It was only 4.30 a.m., not my usual waking hour. I woke up and got ready to go to catch the golden sunrise at the most talked-about destination in Bandung.
With my brother driving, we went all the way up to Bukit Dago Pakar to Taman Hutan Raya (Tahura) in the Ir. H. Juanda National Park in the Dago Pakar district.
After passing Tahura, the journey got bumpy because of the road conditions. I began to reconsider my decision to come in a city car.
Finally we reached Warung Bandrek, a famous spot outside Tahura where the road splits into two. There you can find ‘ojek’ drivers (motorcycle taxis) waiting for passengers. If you’re somehow lost you can also ask them for directions.
The road was getting better as we passed the forest, then through some farms and small villages until the end of the road.
Two local residents showed us the final turn before we finally reached a yard serving as a parking lot.
Tebing Keraton is located at Kampung Ciharegem Puncak, Desa wisata Ciburial, in the Cimenyan district.
The ticket counter was near the motorcycle parking lot and judging by the long lines of motorcycles parked there, a lot of visitors had come to Tebing Keraton that morning despite it not being a weekend.
"During weekends the visitors could amount to 2000 per day," said a staffer at the ticket counter.
My brother expressed his concern at having too many people on the cliff, to which the staffer replied in Sundanese, saying that everybody could manage the crowd and nobody seemed to worry about the cliff being too cramped or concerned about safety.
The staffer continued saying the cliff was not newly discovered. In fact, geologists have a proper term calling it the "Patahan Lembang" (Lembang fault) while local villagers call it by the Sundanese term of "gawir jontor" (“gawir” means cliff and “jontor” is local dialect slang for swollen lips).
The recent increased popularity of the cliff might well be the result of social-media buzz with thousands of visitors posting the location on Instagram.
The locals seemed to welcome this official opening up of the cliff as a tourist destination last August, with high hopes that it will provide new income for them.
Many are involved as ticket officials, security staff or parking attendants.
A staff member we met at the entrance explained the origin of the name Tebing Keraton (palace cliff). It was started when a young visitor took a selfie photo with the valley as the background, instead of seeing the valley below, something grand and majestic like a palace appeared before him on the photo.
Another version involves a local named Ase Sobana, who during my visit wore a “pangsi” (traditional Sundanese peasant outfit of black top, pants and batik headscarf). He wrote a brief history of Tebing Keraton stating that he named it so last May and made the signage that has been attracting visitors ever since.
“Keraton”, according to Ase's writing, is not like a grand palace where kings live but comes from the Sundanese term "karaton", which refers to nature's captivating beauty, the natural richness and grandness of a beautiful landscape.
However, the locals who were in charge of the parking seemed not to agree with Ase's self-proclamation as the one who named the cliff, stating it had already been that name the whole time.
Despite the unclear history, the trip from the ticket counter to the cliff itself was relatively easy with only a five-minute walk.
Once I got there, the edge of the cliff was quite packed with visitors, who were mostly university students.
I missed the sunrise for sure but what I saw was truly magnificent, as if I was standing on a land above the clouds.
The air was fresh and cold. The sun was already shining, while half the valley below was still shrouded in mist.
Enjoying a peaceful moment was rather hard since the majority of visitors were quite noisy in taking photos or posing for selfies.
It was amazing to see some of the daredevils placing themselves very near the edge or high above the rock just to get the best pic for Instagram.
And trust me, succumbing to such behavior was hard to resist when everybody was doing it.
Despite failing to catch the sunrise; I went back home with lungs filled with fresh air that made my mind clearer, happier and content. And I had to admit that having my selfie taken on the most talked-about cliff in Bandung somehow felt like an accomplishment.
How to get there
Go to Taman Hutan Raya in Bukit Dago Pakar until you reach Warung Bandrek (Warban). Take the left road and go all the way up until you reach a village and the road ends, turn left and go up, Tebing Keraton is not far left.
If you are not driving, take an “ojek” from terminal Dago or alternatively from Warung Bandrek at Tahura. The “ojek” ride from Warung Bandrek to Tebing Keraton costs Rp 25,000 (US$2.2).
Admission is payable at the counter. Foreigners have to pay Rp 76,000 per person inclusive of life insurance.
Tebing Keraton open to visitors from 5 a.m.-6 p.m.
Bring cash, food and drinks. Near Tebing Keraton there are a number of humble “warung” selling instant noodles, coffee, tea and local dishes. But if you prefer something else, pack your own supplies.
To catch the sunrise, make sure you reach Tebing Keraton by 4 a.m.
Best time to visit is during the dry season when the sky is clearer and the ground is not slippery.
Just below the motorcycle parking lot, there is a modest “warung”, which offers great views of Tebing Keraton from distance. The spot is perfect for sipping a coffee while basking in the golden morning rays.
The coolness of Tebing Keraton is manageable but do dress accordingly.