Paddy (2005 – 2013)

When Paddy first appeared in the driveway of my family home some time in 2005, he was so skinny and weak he could barely stay upright while eating. Although my mother had been the one who initially spotted him and started feeding him, over time he became my father’s cat. Soon, my ordinarily undemonstrative father would often be overheard cooing so loudly and embarrassingly over Paddo, Paddyboy, Boy Boy or whatever other variation he felt like on a given day that it would have been stomach-turning if I hadn’t been so endeared.

Dad and his Paddy

I don’t have many good photos of Paddy. The fight scars (which he thankfully stopped racking up once we got him neutered) meant he wasn’t much of a looker. But the more challenging problem was that every time I would stoop with my camera to try and get a photo at ground level, he would charge at me for snuggles. I only managed to get this shot by leaping to my feet and stretching my camera arm out, pointing the camera back down towards where Paddy was still intent on getting cat hair all over my orange pants.

RIP Paddy :(

On 2 July, 2013, my father came home from work to find his Paddyboy dead in the road. Paddy had always seemed fine as an outdoor cat, which is one of the reasons he had never been taken into the house, but unfortunately he must have been no match for one of the many drivers who see fit to tear along that road as if it’s a main road (even though it is in fact a small road very near a primary school).

Paddy had ruled his little slate-tiled kingdom with a benevolence that belied his physical ability to crush most of the other cats who wandered in and out. He loved lounging on the car roof, and we used to joke about the caving-in which seemed inevitable some day. These days when I visit my family home I imagine an invisible dent on that car roof, as if to pretend he is still with us.

Cat On A Cool Car Roof (RIP Paddy)

Taiwan: Houtong Cat Village

In my recent attempts to be slightly better at blogging about my travels, I’ve found that the impetus to do a post either arises from wanting to provide value to other travellers doing their research online, or wanting to share photographs I took while travelling which may not necessarily be useful snapshots of “what you will see at ___ sight” but that I’m reasonably happy with nonetheless.

This post is because cats.

A village of cats.

Houtong is a small village in Taiwan, an easy train ride away from Taipei. It’s part of a group of former coal-mining villages which have now reinvented themselves for tourism. As uninspiring as this may sound, the villages are surrounded by rolling hills and waterfalls, have done up their abandoned mining facilities quite educationally, and are handily connected by the little Pingxi railway line, which you can travel all day for the pittance of 54NTD (day pass).

Houtong’s done a pretty good job with its coal-mining sights, but evidently decided at some point that it would obliterate all possible notions of being nothing more than a bleak industrial wasteland by cultivating and cosseting its fuzziest residents.

Mural of cats in mining carsPlease slow down, cats crossingNo dogs allowed

When you get off the train, one side of the tracks leads you to the visitors’ centre, a nicely done little coal-mining museum and some rather evocative mining ruins, and the other side leads you to the residential streets. There are plenty of cats to be seen on either side, but just in case you’d like some guidance, here’s a totally useful map.

Here be cats

Wandering around, at almost every turn you come across feeding dishes, little cat shelters  and of course the cats themselves, who were mostly very lazy on a rainy afternoon and content to sit around looking cute and snoozy for photos.

Snoozing cats, background cat houses

Just in case it has managed to elude you so far that cats are an important part of this village, there’s also a giant cat statue.

Giant cat statue on roof

In hindsight, I realize I should have used a smaller aperture for this photo because the depth-of-field is too shallow to effectively make the point that this cat is a real-life version of the giant statue seen faintly in the background. I was probably too overwhelmed by ZOMGADORRRRBBBBSS!!! in the moment.

Houtong village cat

Here is the village logo, which combines references to Houtong’s name (侯硐 means “monkey cave” in English), its mining past and its delightful present. Alec, who does not share my enthusiasm for disturbingly oversized cats, did not share my enthusiasm for this logo either. Humph.

Houtong village logo

I set my umbrella down in order to better photograph this cat. Naturally, it then decided that it can haz umbrella.

Ur umbrella iz nao mai umbrella

Most cats I saw in the village were shorthairs, similar to the strays we have in Singapore, but I did come across this regal chap guarding a doorway.

Orange you going to pet me?

MOAR CATS.

She sits, and sits, and sits, and sitsOh haiMuseum guard

To get to Houtong:
Take an east-bound local train out of Taipei Main station or Songshan station to Ruifang (瑞芳). If you can read Chinese, look on the digital displays for trains heading to Yilan (宜蘭), Hualien (花蓮) or Taidong (台東), but if not it may be easier to ask for help. I believe you can buy tickets in advance for a variety of trains (express vs local etc.) with different journey times, but we just took the next available train and paid with our EasyCards by tapping-in as usual at the ticket gates.

At Ruifang, there is a ticket office on the platform where you can buy the Pingxi line day pass. (If you used the EasyCard to pay for your Taipei – Ruifang ride, you can tap-out with your card on the platform near the ticket office without having to exit the station.)

