If you have a day spare in Taipei, make sure to take a train out of the city and explore the surrounding villages. After visiting Jiufen, we bought a train ticket to Pingxi and stopped off at different stations along the way. Our first stop was Houtong Cat Village, which is exactly what you’d expect! Residents here have fully embraced the animal, with cat-related adornments all over the train station as well as actual cats! We spotted a few as soon as we off the train and probably would have seen a lot more if not for the rain. Taking refuge in a nearby shop, I unsurprisingly ended up buying some souvenirs. The selection was pleasantly surprising too, but maybe I’m slightly biased. It’s not your typical machine-churned-touristy-products, more like items you’d find in a cute local art fair! Prices weren’t too extortionate either, yay! Braving the rain, we delved further into the village in search of more cats before my allergies got the better of me and we took the train to the next destination.
Luckily the rain had subsided as we got into Shifen and we grabbed a quick snack, (BBQ chicken wings stuffed with rice – so delicious!) and headed off to see the waterfall. Although it is free to enter, do be aware of opening times (09.30-17.30), depending on how long you want to spend there! We just about made it, having a good 10 minutes to view and take pictures before we were shooed away! Another point to keep in mind is that many shops/stalls selling food also close pretty early too – something that completely slipped my mind after being in cities for so long. It’s best to have a big/late lunch or pack snacks while you wait for the next outbound train!
Our original plan was to go to Pingxi to set off some lanterns but we figured it would take too long to get there and back into the city (we were pretty hungry and also due to meet a friend). Basing our plans on internet recommendations, we read that Pingxi is nicer to set off lanterns (due to less tourists) but to be honest Shifen isn’t a bad compromise. We decorated our lantern and got bitten by mosquitos, before a cinematic worthy send-off along the railway track! After such a heart-warming send off, it’s a little disenchanting when you see the lantern run out of fuel and begin its descent. Especially when the idea is to write your hopes and dreams on it. 😐 Overall, it’s a lovely way to spend the evening and at this time, there’s less crowds, making that moment just the more special (corny, I’m sorry).