Taking To The Skies | A Gondola Visit to Maokong for Lunch & Tea

I love cable cars! So I was very excited about riding on the Taipei Maokong Gondola during our visit to Taiwan’s capital earlier this year.

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It wasn’t until we did it that I realised quite how incredible this particular cable car journey would be – a long and leisurely half an hour in duration each way and taking us up, over and back down across several forest-clad hills on the way, often at great heights above the ground. During that time, we enjoyed incredible views back across Taipei City, and down onto the trees, tea plantations and rural landscapes below.

Our destination was Maokong – a small village nestled in the mountains to the South of Taipei and known for its tea production. As a huge fan of Taiwanese mountain oolong teas, especially tie guan yin, for which Maokong is known, it was high on my list for our three night stay in Taipei.

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Zhongxiao Fuxing station

We started our journey by taking a Wenhu Line train from Zhongxiao Fuxing station (near our hotel), directly to Taipei Zoo station and from there we walked over to the Gondola station, a five minute stroll.

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On route; and Taipei Zoo MRT station

Here, we bought one way gondola tickets to Maokong for NT$ 120 (about £3) each. Oddly, a return ticket costs NT$ 260 (because it allows for a third journey after the round trip), so it was cheaper to buy two singles instead. There are discounted prices available for children and elderly visitors.

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The cable car route is just over 4 kilometres long and rises a total of 275 metres in height between the start and end stations at Taipei Zoo Station and Maokong Station, respectively. There are four passenger stations in total – the two terminals plus stops at Taipei Zoo South and Zhinan Temple – and two angle stations to allow for direction changes along the route.

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Built and launched in 2007, and upgraded in 2010, the Maokong Gondola now has 147 cabins of which 31 are ‘crystal cabins’ also known as the Eyes of Maokong Gondoa – these have reinforced glass floors that allow passengers to look down at the view beneath their feet. The glass floors have a green-yellow tint to them, which made the greenery below appear more vivid than the overcast day outside.

Because the glass floor cabins are more popular, there are two queues for boarding – one for regular cabins and one for the crystal ones. Because of the extra weight of the reinforced glass floor, the crystal cars are significantly heavier so no more than five passengers are permitted to ride each one. The regular cabins can take up to eight.

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Taipei is not the most attractive of cities – though we loved visiting and quickly developed a genuine affection for it, aesthetically, it’s not a beauty. However, the sweeping views from the cable car transformed the city and were utterly captivating. Half an hour went by in a flash and we stepped out of our gondola at Maokong Station.

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For those who are not keen on cable cars, you can also reach Maokong by public transport – there are buses from Taipei Zoo station or Xinyi.

If you have enough time, you might enjoy a visit the Tea Promotion Center to learn  about the production of local teas, how to make and drink tea and a little more about the area. Switchbacking roads zigzag between key sites including local temples, teahouses and shops. You could also enjoy some of the many walking trails in the Maokong area that afford great views of the beautiful local landscape – in times gone by, many of these were the routes used by farmers to take their tea and rice harvests into town for sale.

As I was struggling with foot pain, we left those activities for a future visit and instead timed our visit for lunch at one of the teahouse restaurants within a short walk of the cable car station.

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We chose Jheng Da Tea Organic Garden based on the menu outside, and took a table inside next to the windows looking out across the valley. If the weather is warm and dry, there are outdoor tables too.

Tempted by so many dishes on the menu, we over-ordered and had a feast fit for four, but I don’t regret it – it was all delicious!

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We ordered crispy tofu with tea (NT$ 180), tea fried rice (NT$ 120), grilled salted pork slices (NT$ 280), stir-fried cabbage (NT$ 100) and sizzling beef (NT$ 280). The one I’d leave out if I were to order again would be the beef – nothing wrong with it but just not as exciting and delicious as the rest. With our meal we had some local tie guan yin tea for two (NT$ 350). Our total bill was around NT$ 1400, about £33.

