June 19, 2011
Our first stop in Taipei is the Maokong Gondola, a 4 kilometer cable car between the Taipei Zoo and Zhinan Temple and on to Maokong. We will travel all the way to Maokong Station.
The gondola rises over 275 meters between the Taipei Zoo and the Maokong station. We reach the first intermediate station on our way to Zhinan Station and the Zhinan Temple. We don’t get off here, we continue on another 1600 meters up the mountain. In the distance we catch a glimpse of downtown Taipei and the 101 tower, which we’ll visit later. We reach Zhinan Station at 264 meters high. We see Zhinan Temple off to our left, clinging to the side of the mountain, as we descend into the station.
When we get off the gondola at Zhinan Station, we’re greeted by a statue of Li Jian He, a famous Taiwan business and political leader who also was CEO of the transit company who brought us up the mountain. Located in the mountains just south of Muzha, Zhinan Temple is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Taipei. Founded in the late 1800s it’s one of the oldest temples in Taipei. We’re in luck as this afternoon when we visited, the monks were performing a healing ceremony which is supposed to bring the believer good fortune, good health, and eternal happiness. As with other temples in Taiwan, Zhinan Temple honors Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, with four main halls, five secondary halls, and many walkways stretching out across the hillside. This Daoist temple complex spreads out all over the mountainside. On a clear day you can see excellent views of downtown Taipei.
It’s time to get back on the gondola and ride to the top of the mountain at Maokong Station. We travel another 1100 meters and climb only a mere 40 meters to reach Maokong station. Maokong is famous as a tea growing area and has many tea houses where you can drink tea and enjoy the views of Taipei.
At the top of the mountain we find a touristy crush of restaurants and farmers selling everything from tea to golden buddahs. We’ll look around a bit and then get on the gondola to go all the way down to the Taipei Zoo, our next stop.