Three hours south of Taipei is a city rich in culture and history, Chiayi City (嘉義市 / jia yi shi). Known by some as Taiwan’s Peach City, because of its shape, much of Chiayi feels like how Taiwan may have felt years ago.
The pace of life here seems a little slower with less distractions overall. People still take as much pride in what they do as in the big city, if not even more.
My first experience with Chiayi was Beigang Old Street (北港老街 / bei gang lao jie) located at the border of Chiayi and Yunlin County. This old street is lined with dozens of stores selling a variety of goods from goose eggs to incense. At the end of the street is the Beigang Chaotian Temple (北港朝天宮 / bei gang chao tian gong).
This temple was my first experience with a Taiwanese temple. It was beautiful and ornate with all kinds of mythical creatures adorning the roof. It was a very different aesthetic than the Japanese buddhist temples I had been accustomed to.
I got to learn about some of the customs at the temple including tossing these two bean-shaped wood blocks.
After exploring Beigang Old Street, we stopped by a confectionary store to pick up Xingang Candy (新港飴 / xin gang yi). The texture was reminiscent of mochi and it had a sweetness that was fairly unique given the maltose base.
With the flour coating all over our hands and mouths we stopped by a local soy sauce manufacturer, Wuan Chuang (丸莊醬油 / wan zhuan jiang you), to see how soy sauce (酱油 / jiang you) is traditionally made.
This location didn’t advertise tours, but they were nice enough to take a break to show us around.
These are all the pots used to ferment the soy sauce.
The top of this pot shows tally marks used to keep track of the age.
This factory is one of the few to make soy sauce using black soy beans as opposed to yellow soy beans. The result is a thicker more flavorful soy sauce.
Fresh off of learning about how soy sauce is made, we dropped by the Xingang Incense Museum (新港香艺文化园区 / xin gang xiang yi wen hua yuan qu).
This museum takes you through a history of incense as well as its usage. There were people making incense onsite which was interesting to see.
Here are some of the plants used to create the various scents.
Much of Chiayi looks kind of like this. Lots of farming going on.
There was also a koi pond at the incense museum.
I wish I could read more 中文 as the museum pretty much had no English. It was still cool to check out and learn more about this product.
By now, it was lunch time.
As the area we were in is known for goose meat, we stopped by a local goose meat place to get some of the best goose meat I’ve ever had. The place is called Minxiong Goose Meat Pavilion (正宗民雄鵝肉亭 / zheng zong min xiong e rou ting) and it is located right in front of the Minxiong Train Station (民雄車站 / min xiong che zhan).
It’s amazing how something as simple as ginger, rice, and goose meat can taste.
With our fill of goose meat, we headed to a local pineapple farm to try out all things pineapple.
Minxiong is known as “the home of pineapples.” Contrasting with the slightly acidic red soil, the pineapples here come out sweet and juicy. We stopped by Pineapple Hill (旺萊山鳳梨文化園區 / wan lai shan feng li wen hua yuan qu) to taste some of the fruits.
This location features an area to taste pineapple cakes, a huge farm with dozens of types of pineapples being grown, and an outdoor eating area on top of the building.
You can go down, farm level, and walk amongst the plants.
I’ve never seen so many types of pineapple before.
Towards the front of the property, there were these pineapple art structures which made for a great photo opportunity.
Across the street is A-Mei Pineapples. They have fresh fruit and pineapple soft serve available for purchase.
I’ve never seen such interesting pineapples before.
As if our day wasn’t packed enough, we stopped by a sugar plantation-turned cultural park. The Suanyou Sugar Factory (嘉義蒜頭糖廠 / jia yi suan tou tang chang) features a train that goes forward for a few minutes before going back to the station.
The whole trip was narrated in Taiwanese and was definitely one of the stranger parts of my trip.
There’s an ice cream shop on property that features a variety of flavors. I tried the fresh milk flavor (鮮奶 / xian nai) and was not disappointed.
Around the corner from the ice cream shop are small stores with vendors selling various wares.
This was an action-packed day. If you only have one day to check out Chiayi by car, feel free to try out this itinerary. I personally would have loved more time to explore the random sights, sounds, tastes, and smells in between.