Maokong Gondola

Among the paintings that comfort me most are Rothko’s color fields. Not the late works, dark and unforgiving, that portended his suicide, but the warmer ones, from when he was maturing into the style that would define his legacy. They are best admired from two positions: at a distance, to take in the entirety of their composition, and up close, to be consumed wholly in their aura.

My second time riding the gondola, the sun was retiring, casting a few tired rays at the surrounding buildings, and I walked back to the gondola station to head down into the city.

Perhaps as the car was rounding a turn—I’m no longer sure when exactly it happened—but at some point I looked up at the opposite window and registered a light more luminous and intense than anything I had ever seen.

How do I describe that color? Like a Rothko. As if the sun were a liquid that had loosed itself from the vessel containing it and submerged the entire field of vision in orange.

For a large part of history, art mimicked nature. And then it abandoned nature, subverted it. Once in a while, though, the two are reconciled, and the lovers’ dance comes full circle, nature finally imitating art.

In the gondola car, light oozed in, sweet and viscous, filling in all the forgotten crevices, and for a minute I was a living color field, honeyed in the glory of the sun.


Sweeping views of Taipei and of the valley below make the Maokong Gondola a worthwhile activity, in spite of its gimmicky feel. The route starts at the Taipei Zoo MRT Station, runs through three intermediate stops, and ends at Maokong Station, where a smattering of teahouses and restaurants—all tourist traps, unfortunately—awaits. Glass-bottomed “Crystal Cars” are available in a separate queue but not worth the wait, as the glass takes up only a small square in the floor and has yellowed with age. Be sure to visit on a sunny day and keep your ears peeled for service announcements, as the gondola does not operate in inclement weather.

Name in Chinese
Lane 38, Section 3, Zhinan Rd, Wenshan District, Taipei City
Tue-Thu: 09:00-21:00; Fri: 09:00-22:00; Sat: 08:30-22:00; Sun: 08:30-21:00
02 2181 2345
120 TWD

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