After a stressful first week of teaching the weekend was a nice time to site-see and refresh myself. I worked Saturday night, so Sunday allowed a little time for something close to Taipei. The Maokong Gondola seemed like a perfect choice. The gondola takes you from the Taipei Zoo, up the mountain to Maokong. It had a rocky start after it opened in 2007, a series of typhoons in 2008 caused damage, and it was forced to close for nearly two years. But today it's back and stronger than ever.
If you're in Taipei, take the brown MRT line to Taipei Zoo and follow the signage at the exits. If you have a Taiwan Easy Card (the MRT transport card) you can use it to ride the Gondola (just scan before boarding.) If not there are kiosks where you can buy a single ride or return ticket. There are two types of cars, normal and glass bottom. For the glass bottom, get a special ticket that has an entry time on it. While it may seem to be a longer wait than the normal cars, they tend to end up being about the same wait, and if you're going to do it, the glass ones are worth it. If you have a choice go during the weekdays, weekends this is a popular place.
The journey is about 2.5 miles to the top station, though there are two stations on the way if you feel like getting out and looking around. to the We exited at the top, grabbed a quick bite to eat from one of the many food vendors, and began hiking around the surrounding area.
On the way, there are tons of the local teahouses. You choose your tea, they bring you a small bunch of leaves and a kettle of hot water; you sit there and brew as much as you want. The tea was a little pricey at some of them (they charge you a “water fee” on top of it) but the view was lovely, and it made a nice break from walking. Afterwards, we hiked back and caught a bus back down the mountain…nothing quite as scary as driving down the mountain on a narrow windy road barely big enough for one car. Luckily we got on early enough to get seats…otherwise, I could have been one of the 20 people standing in the aisle. If you're feeling like a bit more privacy or are pretty tired from the day there are a lot of taxis that hang out back at the station as well. If you have a group it's not very expensive back into the city and saves you dealing with the crowded commute home at the end of the day.
It was about 5:30 when we left, so it was a long wait for the MRT back into the city. We ended up getting dinner at one of the alleyway restaurants when we got back. I got delicious Sesame noodles, they’re spaghetti-like noodles with a thick sesame paste/sauce on them. It was a good wind down to the weekend, so I'm reading for week two of my new job.