My first day in Taipei
Time Difference wakes me up early and I realise this town is a bit of a late snoozer, with most places not opening until 10-12ish. Not great for a caffeine craving scandi!
I head off to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall under the looming rain clouds, where I get targeted by one of their English speaking guides. He seems to think that talking to me (more like a monologue) is the best thing since Colour TV, and persuades me to stay and watch as they do the hourly guard swap. So I do, and I conclude that observing uniformed men strotting around flaunting guns about is just not my cuppa tea. Had there ever been any doubt about that.
You might also like: Taiwan's Cat Village.
Up among the clouds on the Maokong Gondola
After a stop by minimalistic restaurant Tai Lai for a steamed dumpling brunch (where they even serve those trendy instagram plants, succulents, as a starter - apparently they are edible!), I take the MRT out to Taipei Zoo. Just a few hundred metres from there you find the Maokong Gondola that stretches just over four kilometres up towards the Maokong Hill.
You can travel on the gondola with your EasyCard. It will cost about TWD120 (with a 20% discount if used on weekdays!). Out of the 147 cabins, 31 have been transformed into "crystal cabins" - where the floor has been replaced with a thick glass plate. As it is a pretty quiet Thursday, me and my fellow passengers get offered to swap to a crystal one at the second station free of charge. It is a very thrilling experience to see your feet resting just above the tree tops!
Further reading: The Statue Garden behind Pu Tian Temple.
The most expensive cup of tea I ever had
Maokong, while still a suburb of Taipei, feels like worlds apart from downtown. It is quiet, calm and green. Yet on a clear day you can see the city skyline from up the mountain.
Maokong is famous for its tea cultivation, and the hill is lined with one fancy tea house after the other. I step into the seemingly most quiet one where two ladies are sat silently cleansing the tea leaves. The best ones to go in their finest blend. Normally, you would come to a tea house and purchase a pack of tea for your whole group and then be charged a "water fee" of around TWD60 per person. Me travelling solo paid a rather steep price, but regardless it was a fun experience to see how they prepare the tea step by step in front of your eyes for perfect consumption.
(How much do you reckon I paid for the tea?)
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Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is located on a transit station where the Red and Green MRT lines cross. The stop is conveniently called C.K.S. Memorial Hall. Follow the signs as you exit the train.
Maokong is reached either by bus or with the gondola. Take the Brown Line MRT to its final stop Taipei Zoo, where you can make the short walk to the Gondola terminal or catch bus no.10 just outside the MRT station. You can travel both ways with your EasyCard.
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