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‘Feline’ like a ‘paw-some’ day trip from Taipei? How about heading to the Houtong Cat Village located along the Pingxi Line in Taiwan?
Home to dozens of cats and kitties, Hutong Cat Village is a riverside town in the Ruifang valley (also easily accessible from Jiufen).
Hutong has quite the history – a former coal mining town that once had riches galore, it was most famous for having a cave full of monkeys about 100 years ago (‘Hutong’ translates as ‘monkey cave’).
Now it is best known for its feline residents which outnumber humans hence the name ‘Houtong Cat Village. You know you are going to be in for something very different when one of the first things you see as you arrive at Houtong station is a massive metal footbridge, shaped like a cat.
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Houtong Cat Village May 2023 update
We revisited Houtong Cat Village near Taipei in Taiwan in May 2023 (we wrote the original article in 2019).
Whilst Houtong Cat Village is still worth a visit, post COVID and travel restrictions, the cat village is now quite faded and forlorn with most shops & themed cafes boarded up.
The Houtong Cat Village illustrations, signs and cat models are also in a state of disrepair. The cats are still well looked after so hopefully tourism and good times will return to Hutong soon.
If you are already doing all the main stops along the Pingxi Line like Shifen and Pingxi, Houtong Cat Village is still worth doing as part of your train day pass – but if you are short on time, stick with Pingxi and Shifen.
Getting to Houtong Cat Village from Taipei by train
Houtong Cat Village is easily accessible by train from either Taipei or Jiufen.
To get to Houtong Cat Village from Taipei, you can take a direct train from Taipei Main Station.
Alternatively you can take a train to Ruifang Station and purchase a Pingxi Line ticket (train costs included in the next section).
From Riufang, you can take the Pingxi Line train to Houtong Station, which departs roughly every hour and is direct from Ruifang to Houtong.
There are no stops in between and the train to Houtong Cat Village takes less than 20 minutes. Make sure you get on the Pingxi Line train that is going towards Jingtong, NOT Badouzi.
Getting to Houtong Cat Village from Jiufen
To get to Houtong Cat Village from Juifen, you need to take a 10 minute bus ride from Jiufen Old Town then alight at Ruifang Station.
As with coming from Taipei, you then need to get the Pingxi Line train to Houtong Station from Ruifang Station.
Taipei to Houtong and Train Costs
We’ve done the Taipei to Houtong Cat Village day trip several times and always independently. The cost of the trip from Taipei to Houtong is 49 TWD from Taipei Station to Ruifang Station, plus and extra 80 TWD for an all day Pingxi Line Pass.
So the total price of the return train from Taipei to Ruifang (2 x 49 TWD each way fares) plus the Pingxi Line all day ticket (80 TWD) is 178 TWD (or approx £4.50 / $5.80 USD or 5.40 Euros). These prices are based on our return trip to Houtong from Taipei in May 2023.
The cost of getting to Houtong from Jiufen is cheaper – 80 TWD for the Pingxi Line train pass that lasts all day plus the 15 TWD each way bus fare from Jiufen to Ruifang Station.
Arriving at Houtong Cat Village
The cat experience starts as soon as you arrive at Houtong Cat Village Station, with the station and platforms adorned with various cat-friendly hangouts, scratching posts and even a huge plastic figurine depicting a cat with a station master’s hat.
On our most recent visit to Houtong, we were greeted by a fat cat curled up next to the cleaning bucket – we also found lots of cats hiding along the overhead walk-way that takes you from one side of the station to the hillside cat village.
When we left the station, we made the short walk across the road where we had our initial furry encounters. There were several kitties sunning themselves near to the river, plus others play-fighting near one of the cafes. Most of the cats we saw appeared well looked after (perhaps too well as some were really fatty cattys).
Head across the beautiful river here across the huge wooden suspension bridge to see where the old mines used to be – you’ll also find two large cat models here (in the car park) looking out over the miaow-tains…. sorry …mountains.
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Exploring Houtong Cat Village
To head into Houtong Cat village itself, go back to the station and take the pre-mentioned cat footbridge across the railway tracks to explore the village.
Our first sight was several cats being fed by one of the locals (we think) plus several large cat models you can sit and pose with.
Here, you can wander aimlessly around the various hillside walkways and laneways that make up Houtong Cat Village, discovering cats in every nook and cranny (some wanting attention and some just wanting to be left alone to sleep, fair enough).
Shops and Cafes
You will also find several cat themed cafes and shops, of varying quality in Houtong Cat Village.
There is one main mini-strip of cafes and shops that all seem to be pretty good quality – some of the others on the outskirts are a little less salubrious and a tad run-down (even more so on our revisit in 2023).
One of the shops also played constant ‘miaow miaow’ songs (famous hits played back as cat sounds – y’ouch and an attack on the ears!).
We bought a couple of mini souvenirs, including a model of the famous Houtong station cat (now sadly passed away), complete with a train driver’s cap.
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Other things to do in Houtong, Taiwan
What is nice (and possibly unexpected) is that whilst Houtong is primarily famous for its feline side, it is a gorgeous town with mountains serving as a perfect backdrop and also right next to the river.
It has a large bridge that spans the gorge which allows for some fantastic views (almost reminiscent of Ironbridge in Shropshire, UK).
As a former mining town, there are other non cat-themed attractions like a mini-train ride on a former mining train that goes into part of the Houtong gold mines (not really our thing but the tour groups seemed to like it).
Alas, the monkeys that Houtong was originally named after (Houtong means monkey in Korean) are no longer there – maybe the cats scared them off?!
Houtong Cat Village in summary
Houtong Cat Village seems to have embraced its status well, with enthusiastic locals setting up cat baskets / huts in all manner of places around the village, including a little sheltered section right by the river. Houtong is also a nice day trip from Taipei and easy to reach by train.
Obviously they are very reliant on the cats for tourism and trade so it is good to see they have taken steps to look after the cats. Roughly half of the cats we saw had collars (especially on the upper levels by the shops and cafes) so we assume that some have homes whilst some are strays.
If you go to Houtong with the understanding that this is a real working place and not a large, clean and neat cat cafe like you’d see in Ximending, you should have a fun time exploring.
Houtong itself isn’t massive so we’d recommend you visit as a part of a day trip that takes in Shifen, Pingxi and Jingtong (all along the same Pingxi train line).
You can buy a Pingxi Line day pass from Ruifang Station for 80 TWD and make a ‘purr-fect’ day of it (sorry couldn’t resist one pun)!
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Pocket WIFI rental in Taipei
Having a pocket WIFI device was super handy during our trip. We pre-ordered one online with Klook and collected the device at Taipei airport and dropped it off at Kaohsiung’s airport. The rental cost was pretty cheap at only £1.25 per day, and we were both able to connect our phones to it.
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