Maokong Gondola: The route to Taipei's Scenic Jewel
By Dipal Khatri Translated by Ann Lee Photos by Andy Lin
Some photos provide by Taipei Department of Information and Tourism
Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation
Taipei City's Maokong Gondola shatters the myth that traveling long distances is necessary in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Treat tiredness and tension by transporting yourself to tranquility with tea-drinking and touring in Maokong.
The Maokong Gondola, a cable car system constructed by the French company POMA and operated by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp., serves as both a means of transportation and a visitor attraction in its own right. Like Dorothy's yellow brick road to the Emerald City of Oz, the Maokong Gondola is your route to Maokong, Taipei's lush tea oasis in the mountains.
Located in southeastern Taipei's WenShan District, Maokong has evolved into a popular destination for both locals and visitors. The area is easy to reach and is known not only for its tea plantations and teahouses, but also for the many other scenic attractions situated near stations along the gondola route.
In the first year of operation since its inauguration on July 4th last year, the Maokong Gondola has seen a transport volume exceeding 5 million passengers. No matter what a visitor's interests are, the gondola provides transportation to a diverse range of things to do for a fun-filled day out. Here we provide a guide to the major attractions in the Maokong area that are all accessible by a gondola ride.
Journeying to Maokong
Maokong can easily be reached by the MRT and is linked to many bus routes. The Maokong Gondola's Taipei Zoo Station is about a 350-meter walk from the Taipei Zoo MRT station. On the way there, you will come across Janfusan Kiddy Land and several eateries.
The gondola itself sets out from the Taipei Zoo Station and travels to Maokong Station at the top, the cars gliding on the cables at a speed of three to five meters per second. Along the way, the gondola makes intermediate stops at the Taipei Zoo South Station and ZhiNan Temple Station, and passes through two turn stations where the gondola changes directions.
Passengers can choose to alight at any station along the 4.03-kilometer-long route, and simply catch another gondola car in either direction after exploring the area. A nonstop one-way journey lasts about 20 minutes.
Visiting the Maokong Gondola during week is ideal, as the queues are much longer during weekends, when visitors from all over Taiwan travel to Taipei to experience this popular tourist attraction. However, the wait does not last too long, as each gondola car can seat up to eight people.
You can create your own schedule, according to the areas of Maokong you would like to see and how much time you intend to spend. It is useful to plan your day in advance, so that you get to see at least two different views from Maokong Gondola, which vary dramatically according to what time you ride it.
The daytime journey from Taipei Zoo Station offers a spectacular bird's eye vista of the urban skyline and sun-drenched mountains that sparkle emerald. You can spot such landmarks as the Taipei 101 Tower and giraffe-painted incinerator smokestack as the gondola gently lifts you into the hills of Maokong.
On a rainy day, soar into the mist-shrouded hills for a view that is reminiscent of a picturesque landscape painting. The forests of Muzha and Maokong are composed of many plant varieties, such as Chinese taro and green bamboo. The unique foliage diversifies according to the altitude, which is what gives the area its lush greenery that is so soothing to the eyes.
During sunset, the panorama unfolding against the sky is tinged with a delicate hue of soft pink, while the sun peaks out from silver-lined clouds, coloring the hills into dark silhouettes.
If you descend from Maokong by gondola at night, get ready for a spectacle of twinkling city lights that bejewel the dark backdrop of Taipei City. Tiny headlights of traffic identify the Second Northern Freeway.
After setting out from the Taipei Zoo Station, the first attraction along the Maokong Gondola route is the Taipei Zoo, for which passengers should disembark at the Taipei Zoo South Station, located inside the zoo. The zoo in Muzha is a sprawling 165-hectare site that has both indoor and outdoor areas displaying animals from all corners and climate zones of the world. Visitors get an up-close look at various creatures in sections such as Bird World, African Animal Area, and Insectarium.
Those who continue up to the next station will pass through Turn Station Two, and then soar towards the ZhiNan Temple Station. Well-paved walkways lead to the historic ZhiNan Temple, which rises majestically out of the vivid green surroundings. The temple is composed of 10 shrines and pavilions that exhibit a unique mix of traditional Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist motifs.
