The Maokong Gondola
My favorite day in Taipei was our third day. I just love a good zoo. Having grown up in Fort Worth, TX, we spent many spring and fall days at the zoo (not many summer days though…boy does it get hot in the summer time in Texas!). We have traveled around quite a bit now, and I always enjoy being able to see the diversity of animals at zoos around the world. We’ve seen zoos in the Amazon of Peru, Nicaragua, Panama, and now Taipei!
After a quick breakfast at a little cafe, we walked over to the metro station and got comfortable on the subway for the 40 minute ride out to the zoo. We decided to do the gondola ride before the zoo, so that we could enjoy it in the cool part of the day.
The Maokong Gondola and the Taipei Zoo are in the same area, so it worked out well to ride the gondola up the mountain and then get off on the way back down and walk the zoo from the back to the front.
I don’t know what I quite expected from the gondola ride, but it was so much more amazing than I anticipated!
The views were breathtaking. We could even see Taipei 101 far off in the distance! The kids loved it.
I thought Olivia would be scared, but she handled it well, and Cliff was so amped up about flying through the sky. He’s a little daredevil!
We bypassed the stops along the way and took it all the way up to the top for our first stop. By this time it was about lunch time (though it’s always lunch time with our kids…), so we decided to walk around and find some food. There were winding roads lined with food stands and souvenir shops and it was a perfectly cool day for walking.
We decided to eat in a large covered area of food stands.
For lunch we ate some flavorful noodles and sausage-on-a-stick, and of course some dumplings, but the favorite part of the meal was the bubble milk tea.
After lunch we walked around the streets a bit more. We also made a very necessary stop for some matcha green tea ice cream at a cute little tea shop. I loved the brightly-colored tins of tea!
There were also these interesting “tea roast eggs” though we were all so full none of us tried them.
I didn’t see them the rest of our trip, but next time we’re in Taiwan I will make sure to taste one! The ice cream was delicious. Of course.
The views from the top of the mountain were really amazing, and the air felt cool and clean.
We had a nice walk around the little town, saw some locals having a road rage episode in the narrow mountain streets, and then headed back to the Maokong Station. We stopped at the next stop down the mountain, Zhinan Temple.
There was a beautifully ornate pavilion and water fountain at the Zhinan Temple stop!
It was starting to get hot by this time, and we were glad we’d done the gondola in the first hours of our day. It took us a while to figure out which way to Zhinan Temple (since we don’t read Mandarin!) but soon we were on our way again. The walk down there was pretty and winding, with flowers lining the path, and gold tasseled tags hanging from trees (I assume these were prayers or offerings).
The temple was unfortunately well under construction, but the views were still amazing.
Again, we were able to spot Taipei 101 from up here. The structures were beautiful, and I wish the temple hadn’t been covered in scaffolding!
After this it was time to head back to the station and take our last gondola ride down to the South Zoo Station.
The Taipei Zoo
We made it to the zoo by 2:00pm or so, and the kids were starting to feel pretty tired. There was a fun little train that picked us up at the South entrance, and that really made Cliff’s day. Trains are just about his favorite thing. We were able to see the reptile house (they had requested to see snakes), and the bird aviary. Flamingoes are one of Olivia’s favorite zoo animals. Possibly because they are the only naturally-occurring pink animal that she knows of…
The aviary was actually really cool! I was amazed by the variety of birds! They were all so colorful. I wish I’d been able to read the signs!
At this point both Cliff and Violet passed out cold, which I honestly felt really bad about! We’d been talking about seeing panda bears all week, but Olivia was the only one awake for them! Such is life, I suppose. The panda was adorable. They had just tied up his bamboo and other treats around the cage when we arrived, but he was quick to locate them!
From what I gathered from the signs, he had been born and raised in the Taipei Zoo. It was really fun to see the panda. Such an amazing animal! Olivia got to get close up and personal with the statue 😉
We got a glimpse of the koala bears, though they were pretty sleepy. I was surprised to learn that koala bears sleep 18-22 hours a day!
Near the front of the zoo there was an area that was dedicated to animals that are local to Taiwan. The Formosan Clouded Leopard made quite a show when we stopped by. He came out of hiding and made a lot of noise!
We also saw Taiwanese deer.
The Formosan Black Bear was so funny looking. He looked like a big Chow dog!
Formosan Rock Monkeys were the last animals we saw. (These we would also see in the Taroko Gorge National Park later in the week!)
It had been such a fun day. All the walking had left us pretty exhausted, but it had been good.
We took the metro back to Taipei City and had some delicious curry and naan at the number one restaurant in Taipei, Mayur Indian Kitchen. Then we headed back to our AirBnB for some much-needed rest. The next day we would be exploring the local markets and the Bopiliao Historic District!