The food was really good, and I’d happily go back for more of that tea fried rice, salted pork and crispy tofu! To visit Jheng Da Tea Organic Garden (spelled Cheng Da on Google Maps), turn left out of Maokong Station and follow the road, about 5-6 minutes walk.

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After a leisurely lunch, we headed back to the gondola station, bought our return tickets from the easy-to-use vending machine and hopped aboard a gondola within minutes.

Our half hour ride passed all too fast, and soon we were back in Taipei City proper.

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With our limited time in Taipei, we skipped some of the usual things to do in Taipei in favour of this wonderful excursion to Maokong. For us, it was utterly worth it, and if you can find a few hours during your visit to ride the Taipei Maokong Gondola, we definitely recommend it!

Advice on affordable hostels in Taipei.

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83 Comments to "Taking To The Skies | A Gondola Visit to Maokong for Lunch & Tea"

  1. Susan Portnoy

    Great piece and I love the heads up on the two single tickets for the Gondola ride. Always love getting alerted to that kind of detail.

    Reply
  2. noel

    Wow,I had no idea you can find something like this in Taipei with all that lush greenery, what a fun tour. I would definitely get the cable with the bottom glass views to capture some of the cool images below. And lets not forget the amazing meal, wow you guys really like to eat yummy food!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, it’s a real contrast to the city centre and the views are beautiful. And yeah, that lunch was delicious!

    Reply
  3. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    We would definitely take the glass gondolas. We wait extra in line for the front of the roller coaster too. We figure that we spent all kinds of time and money just to get into the line and a little bit longer to get the ride we want isn’t going to hurt us.

    Reply
  4. Marvi

    Loved reading this and I love cable cars. 🙂 We’re planning on a trip to Taipei next year and I would really love to try this cable car. 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Oh wonderful, hope you are able to include this in your itinerary, and that my post is a helpful guide!

    Reply
  5. Skye Class

    Wow, another country I’ve never been to, and you make it look wonderful. That food looks wonderful, and I’m a big fan of cable cars – especially when they have a glass floor. It’s certainly nice to know how cheap things are there.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thanks Skye, we really loved our 5 night taster of Taiwan and want to revisit to see more!

    Reply
  6. Aleah

    I love cable cars, too, especially the crystal cabins! I didn’t know they had that in Taipei. I would totally do it for a day; 30 minutes one way gives you a lot of time to take pictures and take in the scenery. And that spread of food is amazing! Give me fried rice and tofu any day LOL

    Reply
  7. Lucy

    This looks like a really nice thing to do in Taipei, especially the glass floor gondola! The food looks amazing! I went to Kaohsiung and enjoyed it, so now I must go to Taipei to experience this.

    Reply
  8. Jitaditya Narzary

    Nice to see the countryside and open spaces. My mental image of Taipei is that of a big, populous city, something like Singapore. Nice to see the places beyond the city, and that too from a bird’s POV.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It’s big and ugly but wonderful and friendly and delicious. But getting out to this nearby village is a wonderful contrast and yes the views are amazing.

    Reply
  9. Arnav Mathur

    Those views are simply WOW !
    Have been on a gondola before, but never in a city, but the views from up there are really awesome. And spending half an hour either way is plenty of time to soak it all in.
    Hadn’t read much about Taipei before, bu now its on my list.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, I really loved that it was so long, most cable cars I’ve been on are far far shorter in duration.

    Reply
  10. Kate Rebel

    I love gongolas! I haven’t been to Taipei but I would love to go one day 🙂 The view is amazing! The last gondola I rode I think is the one in Portland, Oregon. Had some amazing views there, too 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Me too, I think they’re fabulous. I’ve not taken the one in my home city, London, though as it seems sooo overpriced! This one was just amazing!

    Reply
  11. Bec

    Oh my goodness, a glass bottom on a cable car! I am terrified of heights so I think I would have been in the other line! It looks like it would be a beautiful trip up and back though as the views are stunning. I think if we ever visit we will be heading straight to that little restaurant for lunch too. It all looked so good, it was making my mouth water!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    There are more of the cars without the glass floor so you’d be able to get onboard more quickly by skipping the crystal floored ones!

