BY BUNNY PACHECO
Love cats? Then Taiwan has the place for you, Houtong, better known as the “cat village.” You can jump on a local train at Taipei station, using your MRT card, and be there in one hour. Once you arrive at the Houtong station, you’ll quickly realize you’ve arrived at a beautiful little village inhabited by several hundred cats. You’ll see cats sleeping on benches, plus cat-litter boxes, cat houses and lots of other cat-related items.
The village is divided into two areas, by the Keelung River and the railway tracks beside it; one side (reached by taking the cat-themed footbridge across the tracks from the station exit) has cat- themed stores, restaurants, street signs, walkways lined with cat prints and cats – plenty of cats. The restaurants seem to have their own in-house cats, who saunter in and out at will. If you want to indulge in some cat-themed pastries, make your way to the Houtong Hide and Seek Café for a cat cake and crème puff.
After making your way around the cat-themed side of the village, cross back over the footbridge to see the ruins of the old coal industry buildings. On this side, you can also see plenty of cats roaming freely in the park, the visitor center and along the riverside. The river is beautiful as it flows through the valley.
A peaceful café sits just above the river where you can have a coffee and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the scenery. Once you’ve sat for awhile, walk across one of the two road bridges that cross the river at either end of the town, both offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The upstream bridge crosses to the old coal mine area, where you can ride a small train into one of the tunnels. Kids will love this (adults not so much), and it’s worth a look.
The village also has hiking trails for the more adventurous, but whatever you choose to do during your visit to the cat village, you’ll leave the village feeling happy you made the trip.
Houtong is about an hour‘s ride from Taipei station; take a local train along the Yilan Line towards Hualien, and Houtong is the stop after Ruifang. Before boarding, make sure the train stops at Houtong.
Houtong, the cat village and several hikes from there are described in Taipei Escapes I (pages 124-137), and Taiwan 101 volume 1 (pages 89 – 96), both available at the Center.
Bunny Pacheco works at the Community Services Center. She loves cats.