[Water of Gray, Green and Black] Great TsengWen Reservoir Loop 環曾文水庫

[Water of Gray, Green and Black] Great TsengWen Reservoir Loop 環曾文水庫

Route Summary:

  • Starting Location: GuanZiLing, Tainan (關子嶺, 台南).
  • Length: 117km. Elevation gain: ~2650 m.
  • Hill profile: Very hard. One big hill, one medium hill, and varied terrains of over 100m elevation changes.
  • Comments:
    • Recommend staying overnight at GuanZiLing’s hot spring resorts.
    • Caution:  Very dim light in the tunnel at south Route #174.
  • Good for:
    • Winter long base training camp.
  • Route Highlights:
    • GuanZiLing Hot spring area (unique mud spring).
    • Betel nuts.
    • TsengWen Reservoir(曾文水庫).
    • “Coffee Route” #175.

I have been wanting to do a ride around reservoirs for a while. The last time I rode through a reservoir was the Diablo Dam in US Washington State, and it was cool.

After doing a bit research I decided to do the TsengWen Reservoir (曾文水庫) in Tainan, for the following reasons:

  • Cars were very few.
  • Roads were great.
  • Hot spring nearby for pre/post ride relaxation.

Especially the hot spring here was “muddy hot spring“, gray hot spring containing small black mud particulates. We had a good time the night before the ride enjoying various hot spring facilities.

Old hot spring area map.

Muddy hot spring. You could see the water was gray.

Other cool hot springs at the resort: herbal hot spring and cypress-oil hot spring.

Another very interesting facility was the “doctor fish therapy pool”: a fish pool where you could put your legs in, and the fish would nibble on your (dead) skin. Very cool.

Typical hot spring room setup. One for the hot spring, the other is normal cold water, and an external shower for cleaning your body before and after hot spring.

The next day we began our ride from the resort and through the hot spring area.

Morning public bathhouse view.

The reservoir is at the other side of the mountains.

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The starting point, in front of the resort.

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Upper town area.

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Main hot spring filled creek through the town.

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“Precious Spring Bridge”.

The road crossed through a tunnel and reached an intersection. Left was toward Tainan and right a local road toward the reservoir.

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The sign was an advertisement about “Taiwan Movie Studio“.

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The road briefly crossed from Tainan to ChiaYi County.

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Some hipster restaurant and hostel signs.

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For some reasons restaurants here were all featuring chickens, especially “metal can grilled chicken” (甕仔雞).

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Just like MeiShan and AliShan, here (unfortunately) the hills were still growing mostly betel buts. Not a good idea for hill conservation.

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Looking back.

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Also some bananas.

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Eventually we passed the hill-top and to the other side. Someone built a large plantation and a house on top. Great choice for views.

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Jigsaw shaped hills.

The local road finally ended and connected with the main road through the reservoir, State Route #3, one of the major State routes that goes from Taiwan’s north to south.

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The intersection. We came from right and had to do a “V” turn up to State #3 to the left road.

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The State #3 route at the reservoir section was supreme for cyclists. Not only it was wide (standard 2-lane. You normally won’t get a 2-lane road in Taiwan’s mountain areas.), the cars were also very few.

Furthermore, probably because of the reservoir area, throughout the roadside colorful brushes were planted all along, making the ride even more pleasant.

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Purple, white and red.

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At the 300km mark (or 299.8km if you want to be accurate) there was a hot spring sign. It seemed to be a resort here uphill.

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It said “ZhongLun Hot Spring”.

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There was also a hot spring park nearby, but it was currently under re-construction.

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More colorful brushes.

As State Route #3 was wide and had few cars, the reservoir road section had a lot of motorists riding heavy-duty motorcycles (over 40 horse power, with yellow/red license plates).

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Can’t have enough of this cliff warning sign. They should also add motorcycles on them.

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Entire hillside covered by betel nut trees.

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Truck carrying harvested betel nuts.

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As we getting closer to the top, morning mist and cliffs, typical for Taiwan mountain areas, could be seen.

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The split road here marked the water divide of three mountain ridges. We were taking the left road.

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The location name here is literally “water divide”.

Not far away from the top was a famous local store called “grandma’s store” (阿嬤柑仔店). Many motorists rest here, plus three cyclists (including me).

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Tons of swag bikes.

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But not as swag as mine.

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The famous grandma’s store.

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Graffiti, even though the red poster there said “no graffiti at grandma’s house”…

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(Remark: even though the road here was in good condition, I still heard/saw TWO motorcycle accidents on the road, all done by the motorists themselves. Not severe but definitely some bruises.)

After crossing the top we started descending toward the reservoir.

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Upper part of the creek going into the reservoir.

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… and the reservoir gradually could be seen!

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One reservoir’s tip.

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Reservoir’s northern part.

The shape of TsengWen reservoir is an “F” shape. Since the road went along reservoir’s east side we first saw the reservoir’s upper right water part.

