Stepping into Hoshinoya Guguan feels like entering a different world. A winding road takes you through a bamboo forest into a reception that looks markedly more like an art gallery than a front desk—opening up into a truly stunning landscape of water gardens and verdant foliage. Against the already scenic views of the mountains it’s nestled within, it is an oasis of tranquillity that feels rare and precious.
My trip to Hoshinoya Guguan arrived at a seemingly perfect moment in my life, as the frantic pace of the everyday sent me hurtling toward physical and mental burnout. Hopping onto a Starlux flight, my much-needed break began 40,000 feet in the air, reclined in the business class cabin’s spacious plush seats, with a glass of the airline’s signature bubble tea in hand. Four hours and a delectable meal later, we arrived in the heart of Taipei, where a car whisked me out of the city and into the sanctuary that is the luxury hot spring resort.
It’s almost impossible not to feel a sense of calm when enveloped by panoramic views of the lush valleys, but Hoshinoya Guguan takes languid indulgence to a new level. The concept of slow travel lies at the heart of the resort’s latest autumn/winter limited package, with exclusive cultural and food experiences focused on winding down the hectic pace of life.
The resort’s largest maisonette suite, the Sen room, makes for an immensely luxurious stay. Big enough to comfortably house seven guests and styled like a modern Japanese ryokan, furnishings are kept tastefully minimalist, directing your attention, instead, to the mountain views—vast through the high ceilings and expansive windows. A tatami area proves the perfect place to gather, while a large outdoor terrace offers a full view of the starry night sky. Like all rooms in the resort, a private open-air hot spring continuously flows, allowing for an indulgent soak at any time of the day.
To make full use of the suite’s sprawling space, a curation of relaxing experiences are brought straight to your door. In the tatami area, a private tea ceremony with tea master Yunshi Ting is at once both calming and insightful. Ting herself is a wonderful host, offering a glimpse into the beauty of Taiwanese tea culture with great expertise and easy-going affability. As someone new to traditional tea culture, this was undeniably one of the highlights of my stay.
When night falls, a veritable feast is laid out on the outdoor terrace for a spectacular dinner under the stars. The star of the show is the chinche crab, a seasonal ingredient that is prepared in three ways: as a refreshing appetiser with perilla leaves and honey-scented yuzu sauce, with its rich stock in a risotto, and as part of a flavoursome hot pot. In the cool weather of Guguan’s autumn and winter season, the scrumptious broth is nothing short of satisfying.
Beyond the comfort of the suite, the resort itself seems to embody the very idea of relaxation. Aside from the private tubs in each room, there are public bath halls with both indoor and outdoor hot springs for all guests, allowing them to experience the onsen in typical Japanese tradition.
In a beautiful spa designed like a Japanese tea house, treatments are personalised to each guest’s preferences and needs. At the hands of experienced technicians, sore muscles are kneaded out and fatigue is relieved—after which, a private bath in each room maximises the effects of the treatments, helping to loosen muscles and increase circulation.
Outside, pockets of space provide guests a place to rest amid nature. The sound of water is a steady, constant calm, thanks to the gorgeous water garden that lies at the heart of the resort. Meandering streams from mountain springs swirl around towering trees, seamlessly connecting to form beautiful contours in the landscape.
As I settle into one of the several gazebos that dot the grounds, an egret glides down and settles in the grass nearby. Over the course of the next couple of hours, it wanders around, occasionally pecking at fish in the streams. Perhaps it is this that makes a stay at Hoshinoya Guguan so special. In a place that feels so alive with nature, it offers a moment of stillness that is otherwise hard to come across.