I finally took a ride on the Maokong Gondola (貓空纜車) today, a week after the official opening. I had earlier been on two exploratory visits before the cable cars began operating. Unlike the first day where Prince Roy reported long queues I only had to wait for around 20 minutes.
A number of minor problems were reported on the system's first day of operations. Yesterday the cable car system was shut down for five hours as a result of a lightning strike. An opinion piece in the Taipei Times says problems with the system result from poor management planning.
Another major problem people have focused on is the heat in the cabins. There is no air-conditioning or active ventilation system in the cabins. I guess they were originally designed for use in the mountains of Europe rather than the sub-tropical environment of Taipei.
Riding the gondola in the middle of the day it was quite hot inside and the ventilation not very good. Sitting at the front of the cabin right next to the main vent it is OK, but elsewhere not so good. I suggest that all the cabins need to be refitted with additional vents or perhaps more windows that open, but are covered with some sort of screen for safety purposes.
The cabins have a PA system and if the system slows down or stops an announcement is made. However, the announcements were in Mandarin only.
Overall my impression of the system was very good. The ride was smooth and there were no other problems. There were plenty of staff on hand to give assistance. Passengers seemed to be have no problem embarking and disembarking from the gondolas.
A brief photo essay follows.
View from the Taipei Zoo MRT Station towards the Taipei Zoo Gondola Station. It is only about 300 metres walk to the Gondola Station. The Zoo Mall that occupies the middle space is designed to syphon money from the wallets of parents taking their children to visit the zoo or travel on the cable cars.
The Maokong Gondola is managed by the Taipei MRT and employs the same ticketing system. These ticket machines are currently being phased out of MRT Stations in favour of the new IC token system. I guess they thought they could find a continuing use for some of the older ticket machines. I suggest that you have an Easy Card (悠遊卡) to avoid wasting time purchasing tickets.
A passenger disembarks at Taipei Zoo Station.
This station is actually for maintenance purposes. Passengers cannot board the gondola here.
Although there are some good views of Taipei City, the gondola travels over green forest almost the whole way.
This is the view of Muzha (木柵). It shows that there is a lot of green space in this part of Taipei.
Maokong Station — tea houses and hiking trails await. As it was the middle of the day and extremely hot I only spent a short time in Maokong before catching the gondola back again.
I'd like to go back and ride the gondola again soon, but maybe on a day when the weather is cooler and suitable for hiking. And I would also like to take a ride at night as I am sure the view of Taipei City's lights is quite wonderful.
More photos at flickr.