Our Taiwan trip is coming to an end, and Day 6 ended with a relaxing day trip to the Land of Meows at Houtong Cat Village (猴硐貓村) and food hunts at Jiufen (九份). Time and transportation are the two biggest headaches for day trip out of Taipei. Many fit in 3 destinations in one day, which is totally doable if you invest the whole day: leave early in the morning and come back in the evening. But covering 3 places in one day is too rush for my liking – too much like a package group tour, which I totally despise.
Our chillax itinerary allowed us to wake up at a decent hour + lazy breakfast + laundry at our hostel (Formosa 101). Evening time is magical at Jiufen; our route was planned as such for us to explore Houtong during day time and reach Jiufen in the late afternoon.
Taipei → Ruifang (by bus #1062)→ Houtong Cat Village (by bus #808)→ Ruifang (by bus #808-> Jiufen (by bus #788) → Taipei (by bus #1062)
All bus routes above are Keelung Bus 基隆 (Jīlóng in Mandarin), buses for the Keelung city. Keelung’s Bus website is here, but there’s not much info on routes, timetable, fare, etc. On the other hand, Taiwan City’s bus website here has info on Bus 1061 and 1062. There’s a “FAQs on Public Transport” thread on Tripadvisor here, which I find useful.
Taipei -> Ruifang (瑞芳)
To get to Houtong, we could either go with train or bus, and we chose the latter. We feel that the bus option is simpler – we can go whenever we are ready and save the trouble of worrying about train tickets, getting connecting local train from Ruifang to Houtong, etc.
From MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興), take Exit 1 and the bus station at at your right. It’s also the same bus station where we alight from, getting to Taipei city centre from Taoyuan International Airport on Day 1. There are 2 bus options, both to alight at the Ruifang Train Station:
- Keelung bus #1061 MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing – Ruifang (Peak Hour ：8~20Minutes, Off peak ：25~30Minutes)
- Keelung bus #1062 MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing – Jinguashi (Peak Hour ：3~10Minutes, Off peak ：15~30Minutes)
We went with Bus #1062, the fare is NT$ 80, 1 hour journey.
Ruifang -> Houtong
We told bus 1062’s driver that we’re heading to Houtong, and he dropped us off at Ruifang Train Station (District Square) bus stop. There’s a police station next to the bus stop. We waited at the same bus stop for bus to Houtong – it was pretty straightforward.
There are 2 buses from Ruifang to Houtong:
|808||Keelung Passenger||Ruifang – monkey cave||Belong to the new North city bus.|
|F808||Ruifang District Office||Founder of the temple – Shuo Ren Lane||Belonging to Xinbei City Ruifang District residents free bus. Holiday on holiday.|
We used Keelung bus #808, (40~50min) – the fare is NT$ 30-40 (can’t remember exact amount), 10 minutes journey.
After much searching, I finally found info of bus #F808 from Wikipedia, as per table above. It’s a free service bus, runs on a public holiday schedule. This means bus 808 is the best bet.
At Houtong, we alighted in front of the Houtong train station.
Houtong -> Ruifang
We boarded bus 808 at the same place we were dropped off (i.e. in front of Houtong Train station). The driver drove on to the bus terminus, waited for 5 minutes or so, before driving off.
At Ruifang, we missed our intended stop at Ruifang Train Station (District Square). Reflecting our journey, and doing my research for this post – I understand where I went wrong. On our return leg from Houtong to Ruifang, I informed the driver to drop off at Ruifang Train Station, and that’s exactly what he did.
From Ruifang Train Station, we walked back to the District Square bus stop. The 2 stops are 300 meters, 4 mins walk apart. There were more people waiting, vis-a-vis when we there earlier. Most of them were tourists, heading to Jiufen like us.
It might be better to use Ruifang Train Station’s bus stop – since the bus travels from that end, before it reaches District Square; higher chance to secure a seat. If you were dropped off in front of Ruifang station, cross the street – and wait for bus next to the Wellcome supermarket (頂好).
Ruifang -> Jiufen
We were waiting for Keelung bus #1062 (same bus from Taipei), and many were doing the same. But Keelung bus #788 were trailing behind bus #1062, and we found many decided to wait for this bus instead. We followed suit, and we were told that bus #788’s fare is cheaper. The ride on both buses will take around 1 hour, and the fare is NT$ 102 (bus #1062) vs NT$ 24 (bus #788).
At Jiufen, most passengers alight before 7-Eleven – the closest stop to Jiufen Old Street’s entrance.
