Another jewel of Taipei I totally missed out on during my time studying there in college was the renowned Mao Kong mountain area that’s a major center or gourmet tea production in Taiwan. Taking the regular citywide MRT subway station, it’s easy to make your way out to where the Mao Kong Gondola (also where the Taipei Zoo is, more later) will take you up to the promise land of delicious tea.
Lucky us, they just started their Hello Kitty themed gondola rides. Everything was Hello Kitty, from the bathrooms to the high flying cars themselves. First, you have to get a ticket from a ticket booth also covered in Hello Kitty. This ride is part of the MRT subway system, so you can just use your Easy Card to purchase passage or pay separately for a ticket.
Next, you jump on one of the cars, covered in Hello Kitty and friends as well. What’s up with this Hello Kitty-ness everywhere? I love it!
If you want to and are willing to wait, you can hop on one of the cars with the crystal glass bottoms so you can really get the most out of the experience. Definitely a fun experience being able to see the view flying by right under your feet.
Once you get to the top, you are greeted with the beautiful sights of tea farms, quaint tea shops, and lots of delicious food, street vendor or otherwise.
Here is a view of a tea farm with the MRT station on the mountainside in the background.
It was a gloomy day after some rain, and quite cold, but that just gave a certain peaceful ambiance that we probably couldn’t find on a hot, sunny, and crowded day. Makes coming back here sometime in the future a must to enjoy the views that all the different seasons up here have to offer.
For lunch on this rather bone chilling day (for us folks from LA anyways), we opted to have hot food at a restaurant called The Big Tea Pot, which got a lot of rave reviews from many travel guides. That and the name just called to my soul.
Because it was a cold and rather windy day, they had the view mostly covered up, but we were grateful since we were quite frozen by the time we huddled into the spacious restaurant. Again, coming back here on a day when all these plastic covers are rolled away and enjoying gorgeous views while enjoying a savory meal is a must-do in the future.
The great thing about the cold weather, though, is that hot tea and the many steaming dishes were insanely delicious.
I ordered one of their signature dishes, which I have personally dubbed the “Every Flavor Pot” because there were all manner of animal parts, bones, spices, and God knows what else boiled into this pot of everything. It’s a little terrifying but extremely hearty.
Down the road some more, there’s a Taipei Tea Promotion Center that specializes in Tie Guan Yin tea (Iron Goddess Tea) and Bao Zhong Oolong Tea.
Aside from being and educational center for tea that displays all sorts of tea making machinery and tools, in the back there’s a rather beautiful and quaint little laboratory tea garden.
To top it all off, they offer an endless supply of freshly brewed Iron Goddess tea, thoughtfully served in mugs to maintain the quality of the taste.
After you’ve had your fill of tea and mountain scenery, a nice way to walk off all the delicious food is to visit the Taipei Zoo when you go back down the mountain.
The main attraction at the zoo is really the pandas. I really wanted to see mommy panda Yuan Yuan (Round Round) and baby panda Yuan Zai (Dumpling), but alas they were not out for visitors as the panda center was still under construction. However, daddy panda Tuan Tuan (Together) was out munching on some bamboo.
If you just can’t get enough of that panda cuteness, you can pick up your own pandas to take home at the gift shop that sells all things panda. My mom is a huge fan of the baby panda at the zoo, so I picked her up some goodies with Dumpling’s cutie face plastered all over it.
Next up, oceanside hiking at Yeh Liu.