My sister is a huge animal lover, akin to how passionate I am about all things cars and motorsports. Hence, a visit to the Taipei Zoo (apparently Asia’s largest zoo – probably in terms of the land area) was part of her Taipei wishlist. Getting to the Taipei Zoo is very straightforward – just hop on the Taipei Metro and get yourself to the Taipei Zoo station.
There are two tourist things you can do – take the Maokong Gondola (ie. the cable car) or visit the zoo. We decided to take the Maokong Gondola all the way to the top and have some tea up in the mountains first, before checking out the zoo.
Costing NT$50 for a one-way trip to the top, you could tap the EasyCard (Singapore’s equivalent of the EZ-Link card) to pay for it or just buy a separate ticket.
There are two kinds of cabins – regular or the crystal cabins, otherwise known as the Eyes of Maokong Gondola.
The crystal cabins have clear floors so you can see beneath and no additional charge is required, except that you have to go to a counter and get a queue number.
Anyway, just some background: Construction of the Maokong Gondola began on 10 November 2005 and on 11 January 2007, the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) was commissioned by the Taipei City government to operate it. Completed on 14 June 2007, the Maokong Gondola cleared safety inspections and started operations on 4 July 2007. [You can read the rest of the milestones here.]
On a clear day, you can actually see Taipei 101 from the top but it was a rainy and gloomy day so there wasn’t much to see except lots of dark clouds. What luck!
There is an abundance of teahouses at the top and local tea specialties include Muzha Tieguanyin (木柵鐵觀音) and Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種茶). You can just pop into any tea house for some fresh tea brewing or go to the Taipei Tea Promotion Centre for an introduction to tea picking, processing, brewing and free taste testing. All these names on the boards are of the different tea houses!
We had no idea which tea house was famous so we just walked along and randomly followed this group until we came to Da Cha Hu:
It seemed rather popular so we went on in!
There are two levels…
The second floor offers a larger variety of tea, according to the lady who served us..
The one made in this area is Tieguanyin, which is what we ordered… along with some mountain vegetables and plain man tou (Chinese for buns)!
Making the tea was easy…
1. Two scoopfuls of the tea leaves into the little tea pot
2. Pour hot water in
3. Let it steep for 8 seconds (longer if you want it to taste stronger) before serving
P.S. Once the tea is served, drink it immediately as it turns cold quickly.
You can buy back any of the tea available on the menu – Note: The Taiwan Xiao Hong Pao is a house brand not sold anywhere else, not even exported outside of this tea house.
The lady who served us told me that this tea house was founded by her grandparents over 20 years ago and passed down to them. Here’s the kitchen:
It was on to the Taipei Zoo next!
It is supposed to be the largest zoo in Asia, not for the variety of animals (judging from what I saw), but for the land area of the zoo I would think. We took the Maokong Gondola back to the bottom and walked to the entrance of the zoo. Entry fee for adults was only NT$60 (about S$2.70)! That’s quite cheap…
We only had two hours to walk the zoo (it closes at 5pm) and there wasn’t enough time to cover the entire ground in that time so we just walked towards the red pandas at the temperate animal zone (right at the end of the zoo) and made stops for whatever we saw along the way.
There were some zebras…
Here’s a zebra crossing (pun intended)…
… and I thought this sign was hilarious! Probably the only ‘zebra crossing’ you cannot cross at…
Then there was the real Angry Bird…
That’s right – this is the real stuff, unlike these Angry Birds I saw at Shilin later..
The hippos were lazing around…
… and being perfectly happy to flash their butts at me…
The red pandas were what I really wanted to see. They are not your typical black and white pandas dressed in red fur, but rather, they resemble raccoons a lot. They were so frisky that I had trouble trying to get a decent shot of them!
I also saw some camels, horses, elephants, pumas and more… The penguins were having fun strutting their stuff and posing for me:
I cannot remember the last time I went to a zoo – I think I’ve only ever been to the Singapore Zoological Gardens and that was like, almost 20 years ago! The Taipei Zoo can do with some housekeeping though… look at these cobwebs on the directional signboards!
It was a pity we didn’t have more time to explore the zoo! If you ever feel like doing some animal loving in Taipei, head on down to:
Address: No. 30 Sec. 2 Xinguang Road, Taipei City 11656, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Open every day (except for eve of Chinese New Year)
from 9.00am to 5.00pm (no entry after 4.00pm)
For more of my photos, view my albums:
Read the rest of my Taipei posts here: