Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Taipei Zoo and Maokong Mountain (Taipei Trip Day 2)

First day in Taipei, we visited Huaxi Night Market and Mengxia Night Market. Second day, Tapei Zoo, Maokong Mountain, Elim Bookstore, and Rauhe Night Market were in our itinerary. We left our hotel early at 8:30 am. Our first breakfast in Taipei- some sandwiches and wheat drink from Seven-Eleven in Longshan Temple MRT Station. 

Taipei Zoo can be accessed easily through MRT brown line. We took MRT from LongShan Temple Station to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, then from there to Taipei Zoo Station. The zoo was just about 100 meters from the Taipei Zoo Station. The MRT was very congested during rush hours, but we still managed to stand in front of the zoo's main gate at 9:40 am.

The entrance fee for Taipei Zoo was NTD 60 per adult. Unbelievably cheap for a zoo that maintains a large diversity of animals, including giant panda and koala bear. The zoo opens from 9 am to 5 pm (ticket counter closes at 4 pm).

Well, we were early. Not many were queueing at the ticketing counter and at the entrance. We entered the zoo smoothly using the easy card. Taipei Zoo was built along a slope, so the best strategy is to take the zoo's shuttle train to the highest point of the zoo, then walk the way down back to the entrance. We need to pay NTD 5 exact change for the shuttle train at the station.

Taipei Zoo was very organized, and we had no problem to see all our favourites- aviary, penguins, grey wolf, red panda, panda, and koala. It was a great experience for us to walk through the best reptile house ever, to see African elephants in close distance, and watching a pod of hippos munching their breakfast as well. A few exhibits were empty (or maybe we could’t find the animals), but overall experience was great! By the way, the zoo was clean, with vendor machines selling snacks and drinks with fair price scattered around. Umbrella and good walking shoes are required for the best visiting experience. We stayed in the zoo till 1:15 pm, well, we never expected to stay there that long. We didn't manage to see all animals in the zoo, as that required one whole day.
 
Taipei Zoo entrance can be easily recognized (upper left), with a huge artwork placed in front of it (upper right). From the MRT gate, the foot prints of different animals (lower left) will lead us right to the entrance of the zoo.

From the entrance, we can see the visitor information center on our right, the food court and the souvenir shop on our left. The train station is nearby the souvenir shop. Click on the photo for a bigger panoramic view.

Shutter train with wheels on road (upper left). We need to pay NTD 5 exact change for the train service. Our first stop, the aviary (upper right), followed by the penguin house (lower left) and the reptile house. The reptile house was clean, organized, with amazingly beautiful exhibits.

The zoo was filled with greenery (upper left), with some beautiful items as decoration.

Panda house was located near the entrance, but we saved the best for last. The panda house is big and fully air-conditioned (upper left). One of the panda was very active during our visit (upper right). We took our lunch at the nicely decorated cafe located on the upper level of the panda house (lower row).

The koala exhibits are located beside the shutter train station. These cute doll-looking critters could hang on trees without a single move for a long period of time, to an extend that we thought the animals inside were just toys. The favourite eucalyptus of the koalas were stated beside the exhibits (right).

The souvenir shop in the zoo with cute animal dolls.

We stayed in the zoo for about 4 hours, twice longer than our initial plan. But couldn't help, the zoo was like a big magnet for us. For us, it was easy to navigate through the zoo. The visitor's map was clear, and we could see most of the animals by following the main walkway down the hill. Comfortable footwear and umbrella are important. Sufficient drinking water is required as well. Of course, we can always get our drinks from the vending machines. For all animal lovers, Taipei Zoo is a big YES for us!


Our next destination- Maokong Mountain via Maokong Gondola (猫空缆车). The "gondala" is the glamour name given to the "cable car". The gondola station is 350 meters from Taipei Zoo MRT Station. We paid NTD 100 for one trip to Maokong Station (one stop). The original fare was NTD 120 per adult per trip. But we got NTD 20 discount because we paid with the easy card for the entrance of the zoo before paying for gondola with the same card,in a same day. More information about Maokong Gondola is available at its official website.

Maokong Gondola Station can be seen from the Taipei Zoo MRT Station (the building with blue signage). There is no covered pedestrian walkway connecting these two stations.

There are two types of gondolas- crystal cabin and normal cabin. While caught by long queue waiting for crystal cabin, there was nobody queueing at normal cabin line (upper left). The gondola travels 4 km in 25 minutes to Maokong Station (upper right). For crystal cabin, we could see through the glass at the bottom of the cabin (lower right). To compare the experience, we took our return trip in normal cabin, and well, not much difference. In fact, the bottom view was not that great after all.

The window view is much better than the bottom view. In a sunny and hazeless day, we could see the 101 tower far behind the hills (right side).

The view from the Maokong Station. Green, peaceful, but not beautiful.

Once out of Maokong Station, we need to make decision- turn right or left (upper left). We started with turning right. The small road led us to the tung tree walkways. Unlucky for us, we found no tung tree flower there (although the season should be April - May). We missed the yellow lupin flower blossom as well, and what left for us was a boring garden with green flower trees (upper right and lower right). Another dissapointment, the maple pavillion had a total of 4 maple trees only.

This little pond ease a bit of our dissapointment.
Well, we took the same way back to Maokong Station, then to the left we turned (upper left). We walked by several eateries (upper right). These eateries should provide good view over Taipei city, but we couldn't see much that afternoon due to the heavy haze far below the mountain. It took us around 25 minutes to reach the Tea Research and Promotion Center of Taipei (lower left). Visitor should not travel beyond the center as there was nothing interesting for tourists anymore beyond that building.

Tea Research and Promotion Center of Taipei is not a big building, with a small receiption (upper left) area that leads to a room displaying a few tea processing machines (upper right) and a corner for the selected tea planting companies to promote their products (lower right). We bought some "pao-zhong" and "tieh kuang-yin" tea leaves from the centre, and thanks God, following the instruction given by the promoter, we finally found a small patch of tea farm on Maokong Mountain (lower left).

Maokong Mountain was far below our expectation- weather was not cooling, no flower blooming, haze blocked the nice view, some unmanaged and dirty sites... it would be a total dissapointment if we didn't bought the tea leaves there. We would advise to visit the place only if you are a big fan of tieh kuan-yin and pao zhong tea leaves, or you are 100% sure that the flowers are blooming along the mountain paths. By the way, there will be a lot of foot workout up there, so wearing comfortable walking shoes is very important (unless you wish to rent a bike), umbrella and drinking water are essential as well. 

The tea plantations there were operated in small scales, so the stunning view like the plantations in Cameron Highlands should not be expected. By the way, there are plenty of eateries and food stalls up there, and you might wish to try the tea ice cream there. The taste, just average. 

This is the tea and choc ice cream at Maokong, speacial with a cat wafer on it but tasted average.

We took off from Maokong Station at around 4:30 pm and reached Taipei city center at around 6 pm. We stopped at Elim Bookstore, bought some books, and continued our trip to Raohe Night Market. Follow us now!


More about our experience in Taipei, please read out posts:

2 comments:

  1. I visited Tai pei several times. I have to agree that Maokong is indeed nothing worth a see. This website is telling true.

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    1. Maokong is interesting or not? For us, it has the advantage on easy accessibility, but the highland is lack of attraction- not more than a place of tea farms (not plantations) and restaurants. It is a peaceful highland, but will be a tourist trap if we exeggerate the attraction there.

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