Tucked away in the hills of Taipei is perhaps the most beautiful suburb of the entire city: Maokong. Up in the mountain side, life slows down a little bit and people are seen tending their gardens, sitting in the shade and chatting or selling fruits and vegetables rather than playing on their smartphones, running to catch the metro or strolling high end shopping malls.
The air is fresher and Maokong seems worlds away from the sprawling metropolis it looms over.
Narrow roads cut into the mountainside offering stunning views of the city and tea plantations and gigantic temples carved into the steep hillsides. Every hour on the hour, a gong from a monastery across the valley sounds. Frogs croak and birds chirp and people laugh and it is such a contrast to the soundtrack of urban Taiwan: scooters reeving, horns hoking and bus tires squealing.
Moakong is a tourist destination but all one has to do is wander five minutes beyond the last bubble tea stall to find peace and quiet and solitude. We spent the day getting lost and found on mountain roads and trails and I know in one afternoon we barley scratched the surface of everything this suburb has to offer.
And one of the best parts about visiting Maokong? You can get there by riding a Hello Kitty gondola! Apparently, so many people fled to the mountains over the weekend that the one narrow, twisting road that led to Moakong was always too congested and very dangerous. Therefore, the city decided to invest in a gondola that would take people there instead. The gondola begins at the Taipei Zoo and takes 30 minutes to get to the top of the mountain. Along the way, riders get a bird's eye view of Taipei and its surrounding areas.