Cats, Cats, and More Cats... 侯硐火車站 Houtong Train Station

I'm allergic to cats.  I'm a dog person.  But, I have two children that I'm trying to take to interesting places in Taiwan, so when I read about this "Town of Cats" just a few train stations away from Taipei, I decided to take an antihistamine and visit the "Cat Village" at Houtong Train Station.

Had a few camera problems, but you get the idea.

It was pretty crowded on the local train, but most people got off at Reifang (also a good spot to stop).  We carried on to Houtong, one of the many ex-mining townships on the Coast.  Coal mining was a big industry in Taiwan during the Japanese Occupation era.  The last coal mine closed down in the mid-1980's.  Houtong is known for the mine pit that opened in 1935.  And, its cats.

At the station, you can purchase a postcard with a cat image on it and post it back to yourself, or anywhere else in the world. For TWD30, you can make a DIY souvenir coin.  Or, you can just head up to the houses on the hill across the railway tracks to see the cats.

It was already pretty hot when we got there.  People ignored the signs "Don't bring your dog/Keep your dog in your arms", "Please be quiet" and "Don't feed the cats".  This was very frustrating for my daughter, who was intent on lecturing people on the importance of following the rules.  I have NO idea where she got THAT from...

My son loves cats and spent a long time with each friendly kitty.  It's a bit of a hike around the little paths and it smells like cat poop, especially in the heat, so for me it was not that much fun.  It is not stroller-friendly, and you would have to watch a toddler like a hawk on the path.  My daughter couldn't take it anymore and walked by herself toward the station, so my son had to cut the cat admiring session short.  There is a cafe and DIY room up on the hill but neither were open when we were there.

It got a bit hot and noisy for the cats and people.
View of the trains from the village.
I was more taken by the view across the river, and decided we should go look at the landmarks over there.  We headed over to the visitor center and cafe for a  look.   The visitor center is small but very well done.  They have a working,  multilingual, interactive screen to introduce the area and history of the mine. There is some very nice artwork done by a famous artist who spent years recording the lives of miners.  And the coffee in the shop is very good.  Be prepared to wait for service.  The menu is all in Chinese.

Vistor Center

I was watching the weather!

Outside seating at cafe.

Nice grassy area with path down to the Keelung River.

Rapids on the Keelung River.

Riverside walkway.
 After a break, we walked over the old bridge.  The original one was built in 1920 to transport coal.  It was also a means of transportation for people.  The one still there today was built in 1965.  There is some serious restoration work going on and I can see this being a very good historical site in a year or two.  Signs are bilingual.

Walking on the bridge that is under restoration.

Very nice toilet block across the bridge.

All-in-all, it was a nice day out.  The train is cheap. You can use your Easycard to pay for the train.  I guess it's about 45 minutes from Taipei Station.  I would try to time it so you could also go to Reifang (maybe even the Coal Mine museum).  Having read so many people rave about the cats on blogs, I was pretty disappointed with what it was, but it's something to see.  I recommend the place more for the coal mine history and the chance to take a walk than the Cat Village.

Destination: 侯硐火車站 Houtong Train Station
Suitable age: Five and up (not good for strollers)

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