From here, the Pingxi line sequence is:
Ruifang – Houtong – Sandiaoling – Dahua – Shihfen – Wanggu – Lingjiao – Pingxi – Jingtong

I might write more about the rest of our Pingxi line explorations in a separate post, but just in case I don’t get round to doing that, make sure to check train times as you plan your own explorations, because the trains aren’t always regularly spaced out and you could end up waiting around longer than you’d wanted to at one stop because you’ve just missed one train and the next will be in more than an hour’s time.

Till next time, here is a hoodie I spotted on the train out of Houtong.

As we left Houtong

Obligatory Instacat

Adorable, moi?

Mostly just done to test how easy it is to share Instagram photos to the blog. As it turns out, it is surprisingly inconvenient (both in iOS and Android), so don’t worry, you won’t be finding this blog plastered with nostalgically tinted latte art photos any time soon. Or ever, actually.

Mario

Hi, I’m Mario.

Mario

Much like Uncle Orlando, I was found in Michelle’s family’s driveway. It’s tough sometimes to photograph me well because I insist on moving rapidly around a dimly lit kitchen.

I find myself irresistable

Even when someone’s trying to cuddle me, I get all squirmy because the world is awesome and I want to explore it!

Squirmy

Nonetheless, I think it’s clear that I’m adorable.

Meet Mario

I am very small.

Potful

I’m also very hungry. I keep trying to eat the food lying around for the three other Uncle Cats, but I’m really too young for that right now.

Big boys' food

The big boys’ water dish is also too high for me. What shall I do?

Big Gulp?

Kitten milk in a syringe! I can totally handle this! Om nom nom.

Feeding time

I miss my mom. :( But I guess I could get used to cuddles from someone else.

Snooze

Michelle’s family is taking good care of me because I need so much help right now. But with Uncles Orlando, Dinky and Winky, and Aunty Casey, they’ve already got four house cats. Together with Paddy, Mickey, Molly and MC who live outside, that’s eight cats they’re already supporting. Will someone kind, loving and responsible please adopt me? I really like napping on a warm human instead of in the drain.

Snooze

If you think you can give little Mario a good home, please contact me! I’m glad to say that we’ve found Mario a well cat-proofed home with new owners who share my family’s zeal for feeding and neutering strays. He’ll even have a friend to play with! Thank you so much to everyone who expressed interest and passed on the message.

Meow Culpa

Google’s cache allowed me to restore all the posts I thought I’d lost, but not all of the comments. I’ve manually re-entered the comments that the cache did capture, but unfortunately I know that at least some comments by James, t, dubdew and Kelly (possibly others which I can’t recall) were lost. I’m sorry about that, everyone – I do really love that people participate here, and I wish I’d protected your comments better.

As a mark of my penitence I have made this commemorative lolcat.

pensive casey lolcat

Hungry Eyes

Cat under parked car

At the Ponggol Nasi Lemak branch in Tanjong Katong, there is always a little cat that darts and scurries under and in between the parked cars in hope of scraps from the tables of the pavement diners. He keeps his distance and isn’t as insistent as strays elsewhere can be, but there’s no questioning what he’s after. I took the photo on the left while waiting for Alec to bring back our plates of nasi lemak.

There he is again, eying my newly arrived nasi lemak:

Born Again

I have not always been a big fan of the current Pope but upon reading this article in the NYT, I felt all our theological differences melt away. Truly, I can now wholeheartedly accept and follow his leadership of the Cat-holic church, and am keen to learn and absorb his many teachings about the Cat-echism. Furever and ever, amen.

Introducing Orlando

This is Orlando. Orlando appeared out of nowhere on my family’s doorstep (it’s weird, either someone left him there deliberately or he had an uncanny ability to wander to where he would be totally pampered) about two weeks ago, with a very skinny body and distended belly. Since then, my family has fattened him into healthier kitten proportions, cleaned, de-fleaed, de-wormed and toilet-trained him, and he’s now in good condition to go to a loving home.

Update on 10 Dec 2007: Due to unforeseen circumstances of extreme cuteness, my family informed me over the weekend that my mother cannot bear to part with Orlando. As such, he is no longer up for adoption.

He’s a plucky little guy and has formed a sweet wrestle/play relationship with one of our other house cats Dinky who is about three times his size. He’s also incredibly friendly (the other three adult house cats aren’t anywhere as friendly to strangers) and does the whole sitting on your lap purring until he falls asleep thing, which will never get old, never never never.

He’s hard to photograph because if he sees the camera lens he runs right up and sticks his face in it, so I had to wait until he was distracted with something else.


If you read Cute Overload

…I believe this qualifies as an “ENH!”

I can haz pawburger?

Num num num.

Pwease adopt me!

Please leave a comment or email “name of this blog” at gmail if you can help little Orlando out, or know someone else who can. I’m absolutely dying to keep him for myself, but the flat where I now live with Alec isn’t very cat suitable.