Taipei should raise gondola fare to fund Maokong upkeep

The China Post news staff

Maokong, originally a tea-growing community in Taipei’s Wenshan District in the city’s outskirts, has evolved into the one of the area’s most crowded, if not most popular, tourist attractions. The spectacular view, close proximity to downtown Taipei, tea plantations and flower shrubs, and, ultimately, the highly “affordable” Maokong Gondola system, which charges a meager NT$50 for a one-way ride up and another NT$50 for the return trip, are its main attractions. A one-way shuttle bus ride costs NT$15.

Sitting on the edge of the Taipei Basin at an elevation of about 300 meters, the hillside community commands a panoramic view of Taipei. It is said that on a sunny day, a person looking across the city from the vantage point of Maokong could see as far as Yangmingshan, not to mention the famed Taipei 101 tower. On a weekend or public holiday, thousands of visitors throng the place. Tourists form a long line in front of the Maokong Gondola Station to wait for a ride. The only access road, which runs through a residential area, is jammed with vehicles. Shuttle buses operating between Maokong and the Taipei Zoo MRT station, each designed to carry no more than 14 passengers, are packed tight with passenger loads, so much so that not even standing room is left. During the Chinese New Year holidays, as many as 30,000 people visited the place daily. Up in Maokong, cars and the ubiquitous mopeds are parked illegally, sometimes two deep, all the way up the two-way access road, oblivious to the red lines painted on the curbsides, which, as all licensed drivers in Taiwan should know, signifies “no parking.” Traffic police officers, if ever seen at all, are usually few and far between, much to the chagrin of those who have to negotiate the narrow roadway made more dangerous with its blind spots, oncoming traffic, precipices and other hidden perils. Enterprising local residents would usually set up makeshift food stands, selling such items as roast sausages, baked sweet potatoes, “tea-leaf eggs,” and “cold-brewed tea.” Of course, the usual trash, including skewer sticks, shattered egg shells, sweet potato wrappings and peels, and plastic bottles, would litter the place almost all over, right up to the entrance to some private plantations, at the end of a day.