A good samaritan at Hai Yue Lou, a Jiufen tea house advised us to walk up to the bus terminus, to secure a seat. This info is critical with surge of passengers in the late evening. The bus terminus is located at the upper side of the hill – walk along the road, pass 7-Eleven (near main entrance of Jiufen Old Street 九份老街). First bus left and it was empty (without any standing passengers), and touts told us that no standing passengers are allowed. Weird, as we saw standing passengers coming from Ruifang. The next bus that we managed to get onto does allow standing passengers.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, second bus came at 8:10PM. When we board the bus, we were given a “card” and was told to return when we alight. We ignored the card, until half-way through the ride. Its says,”327 Bus stop Si Jiao Ting (四腳亭), Keelung Bus Stop” on the card. I started worrying – are we supposed to alight at Si Jiao Ting, Keelung, instead of our intended stop in Taipei?
The confusion was partly caused by the driver turning away some passengers – such as someone will say want to go to Taipei, and the driver said something like quota is full. Thereafter he said yes to some passengers – which shows that he can only accept passengers to certain destinations. Then, when he arrived in Ruifang, he kept on asking if anyone is getting down and whether anyone holding a “card” .. and there were still 2 or 3 standing passengers at that time. I decided to keep mum, to keep our seats till Taipei. But just before we left Keelung to enter the freeway, the standing passengers got down from the bus – so there were no standing passengers at all. Phew!
Doing my research for this post, someone commented that driver will give the card if you use Easy Card (which we did), and the tag is be returned when alight. But, I think the following makes more sense – freeway bus does not allow standing passengers upon entering freeway. So, I guess that’s exactly what happened, and the driver was simply controlling the amount of passengers with the card. Tough job for the man, sans a conductor.
From Jiufen, we got down at MRT Songshan Station (松山), the stop for Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市) for our dinner binge at Raohe Night Market.
Houtong is a tiny meow town – but there are still more human than cats, let’s not have your imagination run too wild. I had an unexpectedly relaxing time at this friendly town. I assumed that it’s an off the beaten track kind of thing, which it’s still is I guess, but small tourist groups came in droves – and they are mainly Japanese and Hongkies.
The Cat Village is at the back of Houtong Train Station / bus stop .. In front of the station, there is a small area with food stalls, souvenirs, tourist centre, etc. Some shops were closed – maybe because it was a weekday (a Thursday).
The station itself is cuteness overload, with many cat figurines – get your camera ready!
We had lunch at a food stall, and lo and behold, we were seated next to a table of Thai people. Am In Taiwan, or Thailand? The owner recommended a plate of “raw fish meat” .. sashimi-local style served with thick soy sauce and wasabi. I later found out that it’s shark meat.
Many warned that there are not that many cats, but it was alright.
After lunch, we walked across the futuristic pedestrian bridge to explore Cat Village.
After walking around, we had our coffee break at a Walk N’Taste cafe at the Cafe Corridor. Decent coffee, and it was not crowded on a weekday.
Walk N’ Taste Cafe
225, Chailiao Rd, Rueifang Dist., New Taipei City 22446, Taiwan 22446 新北市瑞芳區柴寮路225號
Tel: +886 933 062 515
Daily: 11am – 5pm (Mon-Fri), 11am – 6pm (Sat-Sun)
I couldn’t fathom how I was attracted to a tacky cat souvenir shop, but we did buy quite a few things at the shopping area in front of the station, and also at the Cat Village. We bought a cat CD (meow meow meooooow), meow-shaped pineapple cake, fridge magnet and some deco stuffs.
Oh .. please do not feed the cats, thank you.
Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) – When I was there many years back, this place gave me headache. It was crowded like mad, but no doubt a very beautiful place. This time round, it was so much more manageable on a weekday, even though it was raining.
Peanut Ice cream roll (雪在燒)
The ice cream roll is wrapped with spring rolls skin – and consists of ice cream, shaved fresh peanut candy, and blimey-genius cilantro.
A-Zhu Peanut Ice-Cream Roll (阿珠雪在燒) is like THE peanut ice-cream roll place, but we went with another stall, also recommended by some bloggers.
We saw some recommendation of the first stall from the entrance, so we supported this stall (instead of the popular A-Zhu). NT$ 40 for the ice cream roll is so worth-the-money .. yummeh!
Jiufen Old Noodles Restaurant 九份老麵店 Jiǔ fèn lǎo miàn diàn
So, BF saw beef noodles recommendation in one of the Thai blogs, and he showed me the shop’s picture. And it’s in Chinese, oh no. The good thing is I sort of figure out the first 3 words -九份老 = Jiufen + Old. So, I kept my eyes opened for this shop … thank goodness, we found it. Doing my research thereafter, I discovered that 麵店 = miàn diàn = noodle stall.
