Taiwan: Taipei Pingxi Line Tour #1 – Houtong

Travel Period : 30th Oct – 6th Nov 2012

{ Previous Post:  Taiwan: Exploring Shilin Night Market }

Day 5 Morning to Afternoon Itinerary :

  • Taipei Railway Station to Ruifang (瑞芳) on PingXi 平溪 line–>>
  • Houtong (侯硐)
  • Shifen (十分) –>>
  • Pingxi (平溪) –>>
How We Got There :
Took Metro from Shuanglien Metro where we were located to Taipei Railway Station // Took train from Taipei TRA station to Ruifang TRA station // Transfer to TRA Pingxi Line with a short walk through a tunnel // Took Train To Houtong Station // To Shifen Station // To Pingxi Station.

<<Visited>> Ruifang Station (瑞芳) > Houtong (侯硐)

#1: Ruifang Station 瑞芳 Station

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We left our hotel room early in the morning to catch the TRA Train Number 214 (莒光號) which departed 8.50am from Taipei Railway Station. As we had only bought the tickets the day before, ours were un-numbered, which meant we had to stand throughout the journey unless there were empty seats (not very likely since the seats were already sold out, thus left with these un-numbered tickets).

We already had our quick simple breakfast at the hotel, so we needn’t buy any packet food for our journey. The train was soon packed after we had boarded, probably because it was a Saturday and many were also heading to Ruifang Station to board the Pingxi Line like us. We did spot an empty seat beside a middle-aged lady though and asked Dar to take the seat since nobody appeared to be wanting to take it.

Throughout our journey where passengers were alighting and boarding the train at the stations we passed by, nobody had stood out to reclaim the seat so Dar managed to have a good rest on it. It would be very tiring for him if he were to stand like us for nearly 40 minutes on the train. We did notice a young lad standing close to the seat throughout though and were wondering if he was the one who had given up his seat to a more needy Dar. Cat and I even praised him quietly for his assumed good deed.

Just one stop before Ruifang Station however, the lady sitting beside Dar stood up and started to alight. It was then a teenage girl emerged to take over the seat. We were curious if she was the one who had given up her seat to Dar instead and after talking to her, we then realised that it was the middle-aged lady who had occupied the wrong seat (her ticket should be for Dar’ seat) and this girl (holding the ticket for the lady’s seat) didn’t want to claim her seat since the elderly was carrying a lot of things stuffed underneath the seat. So it was a confusing mistake that had fortunately granted Dar a seat throughout our train ride! We had also praised the wrong person earlier~ ^^|

Anyway, we were glad to have finally reached Ruifang Station after standing for so long.

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There were some construction going on and we need to walk down a flight of stairs through a tunnel to the ground floor where there was a waiting area with chairs, a 7-Eleven convenience store, restrooms, tourist visitor center and ticket booths.

Not wanting to be standing the following day again (we would still need to take a train to Ruifang to get to Jiufen (九份) in our itinerary), we went ahead and bought the train tickets for the same Train Number(according to timing) for the next day at the ticket booth there. We also bought the one-day Pingxi pass which gives us unlimited rides on the Pingxi Line on the same day.

After buying the tickets, we headed to the station for Pingxi Line by crossing through a tunnel again and going up to the platform. Yes, we need to climb flight of stairs. There are no escalators.

The train on the Pingxi Line soon arrived at 10.04am and we had a hard time getting up the train, since there was a big crowd boarding it. We ended up standing and feeling squeezed on board the train.

Fortunately our first destination, Houtong, was just a station away so we didn’t have to remain on the train for long.Before the trip, we already knew that it would be crowded on a weekend. However, we still made it a ‘must-do-day-trip’ since our boy really loves train transport.

#2: Houtong Station 侯硐

This is not the first stop on the line but the other station did not have much things to offer so we didn’t stop. Cat wanted to stop here because she had read about it being a station/town for cats (her favourite animal).

Houtong‘s main attractions are the cats living there, and evidence of this being a ‘cat town’ was very telling the moment we got off the station. There were artworks of cats on the walls of the overhead bridge we had to cross to get to the town, lanterns with cat designs hanging overhead, shop selling all kinds of cats-related items at the station’s main lobby, and many cats wandering around.

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Hand-drawn map is so cool!

It was a small and simple town and if not for the resident cats there, it would just be another ordinary old town in Taipei. For cat lovers however, it was an enjoyable trip photographing and feeding the cats (if you have bought cat food for them). Taiwanese people love animals and many have a few pets at home. Some people even dressed up their pets with clothing and we saw large variety of pet clothing sold in some small shops. So it was no surprise to see them whipping out camera phones to take pictures of the cats with big smiles on their faces and ‘ooh-ah’ over the cute cats.

Here’s a read-up on why there are so many cats in Houtong,

“Nowhere else in Taiwan can you find feral cats so close to people. They live in harmony with residents, and are not even afraid of tourists taking photos of them,” Chien said. This intimacy has surprised even visitors from Japan, a country known for its friendliness toward street cats.”

201011_PingXiHouTong04We took a few picture of the cats and let Dar touched a few of them before leading him to a washroom to wash his hands (They are still strays even though they look very clean). There was only one toilet available though in a small building that seemed to be a gathering place for the citizens.

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Our attention was later moved from the cats to the trains moving on the tracks, thanks to Dar who kept his face close to the fences facing the tracks. He was more interested in the trains than the cats. We were also quite fascinated with the various trains stopping and passing by and stood sometime there to look at them. Am glad that Dar got to see his favourite vehicle up close. This is something not achievable in our own country.

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We didn’t stay long at Houtong and left just in time for the arrival of the next train. We had a train schedule with us so we knew what time the train would be arriving (Taiwan trains are quite efficiently on time). We should have left the town area earlier so that we could spend more time at the shop located at the station’s lobby though.

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Didn’t buy this but looks cute

Bought this: The cute version of TRA train!
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When we reached the platform waiting for the train to arrive, there was already a handful of people waiting there. The crowded train soon arrived and though there were a number of people who alighted at this station, we still had a hard time squeezing up the train and ended up standing next to one of the windows.

There were some reserved seats for the needy available but an elderly couple was already sitting on them so Dar had to stand with us while we headed to the Shifen Station.

He was admirable in that he had no complaints about standing and just kept looking out through the little corner of the window while it moved. He enjoyed looking at the scenery and tracks while on a train.

{ Next: Shifen Old Town }

  1. Kok Weng April 13, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Hi, I chanced upon your blog while researching for our June trip to TPE. We are planning to make a day trip to Pingxi Line. In fact my boy shares the same interest as yours – trains! Your posts were informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing!
    kw

    1. Vin April 14, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Hi Kok Weng,

      Glad you have liked our posts and found them useful!

      I am sure your boy will enjoy himself a lot at Pingxi Line with all the train rides! Have fun there! 🙂

      1. Kok Weng April 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        Hi Vin / Cat
        I am planning a day trip to the Pingxi line. I saw that you guys had visited three towns. Do you find Pingxi and Shifen similar in some way? We are considering to visit just one of them as the schedule is very much constrained by the low train frequency.
        Thanks!
        Kok Weng

        1. Vin April 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

          Hi Kok Weng,

          Yes, they are pretty similar. If you only have time to visit one town, I would recommend Shifen, since it’s a nearer station from Ruifang, and you may even be able to check out the Shifen Waterfall.

          1. Kok Weng May 1, 2014 at 7:34 pm

            Thanks, Vin!

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