Day 13. Taipei Zoo and the Maokong Gondola 

It was a bright, sunny morning as we took the MRT to Taipei Zoo Station along the Wenhou (Brown) line for most of the journey.  The trains on this line run overground and are driverless, similar to London’s Docklands Light Railway and it was fun sitting at the front having uninterrupted views on our journey.

View from the front of the driverless MRT train

Entrance to Taipei Zoo costs only NT$60 (£1.50) paying by EasyCard, and visiting the zoo before taking the Maokong Gondola results in further discounts for EasyCard holders.  The zoo appeared crowded with school and kindergarten classes but after walking for a few minutes we had the park mostly to ourselves.

Koala, Taipei Zoo

The zoo is attractively landscaped on a gentle slope and we were delighted to find a Giant Panda wide awake and looking our way.  We didn’t spend too much time in the zoo but were also pleased with our koala and tiger sightings.

Giant Panda, Taipei Zoo

Having left the insect repellent in the hotel was a mistake as our legs soon became itchy from bites, the first time we’ve been affected this holiday.

Tiger in Taipei Zoo

Gradually making our way up the hillside we caught the land train to the upper Maokong Gondola station (NT$5).  This gondola travels up to the tea plantations in the hilltop village of Maokong.  Some crystal (glass floor) cabins are available at no extra cost and boarding was quick with little or no queue.

Maokong Gondola, Taipei

Rather than travel to the end station straightaway, we alighted at the Zhinan Temple station to take a look around there.  Strangely,  the temple wasn’t signposted from the gondola station and our phone map only provided a vague idea of its location.  We set off in what we thought was the right direction but after walking a considerable distance uphill we discovered we were actually hiking up Monkey Mountain and the temple wasn’t that way!

Near Zhinan Temple Gondola Station, Taipei

Retracing our steps we found the temple about 40 minutes later, not far from the gondola station but in the opposite direction.  It wasn’t to be our day because the temple, which looked magnificent in our guidebook, was covered in scaffolding and not at all photogenic.  The interior was still accessible and other buildings on the site were unaffected.

Inside the Zhinan Temple, Taipei

Re-joining the gondola to take us to the top station was easy with no waiting time and we were fortunate on this occasion to have a cabin to ourselves.  As we approached the summit it became gusty with the cabins swaying in the wind.

Maokong Village, Taipei

Along the narrow road near the Maokong station are a collection of cafes and street food vendors but rather than eat there, we followed the road to the left past numerous attractive tea houses with outdoor terraces overlooking the tea growing areas.  After 25 minutes we arrived at the Tea Promotion Centre which offers free tastings of three varieties of Taiwanese tea including High Mountain Oolong.

Tea Promotion Centre, Maokong, Taipei

In addition to tea tasting, an exhibition hall demonstrates the process from tea picking to brewing and on the ground floor visitors can pour themselves mugs of locally picked tea and take them out into the garden to drink.

Tea tasting at the Maokong Tea Promotion Centre, Taipei

Rather than return down the mountain by gondola, we took the regular minibus service.  There was actually a bus stop outside the Tea Promotion Centre but as we had just missed one, we walked back to the village centre for the next service 30 minutes later.  This was just as well as we still had to stand and when the bus passed the Tea Promotion Centre passengers were left at the stop because it was already full.

Tea growing on hillsides at Maokong, Taipei

This bus took us back to the Taipei Zoo MRT station and from there we travelled all the way to Tamsui in the north east, the journey providing us with a welcome rest.  Tamsui is the same riverside resort we first visited on Sunday evening and was again buzzing with activity when we arrived at 5.00 pm,

Tamsui waterfront, Taiwan

This evening our plan was to take the small ferry boat across the wide estuary of the Tamsui river to Bali.  Ferries ply back and forth every few minutes and EasyCards are accepted, costing NT$23 each way.  Bali is a smaller resort than its neighbour across the water and has more of a refined air.  An attractive wooden walkway runs along the waterfront from where we could see small boats sheltering in the little harbour.

Bali waterfront, Taiwan

The tree lined promenade has a good selection of restaurants, cafes and street food vendors and we settled on bowls of squid and octopus in a light tempura batter which we ate on a bench along the waterfront.

Bali waterfront, Taiwan
Seafood street vendor, Bali, Taiwan

As darkness fell it began raining so we took the next ferry back to Tamsui, stopping off for more vanilla buns to take back to our hotel.

Courtesy umbrella stand, Taipei MRT station

One nice little thing we noticed in metro station ticket halls were these courtesy umbrella stands enabling commuters to borrow an umbrella if caught in a rain shower and then return it later either to the same place or to a stand in another metro station.  I wonder if this system would work elsewhere or if people might not bother to return them.

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55 thoughts on “Day 13. Taipei Zoo and the Maokong Gondola 

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    1. Thanks for reading this post and for your welcome thoughts. The Giant Panda was gorgeous and such a bonus to be awake. I think the courtesy umbrella stands are a great idea but I can’t see them dogging in the London Underground but they might! The temples are all so bright and elaborate so different from our churches. Taiwan is definitely such a lovely holiday destination!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I had a smile when I saw that tiger pic. remember the zoo was one of the filming locations for life of Pi? I literally went to the zoo a couple years ago for that reason… and the Taiwan bear was also my fav, though koala got lots of love too..

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Can’t imagine the courtesy umbrellas working too well here but what a great idea. Entrance to the zoo is so cheap – compared with Chester Zoo which costs a small fortune. The gondolas look fun but not so sure about when the wind starts to blow – that would make me more than an little uncomfortable!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I do ‘t know why the zoo entrance is so cheap and with no extra to pay to view pandas, etc. The Gondola ride gave us some spectacular views and we felt quite safe and secure. They will no doubt stop operating if it gets too windy! The umbrella loan system is so nice but even if they had TFL logos on them some passengers here would probably hang on to them.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The panda was gorgeous and the ride on the Gondola very scenic. Taipei has so many green spaces close to the city which makes it so attractive. I read that Finland is to receive two pandas to mark the centenary so that’s nice. Thank you for your much appreciated comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Seeing a koala awake is in itself a highlight – at Edinburgh Zoo, we were told they sleep for 21 hours a day! If the inside of that temple is anything to go by, I imagine the exterior must look superb when not covered in scaffolding. Love the umbrella idea – I suppose the cumbersome design might go some way to maintaining the honesty system were it to be implemented elsewhere!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Rosie for your kind words. It was definitely a highlight to see a koala that was awake and such a low admission price to get in. I’m sure the exterior of the temple will look amazing when the renovations are complete. It was also interesting to read your thoughts on the umbrella loan system too.

      Liked by 2 people

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