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The “F” shape’s upper right.

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Not sure what these were for…

Eventually the route crossed the “F”‘s upper right with a high-rise bridge. There was also a road at the left side of the bridge which went all the way north to the famous aboriginal valley DaNaYi Valley (達娜依谷), and connect to State #18 to AliShan.

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Encountering a group of motorists.

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The bridge’s memorial.

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Facing west toward the reservoir.

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Facing east.

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Fishing rental.

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Continued for a while, State #3 reached the only major township east of the reservoir: DaPu Township (大埔). There was really nothing interesting here except a weird “Lover’s Park”(情人公園).

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Town view.

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State #3 became 4-lane road in DaPu. Probably originally for the big buses.

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The whole region was under Siraya National Scenic Area, hence the sign.

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Such a romantic road to the Lover’s Park, with plantations and local factories on the sides…

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The scenery was beautiful. As I mentioned in many previous rides, Taiwanese government really didn’t need all these artificial structure and weird stories to attract tourists.

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What a great way to remind tourists about safety.

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Sometimes it’s hard to understand what the government is thinking: putting former warlord Chiang statue in “Lover’s Park”…

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Having enough of the Park we headed to the town center for water and food supply. Here the reservoir was also famous for its “reservoir wild fish”.

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“Clay Pot Reservoir Fish (Head) Stew”.

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The big reservoir fish. Looks yummy!

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First time I saw an RV in Taiwan!

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Heading back to State #3.

Once we had enough supplies we headed back to State #3 and continued south. More reservoir views came into sight.

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Mountains, water and the town.

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You could barely see the dam at far end.

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At about the boundary between ChiaYi and Tainan counties we turned right onto a tolled road specific for the reservoir (Route #154-1).

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“Stop and Pay in 3km.”

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Reservoir map (right is north).

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North toll station. Most people visit the reservoir from south.

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Inside the tolled section of the reservoir there was a pretty cool high glass viewing platform. It even had an elevator to help people get up.

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Far away was the viewing platform with arched sky bridge.

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As I was wearing cleats the stairs were too much for me. So instead I went to another older viewing platform near the shore.

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The left white line was the dam.

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Some sort of floating workspace.

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Construction fences with reservoir photos.

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Another old viewing platform.

And soon we reached the dam.

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Dam’s upper part…

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…and the lower part.

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The hydropower water entrance.

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Main reservoir office with another memorial.

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Continued heading south on the reservoir road, we passed through some more parks, most of them were aged and needed some fixes (or perhaps they shouldn’t be there in the first place).

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“Bird Palace”. Whatever that means.

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A lot of land activities could be seen on the river flowing out of the reservoir.

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Aged…whatever this is for.

Also the route south of the reservoir crossed the river several times, providing nice views.

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The big building on the hill was an “adventure” hotel.

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Continued along the river south, there was an old veteran village of the same name (曾文新村) and a few hotels.

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Here again the roadside had lots of nice plants.

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China Youth Corps (救國團青年活動中心) TsengWen branch. The ridiculous Chinese name (literally means young group of country savior) came from the old authoritative era.

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The road finally exited the south toll station. To go back to GuanZiLing we turned right, crossed a mountain, and headed back north on the other side.

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We turned right here.

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The mountains far away went from north to south all the way blocking the reservoir’s east side. We had to climb over it and head north to get back to GuanZiLing.

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Luckily there was a tunnel, but the light inside was very dim.

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The other side of the mountain.

As we crossed the mountain and headed north, we rode onto Route #175, which was famous for its many cafes along the way. Hence Route #175 was called “The Coffee Highway (咖啡公路)”.

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A barn partially crushed by the fallen giant rock. Evidence of Taiwan’s powerful typhoons and rains.

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Cafe + local store. You can drink coffee and eat delicious Taiwanese instant noodle.

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“T2 Cafe”.

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A coffee bean riding a bike…

Yet another cafe…

When I did this route Taiwan’s air quality was really bad and entered alarming (red) level. After crossing the tunnel I began having difficulty breathing and couching a lot. This was the first time in my life I had to abandon my last 3 km ride due to difficulty breathing. It really sucked.

To make up my lost we visited another famous sight near GuanZiLing: ShuayHuoTonYuan (水火同源), which was a place where water and fire came out at the same time. Pretty cool.

One thing you had to bear when visiting Taiwan’s tourist sights was the presence of street vendors, even when there were signs explicitly forbid them.

Legend said the hot spring was the dragon’s piss. LOL.

The water-fire. On top of it was a Japanese god statue built during the Japanese occupation era.

You could see the rippled muddy water flowing out at the fire’s bottom.

To summarize, I really like this ride and it becomes one of my favorites. Not only it is safe (few cars, good roads and few big trucks), the views are great and varied, and the pre-post ride needs are also satisfied (good hot springs, can-grilled chicken and coffee). Definitely recommended for a winter training camp tour.

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