Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chiayi (嘉義) - Minxiong Township (民雄鄉) - Pineapple Hill (旺萊山) [Travel in Taiwan 170102: Pineapple Mania]



There is a legend in the Philippines about a girl who turned into a pineapple. She was too lazy to look for things and always arguing that she could not see them. Her mother eventually got angry and cursed her to have a thousand eyes. Unexpectedly, on one fine day the girl went missing. Her mother tried to look for her but she was nowhere to be found until an unusual fruit with so many eyes suddenly appeared near their home. The story sounds crazy but I haven't heard of any Taiwanese version of a myth about this tropical fruit. So let me just tell you about a modern tale of a place in Taiwan where you can become frenzy about pineapples.



Minxiong Township in Chiayi province is the place I'm talking about. Located near the invisible line of the Tropic of Cancer, the weather here becomes tropical making it suitable to cultivate pineapples. But I think it's not just about the warm climate in Southern Taiwan that makes the town of Minxiong suitable for growing pineapples. There is something about the orange to red color of the soil here. A simple Google search led me to discover that pineapples are best grown in slightly acidic soil. 

Visitors can board directly Bus 106 from THSR Chiayi Station.

Alight at the Wan Lai Shan (Pineapple Hill) stop.


Not yet a pineapple!

Seeing the land of pineapples in Taiwan became easier with the island's efficient public transportation. Board a bullet train to THSR Chiayi Station. Bus 106 will then take you to Wan Lai Shan. Alight at this bus stop and find yourself walking in a road surrounded by pineapple plantations. Look closely at the bracts because you might find a small fruit that is just starting to grow.



Wan Lai Shan is also known as the Pineapple Hill. At first, I got confused of the name because the English information in the Taiwan Tour Bus pamphlets says “Pineapple Hill” but in reality the name “Wan Lai Shan” would be the one to be flashed in the display screen of Bus 106. The name “Pineapple Hill” actually refers to the store which makes products made up of pineapples. Do you want to eat some pineapple cakes while drinking a refreshing juice of the same fruit? If yes is your answer, then Pineapple Hill is the right place to be. 

I found this bench while following the signs leading to Pineapple Hill. Haha!



selfie while on the road


Almost there!

From the bus stop, I followed the signs pointing to the location of the shop and it took me 10 to 15 minutes to reach the place. The sun was up in the sky but the weather was not that hot. While I was on the road, I enjoyed taking selfies with the pineapple plantations. I then saw private cars entered a narrow road and it led me to the white building of Pineapple Hill. 




The building has a balcony where you can see a vast field of pineapple plantation.
Visitors are given a free sample of pineapple cakes.






“Where are you from?”, a lady asked me. “I'm from the Philippines”, I told the lady as she gave me a thick bar of the shop's pineapple cake. Every visitor on this store is given a chance to taste their banner pastry. To tell you the truth, it wasn't that delicious compared to the pineapple cake of Chia Te bakery in Taipei. Haha! I might be wrong and my taste buds could be different from others. 


Various products of Pineapple Hill are displayed on the first floor.



Visitors can also watch how the pineapple cakes are packaged.




A girl shake hands with the Pineapple Hill mascot.



Tables and chairs were provided in the first floor of the building so that visitors can enjoy the free cakes while drinking tea. If you're lucky, you might see the black cat mascot of Pineapple Hill as it entertain the visitors. Just a little trivia, the name of the town where Pineapple Hill is located which is Minxiong was not originally its name. Before Taiwan was annexed by Japan as its colony, the place was called Damou which means “hit the cat” . But the Japanese considered the name as unlucky so they changed the name of the town to Tamio (民雄) which when translated to Chinese means Minxiong,






I ordered a frozen pineapple drink.



Yeah!

Even if the pineapple cake here wasn't that great, you won't get disappointed with the store's pineapple juice. I joined the queue on the second floor where visitors patiently wait for their turn to take home several bottles. There were a variety of products to choose from but I was most interested to try the slurpee. I enjoyed my frozen drink at the balcony while looking at a vast pineapple plantation. I savored its sweetness from my first sip until to its last drop. 

Pineapple Hill as seen from the A Mei Pineapple Store








pineapple ice cream

Opposite the building of Pineapple Hill is a small store. A Mei Pineapple takes advantage of the hundreds of visitors who came to visit Wan Lai Shan to offer its own line of products. While Pineapple Hill mainly offers cakes and juices, A Mei Pineapple sells fresh fruits and a pineapple-flavored ice cream. The store also has other products like dried pineapples that you would like to buy. I was curious of their pineapple ice cream so I bought one and it was really good. It was only in Chiayi that I tasted this kind of ice cream in Taiwan. If Penghu Islands has a cactus ice cream then Chiayi must be proud of its own version. 

I wanted to taste the pineapples here in Chiayi so I ordered one cup of these sliced fruits.


The pineapples here in Chiayi are really good.

You can also choose your own pineapple and have it cut in front of you.





The sliced pineapples are collected in a funnel-like pan ...


... which makes it easier to put all the sliced fruits in a plastic bag.


I ordered a cup of sliced pineapples to test the quality of the fruits here. I wanted to know if the pineapples here in Chiayi were sweeter than the ones in Taipei. My first bite on a chunk was a bit sour but the rest of the fruit was sweet. After eating the last piece, I realized that the pineapples here in Minxiong were the same ones in Northern Taiwan. There was no difference at all! 




Before I end this travelogue, remember the delicious pineapple cakes that this island is known for.  Its main ingredient had come from the south of the country. For a very long time, Taiwan and its fans had been experiencing a pineapple mania.
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