Tea, Mountains, and More in Taipei's Maokong
A world and a gondola ride away from the bustle and scooter swarms of Taipei is the Miyazaki-esque mountain escape of Maokong. Carpeted in rolling forested hills, frothing rivers and waterfalls, temples — including one housing a god jealous of those in successful relationships (according to Jen’s mom at least) — and, of course, tea fields, believing Maokong to be a Taipei suburb would be impossible were it not for the skyline of the city appearing underfoot on the horizon.
While being in Maokong feels as if you’ve been spirited away (groan) to another world, it is remarkably easy to reach. While there are roads up the mountain, the most scenic (and fun) way to reach the heart of Maokong is through the gondola. The base station is right outside the Taipei Zoo, which is also 100% worth a visit. Note: If you’re willing to wait in a longer line, you can take a glass-bottom gondola, which is entirely worth it for seeing the mountains and valleys rise and drop away beneath your feet.
Congrats! You’re in Maokong now — pose with some flowers, take a photo with some cat statues, and then get strutting. Although Maokong is an ideal escape from Taipei’s bustle, it still becomes crowded with people hoping for their own slice of calm. If you’re up for an early morning, Maokong is largely empty and yours to explore.
Maokong has a little something to offer everyone. While we easily could have spent the entire day hiking, we decided to immediately hit the tea houses, which, to be fair, are Maokong’s main draw. The soil, humidity, and warmth of the mountains make Maokong ideal for tea plantations, leading to the area becoming famous for its unique variety of tieguanyin oolong tea.
There are no shortage of tea houses in Maokong, but we decided to visit the Yao Yue Teahouse. About a 25 minute walk from the gondola, Yao Yue is a beautiful all-wood traditional teahouse that serves a wide variety of teas and snacks — including amazing dumplings and turnip cake. Maybe most importantly, the overall vibe is luxuriously relaxed and the outside balcony offers views of the mountains and the elevated valleys between.
Once caffeinated and satiated, a short walk past Yao Yue leads to the start of the Pothole Trail (you thought we’d get off without some hiking?!). An easy trail, the Pothole Trail leads past tea plantations before descending into the forest and a rope bridge overhanging a mountain stream. In the river and deposited all around the banks are the famous potholed rocks of Maokong, which allegedly gave the region its name.
While an extremely easy hike, Maokong does get hot and muggy — even in February. So prepare to start off feeling somewhat chilly and end the hike being drenched in sweat and thirsty for …
… More tea! The Pothole trail drops you off back towards the gondola station and close to the beautiful and panoramic Shan Shui Ke Teahouse. While in the summer they serve cold drinks, in the winter they only serve hot tea. Fortunately, they also sells tubs of tea leaves to go, which make for great gifts or additions to tea collections back home.
Closer to the gondola station are also a number of more modern cafes where you can get all sorts of well deserved post-hike goodies, like red bean or matcha shakes and green tea mille-crepe. Don’t judge our hunger, please … Once you’ve had your fill of Maokong — we would have loved to stay a full day, but ultimately had to leave after a half day to meet Jen’s parents at the zoo — head on over to the gondola station and grab that glass bottomed ride if you didn’t before!
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