For the millennial traveller, the yen for ever-elusive seclusion is increasing – the fact that Tinder made its first match in Antarctica last year goes to show that even pitching a tent in the middle of a cruel, icy tundra won’t necessarily get you some alone time. And thus when it comes to luxury travel, the more remote, the more exclusive – and certainly, a four-hour bus journey from Shanghai, a trundle on a tricycle, and a boat journey, serves to make us feel like we’re treading a path less trodden. Our destination is the Fuchun Kosa, a resort which takes its name from the river we are sailing down, the Fuchun – which also meets the Xinan and Xu rivers amid the green slopes of rural Zhejiang province.
As the tourist office on the river bank disappears from view, the tricycle that brought us there now a tiny red dot next to it, there’s the palpable sense that things are about to get very remote indeed. In fact, the only people we see on the five-kilometre journey are a family, crouching glumly beneath some umbrellas by the water’s edge. The weather is foul, and the mountains rise mistily from either riverbank. It’s a completely epic way to travel to a minibreak destination, and the memories of the hellish bustle of Shanghai Railway’s bus station fade quickly. Eventually, we see a cluster of buildings materialise on the only stretch of flat land in sight, which we moor at, greeted by Kosa staff who eagerly hand us umbrellas.
The Kosa brand currently has several hotels in the works, and is due to open another in Shanghai suburban watertown Zhujiajiao next year, but Fuchun is its first. The owners have spent the past seven years restoring a cluster of 40 Anhui-style courtyard buildings and a Ming dynasty-inspired college hall, which required ferrying every single brick across the same way we have just arrived.
Set against an incline of bamboo forest, the aesthetic is stunning, the vibe is peaceful. Here, the manager tells us, is a place where we should give up our worldly goods, and embrace tranquility (although it must be said that the sentiment is slightly contradicted by the fact that the Fuchun Kosa is extremely family-friendly, and children are unlikely to be as seduced by the peace and quiet as grown-ups).
Before investigating said tranquility, we deposit said worldly goods in our villa, which is found inside one of the courtyard buildings, made up of two double bedrooms and a communal dining room. The interiors are large, airy and stylish: polished wooden floors, walls hung with artfully framed Chinese literature. The en suite bathrooms, behind wicker blinds, enjoy a bathtub centrepiece, and are stocked with L’Occitane products.
A charming hand-drawn map left on the dining table is a reminder that having travelled all this way really means you need to capitalise on the opportunity to commune with nature, and the resort offers various facilities to help you do so: there are several canoes tied up at the boat dock, and a stack of bikes parked nearby (although if you’re above five foot five you might struggle to ride them). There’s a short, hour-long hike nearby which takes you through the butterfly-filled jungle to a ‘village’, a smattering of crumbled dwellings, some of them occupied, many not.
Within the confines of the actual resort, there’s an infinity pool, adjacent to the chicken coop, and the college hall, where guests are invited to take a calligraphy class in the morning, or else practice yoga (although there is currently no yoga teacher employed, so yogis will have to do it of their own accord). The jewel of the Fuchun Kosa is – incongruously enough – a whiskey bar. Housed in a 150-year old Chinese Huizhou courtyard house opposite the dock, a beautiful building replete with old carved wooden beams, and a huge central umbrella-like structure designed by Shanghainese architecture practice Atelier Archmixing, the bar is the perfect place to retire to for a nightcap after dinner, before getting an absurdly early night.
The taste level can be a little uneven across the board – the dining areas, for instance, seem to have been designed using an entirely different mood board to the accommodation. Luckily, the food itself is very good, and is all typical to the region, from the likes of duck soup to shredded tofu and coriander, and curried fish and shrimp caught in the rivers. Breakfast, too, is local, comprising pork buns, boiled eggs and congee. All meals are included in the admittedly expensive price tag (see below), which makes sense, because you haven’t really got any other dining options when you’re in the middle of nowhere, and all guests are provided with a personal assistant.
Fuchun Kosa are taking steps to appeal to China’s expat market, so we may see its offerings evolve over the months to come – although the fact that they are offering authentic Chinese luxury without the usual Western twist you come to expect from many five-star packages is very much part of its charm. Book two nights here if you can, head down the river, and unwind.
How to get there
Take the bus from Shanghai to Xin Anjiang (新安江) from Shanghai South Station Long-distance bus station (two buses run daily, at 8.35am and 2.25pm). Tell the driver that you need get off at Qiantan Zhen (乾潭镇). The journey takes around four hours, and costs 121RMB one-way. Once off the bus, take a motorbike taxi to Qiantan Zhen Tourist dock for around 15RMB, which the hotel will organise for you. A boat will be waiting for you.
Call 400-686-1376 or look for Fuchun resort on Ctrip or follow Fuchun Kosa (俱舍) on WeChat. Packages start from 2,780RMB for two nights including all meals, private boat tour and full use of the facilities.