The main buildings of the temple are the Grand Hall of Fuyou Dijun, Linxiaobao Temple, Daxiongbao Temple and Dacheng Temple. The temple is devoted to the god Lu Dongbin, whose reputation for bestowing good fortune attracts many worshipers. It is said that for every step climbed of the 1,185-step stairwell leading up to the temple, you can gain an extra 20 seconds of life.
From the Zhinan Temple Station, the cable car descends at a thrilling 80 degrees, after which it ascends at a similarly dramatic incline before arriving at its final destination, Maokong Station.
Tea and touring
The final station on the gondola route is the portal that transports visitors to the tea-drinking center of Maokong. The soil and weather of the mountainous area are suitable for growing various types of tea, among which the Tieguanyin variety of Oolong tea is the most popular.
The terraced tea plantations have become a must-see when touring Maokong. However, while many people know that Maokong is the place to visit for fine tea, few realize how the area got its unusual name, which means "cat hollow" and is derived from Maokong's geology. Over the years, the creek has eroded potholes into the softer areas of the riverbed. The shape of the potholes are like dents made by cat claws, inspiring the name Maokong.
Countless cafes and teahouses line the paths; at these places, you can savor delicious tea cuisine or sip on the area's specialty fragrant tea while enjoying the spectacular view. You can also stroll through the tea plantations or learn about tea farming and production at the Taipei Tea Promotion Center. The center brings together innovative displays and education areas that introduce visitors to the world of tea.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Maokong is walking along the many historic hiking trails in the area, such as the ZhiNan Temple and Maokong Hiking Trail. Guided tours and shuttle buses are available for those who want to explore and learn about the area in detail. For more information about recommended tours, travelers to Maokong should visit the Taipei Visitor Information Center at the Taipei Zoo Station of the Maokong Gondola or visit http://www.taipeitravel.net/maokong/.
30, XinGuang Rd, Sec 2, WenShan District
Hours: 9 am-5 pm (No entry after 4 pm)
Admission: NT$60, Concessions NT$30
115, WanShou Rd, WenShan District
Taipei Tea Promotion Center
8-2, ZhiNan Rd, Lane 40, Sec 3, WenShan District
Hours: 9 am-5 pm, closed Mondays
Transportation: Take a shuttle bus or 20-minute walk from Maokong Station.
Maokong Gondola Visitor Center
8, XinGuang Rd, Sec 2, WenShan District
Maokong Gondola Hours:
9 am-10 pm Tuesday to Friday
8:30 am-10 pm Weekends and National Holidays
Closed on Mondays for maintenance.
Hours may change due to festivals, events or special conditions.
Service may be suspended due to severe weather conditions.
Transportation to Maokong Gondola
1) By MRT
Take the Muzha line to MRT to the Taipei Zoo Station, then walk to the Gondola Taipei Zoo Station (about 350 meters).
2) By Bus
Take the 236, 237, 282, 294, 295, 611, Small 12, Brown 3, Brown 6, Brown 11, Brown 15, or Green 1 bus to MRT Taipei Zoo Station and walk to the Gondola Taipei Zoo Station.
3) By Car
Park in a parking lot or at streetside parking around Taipei Zoo and walk to Gondola Taipei Zoo Station.
Length: 4.03 kilometers
One-Way Journey: About 20 minutes
Maximum Capacity: About 2,000 people/hour
Maximum Passengers in Each Car: 8 people
Speed: 3-5 meters/second
Tickets can be purchased at the entrance of each cable car station. EasyCard accepted.
Regular Adult Ticket Prices (one-way, payable by EasyCard)
1 Station: NT$30
2 Stations: NT$40
3 stations: NT$50
Magnetic/Discount Ticket (one-way)
1 Station: NT$15
2 Stations: NT$20
3 stations: NT$25
20% off for groups of 10 or more
30% off for groups of 40 or more
24-Hour Customer Service Line:
For a map of the route and area, visit: http://gondola.trtc.com.tw/e13.asp