    Reply
  12. Saakshi Maheshwari

    Oh wow! Taiwan has gondola rides as well. How much ever I grow up, my love for gondola will never die. I spent like a bomb for asia’s longest cable car ride in Vietnam.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Ooh that sounds fun, I’ll make sure to have that on my mental list for when we make it to Vietnam!

    Reply
  13. Rahul Khurana

    This is so much greenery for a city to have. Looks even better with the cloud cover. I love cable car rides as they offer great views. Would love to visit Taiwan someday.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes I couldn’t begrudge the clouds too much, they did make the skies look even more beautiful!

    Reply
  14. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Gondola cable car ride looks really exciting. The views must have been fabulous. We love riding in Gondolas, floating high up n the air. Taipei looks so charming, do not get to read much about the city. Maybe that is one of the secrets of its pristine charm, lesser footfalls!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It’s very popular with visitors from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, all of which offer short flights into Taipei. We spent 5 nights in Taiwan ahead of visiting Hong Kong and wished we’d had longer!

    Reply
  15. divyakshi

    I so love gondola rides! 🙂 The views are so remarkable!! Love the glass flooring so you can actually see the views below and its so crystal clear 🙂 I never thought Taipei would be so green!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    The heart of Taipei city is definitely not green but it’s surrounded by this kind of lush greenery, which is wonderful!

    Reply
  16. Ami

    I sure am in for that Crystal bottom one. Would have taken some getting used to seeing no solid floor. But that itself is an experience that I know I will thrive on. The place does seem interesting. and after reading your crispy Tofu …am craving for one now. Thanks for sharing this

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yeah, it’s kind of freaky but very cool! And the tofu was amazing, I love tofu!

    Reply
  17. Medha

    Cable car rides are my favourite! I love how you can zip to such a height within a matter of minutes and then enjoy such amazing views of the city from the top. I have never been to Taipei although it is on my bucket list. Seems like this is a definite to-do thing there.

    Reply
  18. Tifanee

    This is a great way to see the city. I love the glass bottom of the cable car! That’s a really neat perk. That food looks so good! Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  19. Carola

    Half an hour in a cable sounds like made for me! I must make sure I remember this when I visit Taiwan.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yeah I had no idea it was such a long trip until we took it, so it was a really wonderful surprise!

    Reply
  20. Angie

    The place is lovely and gondola rides give me mixed feelings. I love the views but I always fear to look down too! Also, will be visiting Taiwan in December too! 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I hear you, and I did squeal a few times, firstly when it first took “flight” and then each time we entered and exited one of the waystations / direction change stations! But it was worth it!

    Reply
  21. Ozzy

    A great post with quite an insight. Loved reading the post and now I’m quite intrigued to visit Taiwan. Never knew there was so much greenery around. A crystal floor cable car ride would be epic. The food looks amazing (pork in SE Asia is probably the best).
    Just a tiny inquiry – if I take a return ticket for the cable car, is it absolutely necessary to return the same day? or can it be used (say) a day later as well, if I decide to stay over in Maokong.
    Cheers!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Hi Ozzy, really glad you are now considering a visit to Taiwan. Do check out my other post on Taroko Gorge, a few hours train ride away from Taipei. I’m so sorry, I didn’t ask about whether the return ticket could be used across two different days — Maokong is so close to Taipei that I’m not sure people generally bother to stay overnight, so I’d be surprised if the tickets were set up that way. However, as per my post, it’s cheaper to buy two singles than a “return” anyway, as the return price is based on three rather than two trips.

    Reply
  22. Toni

    That food looks like heaven! I am scared of heights but think I wouldn’t say no to the cable either 😀

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Same here, I find tall escalators very hard, and I can’t even stand on a chair without vertigo but somehow cable cars are different… I do get scared as they leave the station, and each time they enter and exit a waystation along the route but otherwise, I’m mostly OK!

