Houtong is a small village connected to the Pingxi Railway in Ruifang District in New Taipei, famous for its many cats. Once a booming mining town with the most coal production in Taiwan, it has now been converted into a tourist destination for cat lovers. Visitors can enjoy the town's rich history as well as hundreds of cats and cat related shops around the village.
Houtong train station was completed in 1920 during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan, in order to ship coal from mines nearby. The area around the village was once the most prosperous mining town in Taiwan, bringing in hundreds of thousands of tons of coal in a year. At its height, it had 6,000 residents.
As the coal mining industry died down and the mining industry was shut down due to safety in the 1990s, the future of Houtong Village was in question.
However, by 2008 Houtong Started to reinvent itself as a cat paradise, with many cat loving citizens proposing to bring abandoned cats to the village for a better life. Since then, the town has been a hub for cat lovers and enthusiasts.
Due to many tourists visiting such a large population of cats, diseases have been known to spread around the village. Sometimes during an outbreak the village is closed to tourists. Volunteer groups often deliver vaccines and medications to the cats. However, it is best to not bring your own pets, wash your hands before and after touching animals, and do not touch the animals' face and mouth.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA train to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. It will be the first stop.
By Car/Scooter: Take national highway 2 to Ruifang, then turn left on Ruihou Raod until you reach the village. You can also drive from Jiufen or Jinguashi, which is less than a 10 minute ride.
Please see below:
Please see below for an overview of Houtong Cat Village via drone footage:
I have been to Houtong Cat village once. I passed by it once while taking the train up the Pingxi Railway, but decided not to get off. That was a mistake. A Trip to Houtong is worth every minute you can spare. Unless you hate cats.
Houtong itself is separated by train tracks and the Keelung River, leaving two small strips of village on either side of the tracks. A large abandoned Coal Dressing Plant's ruin rests near the station.
We travelled to Houtong by car. Right off the bat from the parking lot we saw cats.
As you walk down the streets you will notice everything is cat related. Cat haters be warned.
All the cat paraphernalia you could ever want.
A noodle shop that surprisingly says nothing about cats.
Houtong Old Street 猴硐老街
The main village square in front of the train station, which might be considered as Houtong Old Street. On either side of the square are restaurants, and one 7-11.
A young man strokes a cat. When we went there was a disease outbreak among the cats and they were considering closing the village. I read a news article that said you should not touch the cats, so I didn't. But that didn't stop anyone else from touching them.
Fresh noodles and fish ball soup from a local restaurant. It was pretty good.
View south toward the train tracks.
Inside Houtong Train Station, where a young man takes a photo of a cat on a bench.
Cats inside the tunnel bridge that goes over the train tracks.
Cat Village 貓村
Once you get across the train tracks is where most of the cats and cat themed stores can be found. The sign on the left says "Love is not abandoning your cats."
View of the bridge and eastern Houtong.
Cat related shop with ever kind of Zhaocaiamo （Money welcoming cat 招財貓),
Cat resting on a table in the village.
More cat touchers!
A cafe near the top of the village.
A cat overlooking her kingdom. Not long after taking this, the owner of the cat came and scolded it, telling it that staying there was too dangerous.
A young man pets a heard of cats.
Not a few steps away you can buy cat food to feed to the cats...and they wonder why these diseases spread.
Another cat resting on a chair.
Another cat related shop.
Cat resting next to the bridge.
Coal Mining Relics 煤礦遺跡
To the east of the village you can visit most of the coal mining ruins, including the vision hall pictured above, which was converted from the original Coal Dressing Plant's Warehouse.
"Establishment of the Coal Preparation Plant"
"Keelung Coal Minin Co. Ltd, was established in 1918 by Yen Yun-Nien, a leading Taiwanese Mining magnate, and Japan's Mitsui trading company, to develop the rich coalfields in the Houtong area. In the spring of 1920, Taiwan's frist coal sorting machine house and first three-level bridge were constructed on the banks of the Keeling River, just east of the Houtong Railway Station. The coal preparation facility's main building was a three-storey structure; the first goods elevator was installed on the east side of the building. Towards the end of 1920, the installation in the facility of two sets of coal sorting equipment, powere by electonic motors, began. These systems were capable of sorting 500 tons of coals per day. Installation was completed in March 1922. This was the origin of the facilities that would later come to be known as the Jui-San Coal Preparation Plant and coals Transportation Bridge.
"During the era of Japanese rule, the Jui-San Coal Preparation Plant was called the "Houtong Coal Sorting Plant." In 1934, Lae Chien-Hsing established Jiu-San Mining Co. Ltd., to undertake the operation of the Houtong coal mines and related facilities as a contractor. In 1945, when Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China following the end of Word War Two, Jui-Sui Mining took over as the owner of the Houtong Mines, and the Houtong Coals Sorting Plant was renamed the Jui San Coal Preparation Plant. From its initial establishment to the final closure of the Houtong mines, the Coal Preparation Plant was in use for 70 years, during the period of peak production, it was the largest coal preparation plant in Taiwan, with the largest and best coal sorting plant."
Photos of mining life in Houtong.
Miniature of what the original coal preparation plant looked like.
"Waste Water and Pollution"
"Jui-San Minininf Co. Ltd. adopted measures to combat waste water and air pollution. Installation of waste water treatment equipment was completed in 1978 and 1979 respectivley."
"The Coal Dressing Plant's Warehouse: Vision Hall"
As delivery of trains of the Taiwan Railways Administration were able to stop at the front gate of the coal dressing plant's warehouse, externally purchased machinery and equipment that were used both in and out of the mine pits were first delivered and stored here at the warehouse before they were taken to their designated locations by tramcars. The main function of the structure was to serve as a warehouse which supplies all the necessary materials for daily operations and maintenance needs required by the coal dressing plant and the coal transportation facilities. The coal dressing plant's warehouse was constructed slightly later than the coal mine office. It has now been designated as a historical building."
Coal Preparation Plant Ruins 整煤工廠遺跡
Right next to the vision hall you can see the ruins of the coal preparation plant, which is now fenced up. The original wooden roof has long since rotted away.
Four railways ran under these entrances, transporting coal to the railroad.
A small child plays with a cat.
Broken motors sit and rust in the open air.
Abandoned and rusted parts sit in a mangle under the structure.
A mangle of wood and rusted metal.
View of the coal factory from above.
Closeup of the rubble.
There is a bridge that connected directly from a coal mine to the coal dressing plant, which you can still walk across.
Original train tracks on display.
Also a great place to take a selfie.
Houtong Mine Train Ride 猴硐坑火車
Across the river you can take a 30 minute train for a ride inside one of the original mine tunnels, for 150 NT per person.
The ticket booth sits right next to the mine.
One of the trains coming near the entrance of the mine "Houtong Mine."
Photos of the coal dressing plant before the area was restored.
Before I left, I saw this car in front of the station which made me laugh.
Wishing bamboo sticks rotting next to the train tracks. You can find these all over the Pingxi Railway line. These are symbolic because the word for wish (zhu4 祝）is similar to the word for bamboo （zhu3 竹). You can write you wishes on a bamboo stick too, which is much more environmentally friendly than lighting off those floating lanterns!
A train leaves the station.
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