A Journey to Guguan

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This is the fourth installment in a series about my family’s trip to Taiwan back in April 2018. Previous posts covered our adventures in Taipei, the tea-growing region of Pinglin, and the northern coast destinations of Yehliu and Jiufen.


For the last leg of our Taiwan trip, we struck out on our own and journeyed to Guguan. Brett had been to the small mountain village on several of his previous visits to the island, and suggested that it would be the perfect place for relaxing in hot springs and hiking in the hills.

So we bade goodbye to our friends, who were heading to the beaches further south, and hopped on a train to Fengyuan at the Taipei Main Station. From there, we caught the 207 bus, and after yet another long, winding ride, our driver dropped us off in the heart of Guguan.

Guguan at night - a small cluster of buildings surrounded by lush green mountains

We were a bit nervous when we walked into the lobby of our hotel, hoping that they knew we were coming. Brett had called a few days earlier to reserve a room, but wasn’t sure his Mandarin had been clear enough. Fortunately, though, they were expecting us, and once we got to our room I was very excited to see that we had our very own private hot spring tub!

A bathroom with shower and small, deep square tub, with a photo of waterfalls on the wall.

We quickly changed, put on the required shower caps, and took our first soak in the hotel’s hot springs, which had three pools: a very hot pool, a comfortably warm pool, and an unheated cold pool. The spring water was the odorless bicarbonate variety, and we left feeling quite relaxed indeed. (Much to C&D’s dismay, the hot spring water in our bathroom was sulfurous… and they were not fans of the smell.)

the hot springs, as seen from the suspension bridge above. A large roof shades the circular pool.

That evening, we also went for a stroll to explore the town a bit. The lantern-lit walkways were magical.

stone pathway surrounded by tall red-and-white paper lanterns

In the morning, we walked to a nearby park, where we got to experience a local tradition: kiss-fish foot baths! There was a protocol to follow. First, we had to rinse our feet, then soak them in hot water for about ten minutes. After that, we had our choice of two pools: one with smaller fish, the other with more mature ones.

We started with the smaller fish, which quickly swam up to our feet and started nibbling away at the dead skin cells. My daughter C squealed with laughter as the fish tickled her feet, while my son D exclaimed, “This is the best thing in the world!”

We ended up spending more time at the pool with the mature fish, which gave more of a poking sensation, like a massage. Strange, but pleasant (and quite effective, as Brett and I discovered when we felt our soft feet afterwards!).

dozens of small goldfish nibbling at my feet

Later that day, we went on a hike. D was thrilled to see this sign, as he’s a big fan of snakes. (Brett and I, a little less so.)

a red and yellow sign cautions (in Chinese and English): "Watch out for snakes"

We didn’t see any snakes, but we saw tons of caterpillars (and inadvertently smashed a few). We also saw several huge monkeys in the trees nearby! Alas, they were well-camouflaged and we were unable to get a good photograph. We did, however, snap a picture of the massive grasshopper that jumped onto C’s leg at the beginning of the hike. She was startled at first, but once she realized it was harmless, she pulled out her camera to take a photo of it, too.

A giant green grasshopper perched on a kid's pink floral leggings

At the summit, D found a bamboo-stick broom hiding under the platform and promptly picked it up, pretending to zoom around on it, flying-broomstick-style. A group of people nearby noticed and smiled at him. “Harry Potter!” one of them exclaimed, and we laughed, because that’s exactly what D was going for.

We eventually convinced him to put the broom back, and he started gathering sticks to do some “wand work for witches and wizards” while Brett and I ate the heavenly tangerines we’d picked up from a fruit vendor that morning. They were sweet and juicy and full of seeds. I loved every bite.

A steep stone staircase leading back down the trail, surrounded by leafy trees

On the way back down, though, we had a scary moment: I heard C yell and looked up to see her tumbling down the stone steps. We rushed over, horrified–but, miraculously, she was unhurt aside from a few scrapes. We sat there for a while on the side of the trail, taking a moment to collect our frazzled nerves before continuing on our way.

The rest of our stay in Guguan was uneventful, in the best possible way. We soaked in the hot springs often, and ate delicious breakfasts each morning…

yummy breakfast: congee, edamame, tofu, greens, soy milk

Headed over to visit the kiss-fish afterwards…

Sitting at the kiss-fish pool

Spent lots of time in the beautiful parks…

the park, the mountains, the trees

Learned about one of the local mascots, the Misasaradon, whose superpower is “boiling water by the umbilicus”…

Misasaradon, a Guguan mascot

Took many walks through the charming Osmanthus Alley…

sign in Osmanthus Alley

…and generally spent a few days basking in the leisurely pace of the quiet mountain town. It was a great contrast to the frenetic energy of Taipei–the perfect way to wrap up our international adventure.

Your Thoughts

Would you like to experience the sensation of tiny fish nibbling at your feet, or does the thought make you squirm? What does a relaxing getaway look like to you? Are there nature hikes and juicy tangerines involved? Do tell!

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