    Reply
  23. Darlene

    I love gondola rides as well! And I didn’t know there are also tea plantations in Taipei! Adding this to my list!

    Reply
  24. Cory Varga

    One of the best things we heard about Taipei is the sheer amount of lush greenery all around. Taiwan is on the bucket list for sure, and we can’t wait to photograph that awesome sea of green. So gorgeous.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It’s beautiful and green on the outskirts, though not so much within the city itself. It’s a wonderful contrast!

    Reply
  25. Cherene Saradar

    Thanks for these great tips! I haven’t yet been to Taiwan but this is something I would definitely do when I go. Beautiful scenery and yummy food. I’m in!

    Reply
  26. Helen

    I was too scared of heights to do this Taipei but wish I had now: would have loved to see the tea stuff – and tea fried rice sounds exciting. I liked it as a city though. It felt so calm and I loved how eveyone says hello.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    You can reach Maokong by public bus, I think it takes about an hour rather than the half hour of the cable car. Some travellers take the cable car one way and the bus the other way.

    Reply
  27. Lena

    We are planning a short trip to Taipei in November. So finding your blog post was perfect. I hope we will have time to check out this gondola and Maokong.
    Thanks for all the pictures, which makes it easy to get an idea of what I will miss if I don’t go!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Oh wonderful, I hope you love it too! Definitely worth taking this trip if you have time. We sacrificed some of the other things on the To See list for this, and we were really happy with our choice. Maokong is small but the cable car trip, the lunch and the tea shops were worth it for us.

    Reply
  28. Anu

    That Gondola ride looks very interesting. To be half an hour inside it and observing the world go by would be so cool.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, it’s a really nice chunk of time to spend simply hanging and looking out…

    Reply
  29. Piia / Ticket to Adventures

    Looks very pretty up there. I am totally afraid of hights so I am not sure if i would have been able to take a ride on a gondola with a glass floor, way too scary for me. What a great little adventure!

    Reply
  30. Daphne

    This seems fun! The views look amazing and I really love the glass floor. I used several cable cars before, but never experienced one with a glass floor. 30 Minutes up sounds like a perfect time to explore the views and get to the top.

    Reply
  31. Sarah Shumate

    That food looks delicious! I haven’t been to Taiwan yet, but as we’re currently living in Singapore, I’m sure we’ll make it there at some point. Will probably skip the cable cars, though. Heights are definitely not my thing! 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    If you have time, definitely worth taking a trip while you are in Singapore as flights are not too expensive from there. Do check my other Taiwan post on Taroko Gorge too.

    Reply
  32. Fiona Maclean

    I love the look of the food at the Teahouse restaurant. And, I too really love cable cars – though I never seem to get good pics! Yours are amazing

    Reply
  33. Kyla

    I absolutely love cable cars, and this one looks amazing! Especially with the cute little town and delicious food at the top. It moves Yaiwan higher towards the top of my ‘list’!!

    Reply
  34. Sasha

    Wow, how incredible that you can find so much tranquility so close to the city! Did not expect that. And a thirty minute gondola ride is so lovely, so much time to really admire the sights!

    Reply
  35. Jane M

    OMG, I love cable cars, too. There’s something so cool about soaring high above a mountainside in the complete silence of the cable car. Also, that food you got looks soooo yum!

    Jane M

    Reply
  36. Richelle

    Glad to see you had such a great time in Taiwan. Taipei is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I definitely plan on settling down there. Enjoy!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Oh how wonderful, I can see why you’d pick it. It’s warm, friendly, modern but with a strong sense of cultural identity and fantastic for foodies!

    Reply
  37. Sreeram

    Wow! Taipei looks much different to what I had imagined. Good to know the information on two single tickets for the Gondola ride would be useful whilst I am there.

    Reply
  38. Suruchi

    Your pictures are really beautiful. This looks like some real adventure. I am sure the views from the glass-floored Gondola rides would be spectacular. And on top of that yummy food. Would love to add this to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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