The scenic town of Ruifang serves as a great base for visiting some the nicest tourist attractions in Northeast Taiwan. Originally a stop along the route towards the formerly profitable coal and gold mining towns nearby such as Jiufen, Jinguashi, Houtong (Cat Village), and Pingxi (平溪), Ruifang developed into a quaint transit town with a nearby food market and ample transportation options.
Ruifang's name is thought to have come from an old shop that travelers between Taipei and Yilan would stop at during their journey, saying they were "on their way to Ruifang", and soon the town became synonymous with the shop.
Taiwan's early development was fueled by coal mining, and towns in the Ruifang area benefitted greatly due to their access to the Yilan railroad and port in Keelung with the Houtong (猴硐) Cat Village becoming Taiwan's largest mining town with the best quality coal. After the 1970s, the mines were exhausted and development ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Today the coal mining towns around the Ruifang area have changed course to become tourism destinations that share the unique history and culture of the Northeast Coast of Taiwan.
Today's Ruifang prides itself on its mining past and offers visitors a glimpse at nostalgic villages and streets, beautiful scenery, and various Chinese- and Japanese-style tea houses. With its close proximity to Taipei City, visiting the Ruifang area and its surrounding towns is an excellent day trip as it is a base for many scenic expeditions such as hiking, scuba trips, or beach days.
Be sure to try Longfeng Leg (龍鳳腿), a Ruifang specialty! At first, it looks like an American-style corn dog, but actually the ingredients comprise of shrimp, chicken, cabbage, carrot, crushed water chestnut, and onion, wrapped in a sausage, seasoned, and fried! This tasty and unique snack can be bought on the food street (美食街) across from the Ruifang Train Station.
Ruifang is an excellent location to begin a trip to the following destinations:
Be sure to check out the Shengping Theater (昇平劇院), a prominent cultural landmark in Ruifang nearby Jiufen (九份) built during the Japanese occupation. Both the theater and surrounding buildings feature 1930-40s architectural elements, and has more recently been used as the set for commercials and movies, including the renowned film City of Sadness (悲情城市).
Climb Mt. Keelung to enjoy a beautiful view of Northeast Taiwan and the Pacific Ocean, as well as view the wharf from afar. The hiking trail entrance is located to the south side of Route 102 near by Fushan Temple, and takes about one hour to reach the top. Some places viewable from the peak include Shuinandong, Jinguashi (金瓜石), Badouzi, and Heping Island.
More recently, Ruifang has become famous in Taiwan for its "cat villages", where hundreds to thousands of cats are cared for by the locals and visited by travellers, creating a new type of tourist attraction for the town.