Going To Taipei, Taiwan? In this installment of our Taiwan Travel Guide Series, we enjoy a leisure morning @ Maokong (貓空), Taipei.
The name Maokong (貓空) sounded pretty funny and foreign to me, until on our flight back to Singapore during our last trip to Taipei, the friendly Taiwanese auntie sitting beside us recommended us to visit this place should we ever be back in Taipei again.
Maokong – Cats in the Sky
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Back again, we were, and this time, we decided to take the advice of auntie and see for ourselves what Maokong is all about.
How to get to Maokong (貓空) from Taipei City – Step-By-Step-Guide
Maokong (貓空) is accessible via the convenient Taipei Metro system.
You will need to get on the Wenhu line (文胡線) (Brown Line) towards the direction of Taipei Zoo. The stop to get off at is the terminal stop at Taipei Zoo.
From the Taipei Zoo Metro station, get to the street level and you will be able to see the Maokong gondola station which is about a 4-5 mins walk away.
For those who are keen to go to the Taipei Zoo, this is also the same stop you should stop at.
Riding the Maokong (貓空) Gondola
The Maokong gondola is an attraction by itself, although it is also the best way to get to Maokong.
Alternatively, you could take Bus S10 which operates between MRT Taipei Zoo and the peak at Maokong, with a stop at National Chengchi University (國立政治大學).
Entry to Maokong itself is free, but the gondola that brings you up is not. Visitors will need to pay an entry fee. With the recent introduction of the use of the EasyCard (悠遊卡), you will no longer need to queue for tickets. All we needed to do was to tap the card for entry.
There are two kinds of carriages available – the ‘regular’ type and the ones with a glass bottom (also known as crystal cabins, or the ‘Eyes of Maokong Gondola’). Both comes at the same price, so it made more sense for me to try the glass bottom ones for a bit of thrill.
The queue for the regular carriage on the left, and the glass-bottomed ones on the right. It does seem as if the glass-bottomed carriages are more popular, but as we were to find out for ourselves, there is a reason why the queue for the glass-bottomed carriages was longer.
We were one of the early birds at the gondola, but were quite surprised to find that a small crowd had already gathered.
Regular-type cabins with a solid ground in the cabin.
The Eyes of the Maokong Gondola (what a fanciful name that is a mouthful to pronounce), or what we call the glass-bottomed cabins.
There are 5 colors for the cabins – red, pink, yellow, green and blue, and out of these, only the red ones comes with the glass bottoms.
Which means that for every 5 empty cabins that comes along, only 1 is for passengers who queue for the glass-bottomed ones – a mere 20% chance. No wonder the queue for glass-bottomed cabins didn’t move much!
Tip: If you are travelling in twos, take the gondola as soon as they start operations for the day. Chances are, you won’t need to share the cabin with other passengers as long as the queue is not too long.
Standing in the glass-bottomed cabin. Having the entire cabin to ourselves means that we could move around freely and take pictures from all angles in the cabin. Yippee! It is actually not as frightening as it looks. Ok, plus the fact that we are not very heavy, so we didn’t need to be worried that it will break.
There are 2 other stations along the way before reaching the terminal stop at Maokong Station. The Taipei Zoo South Station is recommended for those who would like to visit the Taipei Zoo (in fact, the Zoo recommends that visitors start their visit from this station and make their way down), and the Zhinan Temple Station for those who will like to pay a visit to the temple.
The Taipei Zoo South Station.
The Zhinan Temple Station.
Lots of breathtaking scenery along the way. This is the kind of time when I would wish for clear and sunny weather.
One of my favourite views while in the cabin.
We could see as far as the Taipei 101. However, this angle is best viewed in the opposite direction, that is, when coming down from Maokong.
Pretty amused to see these statues of cows near the Zhinan Temple station. But they flashed by in an instant.
More sightings of Taipei 101.
My favourite shot on the gondola.
At some point, we could even see the major expressways of Taipei city!
Finally reached the Maokong Station. I must say we enjoyed every single bit of the ride up.
TeaHouses @ Maokong (貓空)
We were now at the top of the hill, 275 metres above ground level. First thing we saw when we exited from the gondola was this – a huge poster of tea-flavoured ice-cream. Yes, Maokong, as with many other parts of Taiwan, is famous for their tea plantations!
The Maokong gondola station.
We had absolutely nothing planned, so the morning at Maokong was really free and easy for us. However, it was easy to see that Maokong is littered with numerous tea houses, most of which unfortunately did not open until 11am. We were a little too early, but it means that we have time to check things out!
Coming out of the gondola station, there are signages listing out all the tea houses in Maokong. There are so many options both on the right hand side and left hand side of the gondola – too many that we didn’t even want to read them…
Other than tea houses, there are also many walking trails if you are game to try them.
Since we were so early, and the only cafe that was open was this Maokong Teahouse (貓空茶屋) located on the right side of the gondola station (right side if you have your back to the gondola station), we went in for some tea-flavoured ice-cream. This was one of the shops featured in the huge poster at the gondola station.
2 flavours of ice-cream are available – the Baozhong tea and Tie Guan Yin tea, each costing NT80 which is about SGD$3.60! Pretty expensive going by Taiwan standards!
Our ice-cream topped with a green tea-flavoured cat-shaped biscuit. Looks almost exactly the same as the poster? Both ice-cream flavours taste good, although my preference is my Baozhong tea because it is less sweet.
As with all tea houses at Maokong, there’s tea-related items for purchase.
Now to explore the other side of Maokong – turning left from the gondola station, there is a long street and a hawker-centre like place. But that’s not the place to stop at – absolutely not! Continue walking on, and you’ll come to a bend and a small cemetery, and pass that will be a long stretch of tea plantations and tea houses. It’s about a 5-7 minutes walk if you are fast.
Enjoy some scenery along the way….
The beginning of many tea houses to choose from…
Red Wood House House (紅木屋) Brunch
Our choice of tea houses was the first one we encountered – the Red Wood House (紅木屋) – picked by me based on the fact that it has a fantastic view of the hills beyond.
Time for some brunch…
My corner window seat – which was the best seat in the house and we got to pick it first because we were the first customer for the day!
The view outside the window….
The day tended to be rainy and foggy….
Enjoying hot tea with the cool natural breeze on my face…is pure bliss…
Our brunch of Waffles and Panini. It tastes as perfect it looks. Only problem was that the portion was so huge I couldn’t finish it on my own.
Total bill for today’s brunch was NT616, approximately SGD$28 – high by Taiwan standards, but I guess this is the kind of price you will need to pay for dining with a view.
The weather cleared by a lot by the time we were done with our meal….
But the crowd has also correspondingly increased by leaps and bounds….so it means its time to leave…
At the gondola station, the queue to leave Maokong was building up, although it was barely noon.
The downward journey was a lot better because of the clearer weather. And as the queue wasn’t that outrageous yet, we still had the cabin to ourselves. Yeah!
I think this is better than looking down from Taipei 101.
This must be one of the most beautiful working environments in the world…
On the downward journey, the Taipei 101 is more visible because it was at the side of our cabin.
Better than our Sentosa…
We spent less than 3 hrs up there at Maokong, but by the time we came down by noon, the queue at the base gondola station was almost insane. I don’t think I ever want to be caught in this kind of crowd.
A great day out at Maokong, a lot of which was weather-dependent. It was a day that exceeded my expectations. If you have the time, why not consider spending at least half a day here.
Join us next as we re-visit Jiufen again!