If you’re looking to explore the outskirts of Taipei, Houtong Cat Village is just the answer. This quick guide sets out everything you need to know about enjoying a Houtong Cat Village day trip from Taipei.
Taiwan is a fantastic destination that is slowly becoming more popular among travelers. Although most people hardly make it out of Taipei, this little island has much more to offer. Whether you are a foodie, a culture seeker, or an adventurer – Taiwan has something for everyone!
Wander the streets of Taipei, snack your way through one of the lively night markets, or immerse yourself in nature at Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, or Taroko Gorge. Yes, this little island is full of scenic, culinary, cultural, and quirky surprises! Moreover, it’s also home to the charming mountain village of Houtong Cat Village (猴硐貓村).
Houtong Cat Village is hidden in the hills of Ruifang District along the Keelung River. Apart from the scenic mountain views, you’ll also be able to witness the cute cats strolling around town. A Houtong Cat Village day trip is a huge must for any cat lovers or travelers wanting to experience something new!
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About Houtong Cat Village
Although Houtong Cat Village is a great day trip from Taipei, not many travelers even know it exists! This guide sets out everything you need to know for a Houtong Cat Village day trip. Plus handy tips on what to do in Houtong and how to get there.
Along with Jiufen, Shifen and Pingxi, Houtong used to be one of Taiwan’s most promising coal mining towns. Today, however, Houtong is better known for something entirely different – its cute cats. All over town, you’ll be able to spot friendly cats lounging around in pots, baking in the sun, or taking a nap in one of the cute teahouses.
A unique name
Houtong (which means Monkey Cave) was initially named after many monkeys who lived in caves nearby. Although it is not entirely clear what happened to the monkeys, today, the town is better known for its cats. Hence the name Houtong Cat Village.
A deep-rooted mining history
People already started settling in Houtong during the Japanese Colonial era. During the 1970’s coal mining was a lucrative business in Houtong, which soon drew thousands of miners to the area in search of work. Not only was the town a vital pitstop on the Yilan train line, but it also yielded the most coal anywhere in Taiwan.
Before the 1950s, things drastically changed as the coal started to run out. The government was forced to look into more cost-effective ways to run trains, which finally resulted in many residents moving elsewhere.
Cats to the rescue
However, in 2008, things took an unexpected turn when a resident started caring for the stray cats left here by their owners. To create awareness about the cats’ dire circumstances, she began sharing posts of the town’s fur balls online. This led to an instant buzz and attracted cat lovers, volunteers, and tourists from near and far.
Today, Houtong can adequately care for its furry friends by providing food, clean water, shelter, vaccinations, and lots of tourist love.
The best part? The town has grown so fond of its furry friends that it even embraced a cat-theme. You will see cute cat signage displayed throughout the village, while cats and pawprints are painted on walls, footpaths, and stairways. There is even a cat-themed footbridge with an elevated “catwalk,” ensuring that both visitors and cats can safely cross the train tracks.
Kitty Do’s & Don’ts
Before setting off on your Houtong Cat Village day trip, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the town’s rules. You will spot clear signage throughout the village, but here are a few essential tips to keep in mind for your visit:
- Please do not feed the cats your food, as they might get sick. You can buy proper cat food at almost every store in Houtong!
- Do not overfeed the cats – a few nibbles at a time should be more than enough until the next person comes by.
- Help the locals keep the village clean. You’ll spot cat bowls all over town. Please use them when feeding the cats. And take your trash with you!
- Please refrain from teasing the cats. Rather wait for the playful ones to approach you.
- Please don’t bring any pets with you on your trip.
- Don’t use your camera’s flashlight when taking photos of the cats.
- Wash your hands regularly for hygienic purposes.
What to do on a Houtong Cat Village Day Trip
Stroll the hilltop
Arguably one of the best things to do in Houtong is to stroll around and admire all the cute cats. There are heaps of little walkways to follow on the hilltop offering spectacular views (and endless photo ops) over the village, mountains, and Keelung River Valley.
Shop for Meowsome Souvenirs
When locals realized that more and more tourists visited Houtong, they quickly began to capitalize on the town’s cat-theme. That’s why you’ll soon notice that just about everything in Houtong is cat-themed. From kitty knick-knacks, postcards, hats, socks, stationary, stamps, bags, and even cat-shaped pineapple cakes, lollipops and cream cakes await every cat enthusiast out there.
Nibble on Local Treats
Most of the eateries in Houtong are near the train station. Don’t expect anything too fancy, however. The stalls sell the usual local dishes that you’ll find everywhere else in Taiwan. For western-style food and drinks, head to the cute cafes or tea houses on the hill.
How to Get to Houtong Cat Village
Houtong is only an hour’s train ride from Taipei Main Station, so it’s an easy day trip. For a stress-free journey, you’ll want to take the Su-Ao train, which stops right in Houtong. The ride costs NT$56-91, depending on which train you take. For more details or to check train schedules, see Taiwan Railways.
Places to Visit Near Houtong
If you plan to visit Houtong, be sure to add one of these nearby villages to your trip.
- Pingxi 平溪 | 29.6km from Houtong – Pingxi is most famous for its sky lanterns and the annual International Sky Lantern Festival. Don’t forget to take a ride on the old Pingxi train.
- Shifen 十分 | 26.4km from Houtong – Shifen’s Old Street is a great place to snack on street food. Alternatively, head to the Shifen Waterfall, at 40m wide, it is the widest waterfall in Taiwan. Read my detailed guide on getting from Taipei to Shifen.
- Jiufen 九份 | 7.2km from Houtong – A picturesque town, famous for its narrow alleys and tea houses. Jiufen is also a popular international film shooting location. Read my detailed guide on getting from Taipei to Jiufen.
Have you ever been on a Houtong Cat Village day trip? What tips do you have for first-timers? Let me know in the comments below.
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