Chiang Mai has no shortage of beautiful waterfalls, but none of them are quite like Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall of Chiang Mai.
Alan and I were getting stir crazy after being cooped up behind our laptops for the past few days, so we decided to hop on our motorbike and take a day trip to one of the most unique waterfalls I have ever seen.
Bua Tong, also known as “Sticky Falls”, is about an hour and a half drive north of Chiang Mai. I know. I know. There are plenty of waterfalls closer to Chiang Mai, but Bua Tong isn’t simply just a waterfall. Bua Tong is the “Sticky Waterfall.”
What makes Bua Tong the sticky waterfall of Chiang Mai?
Bua Tong looks like someone poured cement down the falls, but really it’s a heavy build up of limestone that has accumulated over the years. The rocks aren’t smooth at all. They have a similar texture to a pumice stone. This gives them a nice grip.
On top of that, the rocks barely have any algae growing on them (except for 1 area, but I’ll talk more about that later). The slippery slimy rocks that are normally found at a waterfall are nonexistent here.
Once you start climbing up the falls, you’ll notice your feet seeming to stick to the the rocks, hence “sticky falls”.
Climbing “Sticky Falls”
The parking area for Sticky Falls is at the top of the falls. A wooden stairway leads down the side of the falls to the middle level. From there you have to climb the rocks down to reach the lower levels.
Once we got to the base, we decided to play around there for a while. I strongly recommend standing underneath the falls on the lowest level. You’ll get a nice shoulder massage, and it’s very refreshing.
Since we took the stairs down, the only way to go back up was by climbing. Being able to climb the waterfall was one of the main reasons we were there.
For the most part, the falls weren’t too bad. I did get a little scared around the middle levels because the rocks get fairly steep here. Sticky rocks or not, if you fall here, you’re going to hurt yourself.
Thankfully I took my time and made it to the top…….but not without a killer exit.
Slipping on “Sticky Falls”
After making my way up the entire falls, I thought I was finally to safety. I was walking across the rocks to the pathway when my foot managed to find the only patch of slippery algae on the whole waterfall.
One slip and I was down!
I started to slide back over the edge of the falls and had to grab a safety rope to stop myself. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little scary.
Oh and by the way, Sticky Falls is a lesser known waterfall I think due to it’s distance from Chiang Mai, so there were barely any other people when we were there….except for when I fell.
Not only did I find the only slippery area, but I happened to find it in front of a large group of Thai teenagers! I can only imagine what they were saying about the “Farang” who almost fell down Sticky Falls.
Getting to “Sticky Falls”
Bua Tong is about an hour and a half motorbike ride from the Old City of Chiang Mai. Take the Superhighway north to road 1001 towards Phrao. Keep going straight until you see a sign for Mae Jo University and Bua Tong Waterfall. Continue going straight. The entrance to the parking area is pretty easy to spot.
There isn’t a lot of signage to the waterfall, so I would recommend using some kind of GPS. I loaded the map in Google before leaving my wifi. Then I could follow the route even without internet.
You can also hire a songtaew. From what I’ve heard, it’s about 1000 baht ($29US) for a driver to take you and hang out for a few hours.
Enjoying “Sticky Falls”
Climbing the falls can take it out of you, so I would recommend either bringing some food for a picnic or buying something to eat from one of the food stands, that is if they are open. When we were there, only 2 places were open with snack food. There are plenty of places to stop along the way for some yummy Thai street food though.
A picnic area is set up between the parking area and the falls. This is the only area with trash cans, which means it is the only area where food and drink are allowed. From what I saw, people visiting the falls have been very respectful of this rule because I don’t remember seeing any litter in the falls. Maybe its the hefty fine that deters people.
Whatever the reason it’s nice to see people respecting the area.