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    geemong
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    In search of Taipei’s cat village, excellent oolong and a night market by the sea

    Iknew I had arrived in เล่นเกมสล็อตฟรี the right place, when I discerned a strong whiff of cat pee. I had been searching for Houtong’s Cat Village in New Taipei. A former coal mining town, Houtong is now known for its multitude of feline residents who lounge around the quiet little village, where cat-themed cafes and stores have set up shop among the older, slightly run-down buildings that house its human residents.

    Although situated only about an hour outside Taipei, Houtong seemed like a different world – one I was genuinely excited to explore. I have been to Taipei more times than I can count in the last few years, both for work and leisure, and have only ventured out of the city, to nearby Yilan, once before.

    This time, since I had one glorious day free before work began, I decided to peel myself away from my usual haunts in Taipei, like Raohe Night Market and the Eslite 24-hour bookstore, for a spontaneous day trip outside of the city.

    ‘HUNDREDS OF CATS’
    Houtong, which came highly recommended by a Taiwanese colleague, became my first target. Since Houtong’s description on Google Maps read “Small village with hundreds of cats”, I had imagined that I would be surrounded by cats jostling for attention. But when I visited, on that sweltering summer morning, I counted only about 30 cats. Not quite the dramatic, cat-cafe-on-steroids scene I had been hoping for.

    Still, it was great fun strolling around the little village, spotting the cats lying everywhere outside shops and houses, on window sills, and on the rooftops. Most alternated between napping and looking mildly irritated at the humans who had come from all over the world to take wefies with them, though the more friendly cats among them came up to rub their little furry bodies around my ankles.

    SPIRITED AWAY TO JIUFEN
    Thankfully, getting around was easy, and astonishingly inexpensive. The train that had taken me from Taipei Main Station to Houtong cost only about 56NTD (S$2.40), although an Uber driver had told me it’d cost about 800-900NTD (S$35 to S$40) to hire a car, which would still be a sensible and affordable option for families.

    After bidding farewell to the last, satisfyingly affectionate cat, whom I befriended using another tourist’s treats, I took the train back to the town of Ruifang where, after some nimble Googling, I discovered that Jiufen was only about 10 minutes away by local taxi.

    FOOD TRIPPING IN KEELUNG
    Rather than head straight back to Taipei, I decided to make one last stop at the port city of Keelung, via a 45-minute bus ride that cost me 15NTD (S$0.65). Keelung is known for sightseeing spots like Lover’s Lake and the Buddha Hand Cave, but I really had eyes only for its Miaokou Night Market, located right next to the Keelung Habour and, happily, the bus and train station.

    By the time I arrived, at about 7pm, the night market festivities were already in full swing. It was absolute, organised chaos. There were so many people and so many things to see, I didn’t know where to begin. I even spotted a man pulling a small cart with his two children and toy poodles around the market, presumably because they would have gotten lost otherwise. I followed the sea of hungry visitors as it ebbed and flowed through the night market, trying to decide what I should eat, given my rather limited capacity for food.

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