Wednesday Write-Up: Who’s Afraid of Heights?

We are back in the travel mode and are taking every opportunity to explore our surroundings while we are still staying in Taipei.

Yesterday we decided to take the afternoon and check out Maokong. Maokong is a suburb of Taipei, set high on the mountain basin that surrounds Taipei county. It was once an area filled with tea plantations and now has many tea houses and boasts of the best views of Taipei City.

Part of the terror excitement of going to Maokong is that to get there you can take the Maokong Gondola. The gondola system takes you from the Taipei Zoo metro stop (on the brown line) right up to the center of Maokong, some 290 meters above. It stops twice along the way at the back entrance of the Zoo and at the Zhinan Temple. It finished being constructed in 2007 and then was shut down after some mudslide problems with one of the support poles in 2008, only to reopen in 2010.

What, It's not that high.... Eek!
It’s not that high up…. Eek!

If I would have known about the fact that it had been closed because of safety issues at one point, I probably would have had to take a bus up there. You see, I am afraid of heights. I know it is not an uncommon fear, and my phobia is not extreme at all, but I certainly do my best to keep myself out of situations that have me high off the ground. You never know, that step stool could collapse under me, making me fall to my death 2 feet below. I try my best to keep my irrational fears from showing, especially in front of Zoë, so I decided to take the plunge…yep, that’s truly a horrible pun.

Chad, Zoë, and I got to the gondola station and made our way to line up for the ride. Once there, we found out that there are two different kinds of gondolas, one is a regular car, the other is a car that has a glass bottom. Obviously, we chose the regular car, as I think I would have been unable to function as a human being ever again if I had what appeared to be nothing beneath me but open air and a huge drop to the earth. Chad was very kind and didn’t even tease me or make me feel silly for being a little nervous (inside I was praying for our safety the whole time).

Do I look nervous?
Do I look nervous?

Just a quick side note here, I would recommend taking your trip to Maokong on a weekday. I have heard that the queue gets really long on holidays and weekends. We went on a Tuesday and pretty much walked right onto it. Also, the tickets each way are just 30 NTD, whether you take the regular gondola or the glass bottom one.

I actually was fine the whole way up for the most part, except for when Chad stood up in the car and it swayed a little, I had a stroke just a minor panic attack. I really enjoyed Zoë’s reaction, which was to think that she was flying like Tinkerbell, “Tinkerbell fly above the trees!” It was quite fun to watch her and that alleviated much of my nervousness.

"Tinkerbell fly above the trees!"
“Tinkerbell fly above the trees!”

We arrived in Maokong and walked up the one main road to the left, past a little outdoor market (some people selling snacks, BBQ Chinese sausage, and of course tea), and tried to decide which tea house we wanted to try. We only walked about 10 minutes and found a large, open,  two story restaurant that seemed good. I do not know the name of the place as it was in Chinese, but most of the restaurants there offer the same dishes, teas, and views.

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We ordered a mix of local jasmine and oolong tea, as well as a dish of fried pork with tea leaves and rice. The food was delicious and one order was enough for all of us. The server set up and taught us how to brew and pour our tea (it is a bit more complicated then when I make myself tea from a tea bag, but not much). It was a wonderful time and we sat and drank our tea and appreciated the fantastic view of the valley below.

Learning how to correctly make tea
Learning how to correctly make tea

Another side note here, make sure when you order at the tea places that you check if they charge for the water as well as the tea. We ended up spending 350NT on the tea (which we did get to take home what we didn’t use there) and then another 90 Nt a person for the water. It was not that big of a deal, but it was a bit of a surprise.

We left feeling satisfied and made our way back to the gondolas to head home. There was a moment that I wanted to make my way to the bus stop and take the bus back to the metro station (you can find the bus information here), but I decided to suck it up and enjoy the ride down. I am glad I did,  mostly because now I can tell you all that I did it.

What a fun afternoon we ended up having! I would highly recommend making the trek to Maokong if you are visiting Taipei. Even if you are afraid of heights…

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