Getting Here: Take the Maokong Gondola up from either from the Taipei Zoo gondola station, or the Taipei Zoo South gondola station (1 station, NT 70, 2 stations NT 100, and 3 stations NT 120)
Having spent the better part of our day at the Taipei Zoo, we decided to go up to Maokong before heading back into the city. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was a discount for Taipei Zoo visitors who had used their Easycards to enter (Easycard holders who had used their card to enter the Taipei Zoo got a NT 20 discount on one subsequent trip on the gondola).
The gondola ride was pretty long, but very smooth. The view was quite amazing, and because the weather was pretty good, we could see Taipei 101 and much of the surrounding area from our cabin. Definitely a preferred way to get up to Maokong if not for the wait in line. When we got off, there was already a substantial queue of people waiting to go down to Taipei Zoo station, and we therefore decided to see if it was possible to catch a bus down instead.
We were not too sure what to expect as most travel sites advertised Maokong as being a place that people go to drink tea, have dinner, or to hike around. None of the tea houses seemed particularly appealing in the end, and the extent of our hiking involved, predominantly, walking down the main road towards Zhinan Temple, with a view to catching a bus at one of the bus stops on the way. The bus stops are relatively inconspicuous – just poles with details of the buses wrapped around them. There was the Maokong Tour Bus which we understood as being free, but also other buses.
At first, we waited patiently at a shelter near one of the bus stops, but a kind lady told us that there was no need to wait for the buses at any one designated spot. We could continue walking down slowly, and hail any oncoming bus we wanted to get on. The bus drivers would stop and let us on if there was space. We tried this on one bus, but it was already full and without stopping, the bus driver told us through his microphone that the bus was already “满了” (i.e. full) before continuing to speed downhill. We eventually did catch a much emptier bus down to Wanfang.
We also chanced upon the “Maokong potholes” which we had seen advertised at some MRT stations. Perhaps owing to our ignorance of the significance behind the potholes, these were quite underwhelming and it was puzzling how the potholes had made the “designated and advertised” tourist attraction list.
Overall, the best part of this visit to Maokong was the gondola ride. If there is a next time, will probably do more research on the area and go there with both an empty stomach and a specific intention to sample the food / drink at one of their tea houses.