from “Platinum”, Mike Oldfield, 1979.
Taipei has a cable car known as the Maokong Gondola, which opened in July 2007, and runs from just next to Taipei Zoo and going up into the hills to the village of Maokong (貓空站), hence the name. And as we had not encountered a cable car on our travels since Miyajima in Japan (see blog entry 45. Island) we definitely wanted to give this a try.
The grey skies of Taipei were not too unkind to us for our aerial exploits and we were able to enjoy the sights of the lush hills outside the city and up to Maokong. This was duly helped by the fact that we decided to try the “crystal cabins”; essentially some of the cable cars have glass floors so you can look down, and we do love a glass floor. These cabins cost a little more and you have to wait a bit longer for them but we enjoyed the view down as well as out.
Maokong is famous as a place for drinking tea, eating local Taiwanese dishes, and admiring the views of Taipei and is very popular with both the locals and tourists as well. With the predominantly grey and hazy skies during our time in Taipei we didn’t get to appreciate the view as we would have wanted to, but still managed to get some interesting vistas nonetheless.
There are several stops along the Maokong Gondola and our first was the final stop (Maokong) to take a look around at the summit. There actually wasn’t that much to see and the majority of the places to eat around the cable car terminal were more for locals, hardened Chinese, or very brave foreigners! 🙂 Suffice to say we weren’t feeling that brave. We wandered along the peak road and there were one of two other tea-houses but nothing that really caught our eye. So we decided we would get back onto the cable car and head back one stop to Zhinan Temple (指南宮站), and take a look at the temple we had seen on the way up, as shown in the picture above.
The Zhinan temple is a Taoist temple on the slopes of Houshan, also known as “Monkey Mountain” though we didn’t see any monkeys there or indication that they lived thereabouts. Founded in 1882, the temple’s main deity is Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals. It was pretty obvious that the temple was undergoing some major refurbishment from the encasing scaffolding over most of the site, but nonetheless this was a very pleasant temple to visit, with few people around so that we could explore it at our leisure.
We spent a very leisurely hour strolling around the temple and the hillside gardens before it was time to head back to the cable car and make our way back over and down the hills to Taipei.
This was another great day out in what has become one of our favourite cities, and one we will return to in the future as our two weeks there were only enough to whet our appetites to the delights of Taipei.