Houtong, a tranquil site in northern Taiwan, is not just your average village. This former mining village is now a popular attraction for both local and international travelers, mostly because of its cats. That’s right! In Houtong, cats roam freely and happily on the streets, thanks to the awareness raised by locals. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
The story behind the ‘Cat Village’
Houtong was originally a well-known mining village located in Ruifang District, Taiwan. Up until the 1970s, it was one of Taiwan’s biggest coal-mining sites. However, when the mining business began to fall, many people left Houtong and relocated to other cities; only a few residents stayed behind. It was only in 2008 that a group of people in the village started to raise awareness for the cats in Houtong and help provide a better living environment for them. Surprisingly, this project received an incredibly positive response from other cat-lovers and local bloggers. Thanks to all of the attention, Houtong is now one of northern Taiwan’s famous villages to visit.
The ‘Cat Village’ experience
Once arriving at the village, you will notice the green mountains and hills surrounding the area, making it a good spot to just relax and play with the cats. Before wandering around, make a quick stop at the visitor information center and the small mining museum, if you are interested. However, if you can’t contain your excitement, then head along the residential streets. On the streets of Houtong, there are plenty of cats enjoying the day. They are mostly very quiet and still, especially on rainy days when they become quite lazy.
Apart from the cats and cat shelters, there are arts and decorations in the village that would make great photo objects. There are souvenir shops as well that sell many different cat souvenirs to bring home. If you have built yourself an appetite, feel free to grab some lunch in the local restaurants; prices range from 50 NTD to 200 NTD (approximately 2 - 6 USD) for a variety of food choices.
Getting to and around Houtong
Most travelers make a trip to Houtong as a one-day itinerary during their stay in Taipei. From Taipei Main Station, hop on a train to Badu Station (八堵車站) and switch trains there to Houtong Station (侯硐車站). If you are heading to other destinations, such as Shifen and Pingxi, it is recommended that you take the train to Ruifang from Taipei and get a Pingxi Line day pass for 54 NTD (approximately 2 USD). To help navigate, there are complimentary maps at the train stations that you can bring along. Be sure to take a travel notebook as well, because Taiwan is known for its ink stamps at every destination (stamps are usually available in train stations or in front of souvenir shops).
Relax at the ‘Cat Village’
Houtong is a really nice attraction whether you are traveling solo or with friends or family, or are on a romantic getaway. It is also a great spot to unwind; since it is in between hills and mountains and filled with cute cats, Houtong will certainly calm you down. So, what’s the wait? Visit Taiwan and stop by Houtong Cat Village!
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