One of the most unique places we’ve ever been to in Thailand is called Bua Tong, or the Sticky Waterfalls. Located about an hour and a half drive north of Chiang Mai’s Old City, these waterfalls are not only impressive and gorgeous, but a special feature allows you to climb directly up the rocks into the oncoming cascading water! What’s that you say?!
Although waterfalls are a common tourist attraction in Thailand, for both locals and visitors alike, we’ve hadn’t seen this one listed in a guide book. In fact, like many fun things we’ve done, this trip to the Sticky Waterfalls was recommended by our good Thai friend, Bee, from Be Beez Café. This was an awesome addition to our trip to the Mae Ngat Dam floating houses one weekend.
The Science Behind the Sticky Waterfalls
Waterfalls are notoriously slippery. Obviously one goes down a waterfall, in line with the gushing waters and typically slippery surfaces. So how is it possible to climb up the Sticky Waterfalls?
The Sticky Waterfalls get their name from a mineral deposit that provides an incredibly grippy surface for bare feet and hands. In fact, the rocks feel like hardened sponges, callous and even slightly prickly to the touch, but surprisingly give a bit under pressure. There are also no algae or slime that adheres to the rocks, leaving a perfect canvas to climb up the waterfall. It is impressively steep in some places, but with the aid of the limestone deposits on the stones, we felt like Spider-Man!
Brawn and Beauty
Even if we hadn’t planned (or known to) climb the waterfalls, the Sticky Waterfalls are an impressive sight on their own. There are five different levels to experience, in which the top levels are the starting point. The rocks are cream colored and bulbous, almost cartoonish, and contrast beautifully with the dark green forest. And the water? Crystal clear and cool. In the rainy season (June through September), you can expect the water to be more rapids-like and powerful as they surge down the falls.
The surrounding forest floor is coated with moss and small colorful flowers. There are plenty of forest creatures, too, like butterflies and water bugs, and even the occasional minnow.
These multi-tiered waterfalls are easy on the eyes and a great way to cool off in Thailand’s heat, but challenging to your muscles. If you do plan to climb these waterfalls, be prepared to work muscles in your legs and feet you never knew existed. Even if you don’t plan on getting wet clambering over the rocks, there are a couple hundred steep stairs that take you down the various levels of waterfalls. Make sure to save your energy for the trip back up!
Stay for a Picnic
Located in the SriLanna National Forest, the Sticky Waterfalls is a great place for a picnic. There are drinks and light snacks for sale on the premises and clean, although Thai-styled, bathrooms. Food is not allowed down in the waterfall area (there are no trash cans to dispose of your garbage), but there are plenty of picnic tables with shade near the top area of the park entrance.
Alternatively, about a five minutes drive before arriving at the park is a small outdoor market with several mom and pop restaurants. Vendors can whip up Thai meals to-go that you can take with you to the park. There are also grilled meats, fresh fruits, and some small packaged Thai snacks that are perfect for picnicking.
In addition to picnic items, make sure to bring:
- Towels or change of clothes
- Strap on sandals or water shoes
- Tissues/toilet paper
How to Get to the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls in Chiang Mai
The Sticky Waterfalls are about 60 km north of Chiang Mai’s Old City, up Route 1001, in the Sri Lanna National Park. A motorbike or a car will suffice for a couple or a group of people. However, we recommend larger groups (up to eight people) renting a van or taking a songthaew. The trip is about an hour and a half.
The photos of this place hardly do it justice. Go there and see for yourself how amazing the waterfalls are. This was one of Angela’s family’s favorite places to visit in Chiang Mai during their two-week visit in March 2014. We highly recommended checking it out!