Friday, February 15, 2013

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Exploring Maokong, Taipei

2/15/2013 Taiwan Explorer

Maokong 貓空 is a small hill located in Taipei's Wenshan District, famous for great tea and beautiful views above the city. It's become a popular weekend getaway for stressed out Taipeiers as well as one of the must-see spots in Taipei for foreign visitors. What makes Maokong such a great place to visit is the fact, that you can see beautiful temples, enjoy breath-taking views and try some of the best teas in all of Taipei in just one afternoon. That's all possible, because the top of Maokong is since 2007 connected with a gondola, which is well integrated into the Taipei Metro system. In this post I will introduce the three most important parts of Maokong for those who plan to visit for the first time.

1. Taipei Zoo Station 動物園站

If you want to visit Maokong, you will need to take the subway train to Taipei Zoo MRT Station (it's the last station of the Brown Line). You will then need to go out at Exit 2 and walk straight for about 5 minutes (Exit 1 will lead you to the Taipei Zoo). You will soon see a tall building in front of you: It's the Taipei Zoo (gondola) Station, the place where you enter the gondola. You will need to walk up to the top floor. You can purchase a ticket or you simply use the EasyCard. The price for a ride to the top and back is currently 50 NTD (around 1.50 USD) - definitely not expensive.

This is the Taipei Zoo (gondola) Station.

This is where you scan your EasyCard and take the gondola.

The Maokong Gondola 貓空纜車

Last year, when my wife and I visited Maokong again, we were allowed to take a cabin alone despite the fact, that there were a lot of people waiting to take a ride. The maximum number of people per cabin is 5. I'm not sure, if they are always so flexible to let couples ride alone, because two years ago when we visited Maokong for the first time we had to share one with another couple. I guess, if you ask nicely, they will allow you.

The ride all the way to the last station is 4km long and takes around 15 min.

If you're afraid of heights, than this might be a real challenge for you.

My gondola ride video

My wife made this video of the ride, it will give you an impression of how it feels to be up there. It was a little windy on that day, so the cabin was swaying a little. I definitely advise against standing, because it can get pretty shaky. It's also hard to take a decent photo, so better wait for your final destination and knock yourself out there.

I used a filter here to make it look retro.

This is an overview of the stops between the bottom and top.

The stops are not real stops, the cabin just slows down, but still keeps moving.

This is a photo of Xindian District. The white square building is HTC headquarters.

2. Zhinan Temple Station 指南宮站

I highly recommend you to stop at this station and visit the Chi Nan Temple (also spelled as Zhinan Temple) and visit its three main shrines (read my post here). This is one of Taipei's most beautiful temple and offers great views of Taipei and beyond.

This is the Zhinan Temple Station.

The Linghsiao Shrine 凌霄寶殿

This is perhaps the most popular shrine of the temple.

The view is just breathtaking here. You can see Wenshan, Xinyi and even Zhongzheng.

The Chunyang Shrine 純陽寶殿

A good 5 minutes of walk and you will see the oldest shrine of the temple.

The sunsets here are just breathtaking.

The Tahsiung Shrine 大雄寶殿

This is the biggest shrine, but the least popular. It's still worth to see.

My wife took this photo, one of the best sunsets in Taipei I've seen so far.

3. Maokong Station 貓空站

This is the last station of the gondola and the most popular part of Maokong, because of the many tea shops and restaurants. When locals go on Maokong, they usually go here to drink tea, eat snacks and enjoy the view. This part is also very popular at night. The beautiful view comes at a price, though. Tea for two will cost something over 500 NTD (the price consists of water per person and the tea leaves). Snacks will cost extra and it's not uncommon to leave 400-500 NTD per person in such shop (that's around 10 EUR and above). This is a bit higher than what you'll find in the rest of Taipei on average, but still not that expensive for EU standards.

A narrow road leads to several tea houses.

We chose a place with a great view on Taipei.

This is how a tea set looks like. I loved the dry guava, I highly recommend it.

In case you stay up there too long, there is a bus leading down to the MRT station and other parts of Taipei. During weekends it can get very crowded and noisy, so if you're a foreign visitor, go up there during the week. Maokong should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Taipei, if you have enough time, love tea and don't mind taking a gondola. You can also combine it with a visit of the Taipei Zoo and have a great day trip.


View Taipei Map by MKL in a larger map

Map and useful information

▷ RELATED INFORMATION

Pinyin: Māokōng
Related website: Homepage
My useful tips: Transportation in Taipei

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