Maokong is a popular place among locals and tourists for tea culture and viewing the night scenery of Taipei City. This quaint village in Wenshan District of Taipei used to be the biggest tea growing area of Taipei. Today it still produces some tea, most notably tieguanyin.
We visited Maokong during our trips to Taiwan in August 2014 and December 2016.
To get to Maokong, one can either take the Maokong Gondola or bus service. The bus service costs NT$15 per trip from Taipei Zoo station to Maokong. We have not tried it though as we were not keen on going up or down the winding mountain roads on bus. And of course, the Maokong Gondola is a more ‘exciting’ way of travelling up to the top of the mountain. It certainly helps that the gondola ride from Taipei Zoo station to Maokong station is at an affordable NT$120 each way (NT$100 if Easycard is used) and NT$50 for children.
The gondola service offers 2 types of cabins for passengers: the normal cabins or the crystal cabins. Known as the ‘Eye of Maokong Gondola’, the crystal cabins have see-through glass floors, putting more thrill into the ride. Each normal cabin can take up to 8 passengers while the crystal cabin can only take up to 5 for each trip. Each type of cabin has its own queue. Be prepared to wait longer for crystal cabins as there are lesser of those; a total of 31 crystal cabins versus 116 regular ones (statistics from their official webpage).
Note: The gondola service is suspended when weather conditions or forecast is bad or when an earthquake exceeding Scale 4 occurs. Keep a look out for service suspension notices in MRT stations before heading there to avoid making a wasted trip.
Making our way up in Maokong gondola. We chose to wait in queue for a crystal cabin. It’s definitely worth the wait, as we enjoyed the scenery from all sides as the gondola made its ascend.
4 of us had the privilege of having a crystal cabin all to ourselves. During our 25 mins ride, the gondola traveled a horizontal distance of 4033m and climbed around 275m during the journey. (We went back to Taipei Zoo Station the same way as we went up.)
Interestingly, the mascots of Maokong Gondola changes from time to time so does the decoration on the cabins. Hello Kitty was chosen as the mascot of the Maokong Gondola for a period from December 2013 to May 2015. All cabins and stations were decorated with colorful Hello Kitty designs. We had a ride in these cabins during our August 2014 trip.
This time the mascots are changed to the “Maokong Elves”, introducing the characteristics of Maokong as well as local cultures.
Not far from Maokong Gondola station, there is a cluster of food and drink stalls. We bought and tried some of the dishes.
There are also some mobile food stalls nearby as well. We would recommend trying the ice cream spring roll if you happen to see it. At NT$40 a roll, each consists of peanut brittle, taro ice cream, pineapple ice cream and fresh coriander leaves wrapped in spring roll skin. I was hesitant to try at first given the unlikely combination of the ingredients, but amazingly, they tasted good together. There are also push-cart stalls selling Taiwan wild boar sausages at NT$50 for 2.
A short walk away from the station, there are a number of tea houses. We picked one of them for a Chinese tea session. There were different kinds of tea available for purchase and we chose to try their Osmanthus Tieguanyin tea (桂花铁观音). After purchasing the tea leaves, a Chinese tea set was provided for our use. The tea we bought was really fragrant and we took home the remaining tea leaves from our short tea session.
We had a walk around the area, exploring the tea plantations. The tea plants are grown in a irregular manner. So while there isn’t any manicured landscape, it is still worth taking a walk through the plantations to enjoy the fresh air and view. You may even catch a glimpse of Taipei 101 like we did.