Deep in the canyons of northeast Taiwan, a sleepy little town on the railroad tracks has a unique set of social issues. Like many, it is the tale of economic decline and with that, some rise and some fall. Here is the story of the cats of Houtong. We recently had a chance to visit, and walk the path of cats to see just how polarizing this little town has become.
The boarded up coal mining town has always had it’s challenges. For example, this poor little fella can’t afford a proper size saucer to sleep in. He has to make hard choices. “Which end should I put in the saucer?”
Some cats have been pulled far to the dark side of town. Cat vice is rampant! Here a local person has created cat beer to entice the shady crowd. There are those who smoke in the gutters, prowl the lonely stairwells, and spray paint their cat graffiti among the buildings.
Now don’t get downhearted. Some Cats have risen above the situation and done quite well for themselves. Shaio-pai, Shao-tang and Poppy run a racket in which they have fooled a kindhearted elderly man into running 217 Cafe, where they lounge and get pampered from dawn to dusk.
With the great service and fun food, one might think that it is ran by humans, but we know the truth.
Some cats have taken to what could only be labeled as some sort of selling of their soul, where they have given up the rebellious life. With the flash of a camera or the swing of a selfie stick they roll, pose and sell off just a little bit more of there dignity for a simple scratch on the head or rub of the belly.
No matter what path they have chosen to walk, the bright side is they are all fed, housed, and maintained by what could only be described as true unadulterated passion and love by the town’s human residents. To the cats of Houtong, we simply say, “well played.”
Ready to hang with the kitties? Here’s how to get to Houtong:
By Train: From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) towards Ruifang Station. Either continue one station further to Houtong, or transfer to the Pingxi Line. Depending on travel class and route, a one-way ticket runs about $75NT or less. (approximately $2.50USD)
By Bus: Take the train to Ruifang Station. Once you exit the station, cross the street, turn left and walk about five blocks to the covered bus stop. Bus 808 (the one with the cats all over it!) will take you there. Buses can be few and far between, taxi drivers will stop and offer you a ride, but be aware that although are convenient, taxis are much pricier.