The Maokong cable car service is probably the world’s greatest public transportation line.
I grew up most of my life using New York City’s MTA subways, have extensively used many metros around the world and Taipei’s system is one of my favorite, even without taking the cable car line into consideration.
The Maokong Gondola is an official metro line (with stations) of Taipei’s public transportation system.
So it’s economically priced just like any train stop and accessed with the very same metro card.
The difference is that the “car” isn’t a long metal tube jaggedly traveling mostly underground but an intimate glass room almost floating through the air.
The Maokong Gondola line consists of 4 stations with each stop being a worthy point of interest; Ground level, Taipei Zoo, Zhinan Temple and Maokong Mountain.
I’ve taken the gondola twice, both times without making any stops. The 2.7 mile (4.3 km) ride takes about a half hour to get to the final destination, the Maokong village on the top of the mountain.
It’s a real pleasant ride that takes dips and turns all around the mountainous terrain with varying 360 degree views of the entirety of Taipei and beyond.
The ‘Crystal Cabins’ (as pictured) are the same fare as the standard cabins but offer a much more immersive experience due to the transparent floors.
Since the Maokong Gondola is an actual part of the metro system, it’s effectively used by the locals to get around. But like a deservedly “tourist priced” ride, it’s equally effective as a travel attraction.
It’s great for going solo with headphones on, as a couple on a romantic date or with a group of friends.
Unlike the gondola’s standard train counterpart, each lift will only be seated at a comfortable level for safety purposes, naturally. Furthermore, you can request the passenger handler to be seated privately with just your group or significant other, provided it’s not busy.
For a government run facility, the people at the Maokong Gondola are quite friendly and flexible.
Riding the Maokong Gondola is obviously one of those cases where the journey is just as important as the destination as each stop is something special.
The end of the ride takes you to the top of the mountain where the village of Maokong resides. It’s full of markets, views, shops, cafes and a strong tea culture, but without affecting the nature element. You can easily spend most of the day there.
To get back to the city, you can simply take the gondola down or hike the mountain by foot.
It’ll take a couple of hours at a leisurely pace to make it all the way down. There are multiple routes with varying difficulty through man-made pathways, dense nature and attractions like Zhinan Temple.
Taipei has plenty to offer both the tourists and locals, such as the city’s great public transportation system, in this case the cable car service line…
The Maokong Gondola.