began in 2013 and was scheduled to finish in 2014. Its completion was delayed due to the difficulty in the land acquisition process and the relocation of its squatters.

Teras Cikapundung occupies an area of about 1,800 square meters and is divided into three areas or zones: a singing and dancing fountain park, an amphitheatre for art performances and, on the other side of the river, connected with a pretty red bridge, a park with gazebos and a fish pond that also serves as a breeding place for the Cikapundung river endemic fish.

Leisurely rafting on the Cikapundung river at Teras Cikapundung.
Leisurely rafting on the Cikapundung river at Teras Cikapundung.

Teras Cikapundung is quite accessible from any direction in the city. At least two angkot public transportation minibuses pass this park: the Ledeng – Cicaheum and Ciroyom – Cicaheum lines. Driving here is not recommended, however. The park only has a small parking space that can only accomodate motorcycles. Access to the park is free. The only fee you need to pay is for motorcycle parking, which costs 3000 rupiahs.

One of the art works you can enjoy at Teras Cikapundung.
One of the art works you can enjoy at Teras Cikapundung.
There is no inscription anywhere telling me about what this piece of sculpture work is, but the stone and bright coloured wood combination is very eye-catching.
There is no inscription anywhere telling me about what this piece of sculpture work is, but the stone and bright coloured wood combination is very eye-catching.

So what can you see and do here?

Well, first of all it’s a park, a public park. You can do what anyone would usually do in park: strolling, having a picnic with family or friends, or just sit in one of the benches reading a book. Many, however, come here just to take pictures, selfies or wefies – like many young peole I saw that day. For a small fee, you can also do a leisurely rafting. The park is quite beautiful, I must say. The layout and the works of art dotting the place are quite attractive too. Other than that, there’s nothing much to rave about. I think the park is attractive mainly for local visitors, those from Bandung and its vicinities, who have been deprived of open green space like this for too long.

"Tanah Biru" (Blue Soil), a ceramic stone ware sculpture work by Taufiq Panji Wisesa, one of the art works dotting the Teras Cikapundung.
“Tanah Biru” (Blue Soil), a ceramic stone ware sculpture work by Taufiq Panji Wisesa, one of the art works dotting the Teras Cikapundung.

I personally rather like the place and may drop by again sometime when I happen to pass by or when there’s an interesting art performance going on. I don’t think I’ll deliberately come here though, especially during the weekend when it’s crowded. Being an introvert, I think I’d rather go somewhere quieter.

 

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