Restaurant’s order chit is in Chinese .. luckily, staff were friendly enough to help us with ordering. Superb beef noodles, must try!
Address: No. 45, Jishan Street
Tel:+886 2 2497 6316
Grandma Lai’s Yuyuan (赖阿婆芋圆)
I tried the taro ball at Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan (阿柑姨芋圆) on my last trip, and I thought that it was rather ordinary. This time round, the taro ball (NT$ 45) at Grandma’s Lai Yuyuan was just okay to me. Bf enjoyed it though. They only gave me one spoon for our order, so I went back to ask for one. And I was questioned for that additional spoon request. Stingy wei.
Address: No. 143, Jishan Street
Tel: +886 2 2497 5245
Wu Di ‘Flower Lady’ Taiwanese Sausage (無敵香腸)
This Flower Lady is an attraction on her own. We bought one sausage to try NT$ 35, because of her beaming smile.
Address: No. 85, Jishan Street
Red Meat Ball（紅糟肉圓）
Jinzhi’s Vegetarian Meat Ball with Red Vinasse 九份金枝紅糟素肉圓 Jiǔ fèn jīnzhī hóng zāo sù ròu yuán – A vegetarian/non-vegetarian meat ball, wrapped with glutinous rice casing and topped up with some gravy-sauce at NT$ 45 … was too weird for our tastebud. Red Vinasse is a red fermented rice wine.
Address: No. 63, Jishan Street
Grilled snail (螺)
Interesting, but didn’t try – can’t finish all by myself 🙁
Hai Yue Lou Scenery Tea House (海悦楼)
When we arrived at the most popular photo spot in the whole of Jiufen Old Street, there were people taking photos left, right and center. We gladly escaped to Hai Yue Lou, and was told that entrance is only allowed for paying customers. I can’t blame them, as people were literally blocking their entrance, smiling and posing for camera.
Hai Yue Lou is a four-story tall building, the upper floor obviously has got a better view – but the floor was occupied by a big group. We sat outside at the open area on 1st floor – or rather, me mostly as bf made a beeline upstair for his takes, and many takes of photos.
We were already stuffed from dinner – so I thought of ordering one pot of tea for sharing. Grouchy staff muttered “one order per customer”. Dang. I ordered a plate of Chinese plums to go with our tea. Despite the bad service, I did not retaliate. The bugger probably is not used to people not returning his bad service with a smile; dispensed a valuable advice of walking up to main bus stop to secure a spot in the bus.
The magnificent A-Mei Tea House (阿妹茶楼)‘s photo taken by bf, from Hai Yue Lou.
Raohe Night Market
It was raining, but we braved the rain for food. I hereby concur that the food here is so much better than Shihlin. For repeat visitors to Taiwan, SKIP Shihlin!
Salted Water Chicken (盐水鸡 yánshuǐ jī)
This stall caught my attention – there are always people waiting, but short queue. I like Malaysia’s salt baked chicken 盐焗鸡, so salted water chicken must be something similar, no? You eat it together with a mixed of other ingredients, including internal organs and vegetables. But didn’t try it, as wanted to keep stomach free for other things.
Pan fried Dumpling (鍋貼 guōtiē)
It was raining, and the stall looks kinda pitiful … but … thumbs down!
Stinky tofu (臭豆腐 chòu dòufu)
I’ve became jaded with stinky tofu – used to be crazy about it, but I can’t seem to find one that suits my taste bud anymore. The one at Raohe comes with pickle and garlic, with a bit of soy sauce – it’s really very, very nice … much nicer than Hong Kong and China’s version. NT$ 35 per serving.
Black pepper bun (胡椒餅 hújiāo bǐng)
BF queued under the rain for one hot black pepper bun (NT$ 45), while I stayed dry under shelter. He held the hot piping bun, with dripping hot juice from the meat onto his hand for us to eat … ขอบใจแฟน.
Raohe Street Night Market
Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
Tel: +886 2 2763 5733
Daily: 5pm – 12am
Nearest MRT: Songshan (松山)
And back at our hostel, we bought more drinks to try. After trying other flavors of Taiwan fruit beer, the Mango version was such a let down. I didn’t even finish it. BF stuck with his last Guiness, albeit a draught before heading back to the Land of No-Stout back home.
Looking for beef noodles bowl to bring home, a 7-Eleven staff recommended us Wei Li (维力) brand. Bought one and it’s in our apartment’s cabinet, untouched.
One more day, and we’ll be leaving Taiwan .. stay tuned for my next post!