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After driving an hour and a half from Taichung, you arrive at the hot spring valley of Guguan.
The scenery is dynamic, like a work of art sculpted over thousands of years.
A suspension bridge stretches over a wide river; beyond which is a stately black building shrouded in mist.
When you arrive on the other side, you find a place tailor-made for hot spring bathing and respite,
where the wind flows as freely as the water.
It is like a scene out of mythology.
Historic cityscapes and contemporary buildings coexist in Taichung, a hub for young creative professionals. Guguan, located just 90 minutes away, could not be more different. Mountains over 3,000 meters high surround the valley—its topography carved by the Dajia River. Cherry blossoms grace the spring foliage, while the fall landscape is colored in deep reds and yellows. It is a hub for pleasant winds, murmuring streams, and gushing hot water springs. Outside of its tropical urban environments, Taiwan reveals another face.
You are led through a bamboo forest and into a minimalist building that houses a cavernous reception area. The room is decorated with nature-inspired paintings as vibrant as Taiwan's cities. You then step outside into a beautiful water garden that covers the vast premises. As you walk through this museum of natural art, you notice that the sound of water is ever-present. The garden's waterways burble, the pool ripples gently, and hot spring waterfalls thunder majestically into the outdoor baths. The sounds are enveloping and relaxing.
The bath halls are free to enter when you like; you can saunter in while in the middle of a walk. The soft low-alkaline, hydrogen carbonate hot spring water that supplies the baths revitalizes your skin and relaxes your mind. After a dip in the indoor bath—where you detect a faint, pleasurable scent of cypress—you venture to the outdoor bath, which zigzags ahead of you. A variety of indigenous plant life lines the banks, displaying lovely seasonal colors. Nearby, a waterfall thunders. You feel as if you have discovered the baths of the gods.
The paths through the water garden twist and turn, to both avoid damaging the natural ecosystem and to allow guests to enjoy the scenery from a variety of angles. Water striders and water lilies float on water surfaces, while above them pine trees soar, housing blue magpies in the morning. Like the blue bird of happiness in the old fairy tale, the magpie brings a smile to your face. You enter a nearby gazebo and sit down to read; when you get tired, you take a nap. The garden has become your home.
Part of the joy of hot spring bathing is cooling off afterwards. Here, you are served shaved ice and Taiwanese tea after a soak. There is also a fourth-floor open-air lounge available exclusively to bathers, furnished with sofas where you can recline and cool off in the brisk mountain breeze. As you relax in the lounge, taking in the stunning scenery surrounding you, you realize you are already looking forward to your next bath.
As soon as you enter your room, you realize why most of the rooms here are maisonettes—the layout allows for an entire floor dedicated to hot spring bathing. There are windows at both ends of this bathing floor, fitted with louvers so you can adjust the ventilation to your liking. The bath, placed in a sunken area, constantly overflows from the steady stream of hot spring water entering it—you can dip in and out at any time to watch the sun rising over distant mountains or gaze out at starry skies. At the other end of the floor is a sofa on which to cool off. Then, you can begin this luxurious routine all over again.