A trip to tea hills of MaoKong (貓空) is a family friendly full-day event that can include a visit to the zoo, a cable car ride, a temple visit, and a meal with a view from the hills overlooking the south of Taipei.
By Stuart Hill
You’d be hard finding a ZhengDa University (政大大學) graduate who doesn’t hold a soft spot for the tea hills of MaoKong. A relatively quick scooter ride up to any one of the restaurants that look out over the southern end of Taipei, MaoKong offers a romantic alternative to heading into the northern mountains around the Culture University in YangMingShan for a great evening view.
During spring certain sections of MaoKong have various flowering plants — including sakura — come into bloom. But regardless of which time you visit, the green hills will give you a chance to get a bit closer to nature.
It only took the successful completion of the MaoKong Gondola to make the area more accessible and road traffic less hazardous. However, landslides combined with the weakness of the steep landscape and the area’s vulnerability to earthquakes, created huge structural problems with several of the gondola’s pylons, which got the cable car service off to an uncertain start.
With key issues resolved, travel by cable car remains one of the fastest and easiest — if not vertigo-inducing — ways to reach the top of the hills.
The MaoKong Gondola is a part of Taipei’s MRT system, allowing passengers to use their YoYo Cards to pay for a single 30-minute journey trip each way. The first station is just a short walk from the Taipei Zoo MRT station on the WenHu line. You can also get a bus to the top — but it is a winding journey along narrow streets. That said, the cable car option is not for those scared of heights.
The service runs most days, except on days of extreme weather where lightning or wind are likely to make the trip dangerous. Stops in service are announced via the MRT’s public notification system, including its station displays.
Once at the top, there is the usual night-market style stalls near the gondola station, but a further walk 10-20 minutes away leads you to a number of long-established restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy the view. At night, look for lights in the distance from the gondola station and then head in that direction. At day, head to the left where you also pass several cafes — such as the outdoor MaoKongXien.
A day trip to MaoKong is a good way to escape the warmer temperatures down in the Taipei basin. Temperatures can be surprisingly cool, especially at night. For this reason, pack an extra layer of shirt or jacket even in summer, especially if you are planning to stay for dinner. If you visit at nights anytime between autumn and spring, the drop in temperature between the zoo and the last gondola station can be significant, to the point of cold.
Some things to do during a visit to the tea hills of MaoKong:
- Arrive in the morning to visit the Taipei Zoo and plan a full day trip
- Catch the gondola from the end of the zoo’s “south exit station” to the ZhiNan Temple MRT (指南宮), the next stop up the hill
- Arrive at the last gondola stop MaoKong, head left to one of the cafes for a late afternoon tea or coffee
- Head over to one of the nearby restaurants for dinner and to check out the night view
- Walk back to the gondola station to head back down to the Taipei Zoo MRT station and head back home
- Bring an extra layer of clothes if you are heading to MaoKong for dinner — and be careful to expect cold weather during autumn through spring
- Ignore the food stalls immediately near the gondola station — nothing much special is there that you can’t get at any other night market
- The gondola closes at 9:30pm. The trip is about 30 minutes one way.