When I read Yulia’s (AKA Miss Tourist) post about the Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai back in 2015, I was immediately fascinated. Climbing a sticky waterfall on your bare feet? This is going straight on our bucket list! When we visited Chiang Mai (Thailand) for the second time a couple of years later, we checked out this Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall for ourselves.
The Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai
The Bua Tong Waterfall in Chiang Mai is better known as the Sticky Waterfall. You can climb this limestone waterfall on your bare feet. It’s not slippery (most parts at least) because of the limestone particles in the water.
The waterfall itself isn’t that impressive, as there isn’t that much water falling down. However, the rocks below the water are rounded, creamy, and not slippery, surrounded by a lush green forest. A pretty beautiful sight from below.
The Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall isn’t as flooded with tourists as some other attractions in Chiang Mai, but it’s pretty popular with locals, especially on weekends. When we visited, there were quite some construction works going on though, to make the site more tourist friendly.
Climbing the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall
The parking at the Bua Tong Waterfall is at the top. So in order to be able to climb the Sticky Waterfall, you first have to descend the stairs along the side. Or go down the waterfall and then climb it again.
We went down to the 3rd level of this multi-tiered waterfall and stripped down to our swimwear. Us girls let the boys test the waters first before we followed suit. It’s a little scary because the non-slippery part is counterintuitive. But we climbed the Sticky Waterfall on our bare feet!
Stay alert and be careful while climbing though, as some parts (the grey ones) are a little slippery. Especially the last part was a bit tricky, but there are ropes at certain points to help you climb.
To cool down, you can splash around in the bathing pools at the top of the waterfall.
Visiting the Bua Tong Spring
Although the Sticky Falls are the main attraction, there is a clear water spring as well. Look for the sign saying “Namphu Chet Si” at the top of the waterfall. From there it’s only a short walk to the sacred spring, the source of water for the Bua Tong Waterfall.
There’s supposed to be a loop hike of about 2 km through the jungle as well, but it isn’t (clearly) signposted. We started hiking, but turned back because we weren’t sure we were going in the right direction.
The loop hike wasn’t clearly signposted when we visited in July 2017. If that’s changed by now, please let us know in the comments!
How to get to the Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai
The Bua Tong Waterfall is about 60 km (~37 miles) north of Chiang Mai Old Town. You can rent a motorbike to go explore the falls by yourself, or share a red songthaew with some other people. Booking a guided tour with transportation included is another option.
Visiting the Sticky Falls on a motorbike
We rented a motorbike from the lady down the street of our guest house to go check out the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall by ourselves. It cost us 200 baht (~ $6 ~ €5.40) per motorbike per day. Fuel is usually not included, meaning your tank will be nearly empty when driving out of the shop.
When renting a motorbike you often have to leave a deposit and/or (a copy of) your passport. After some negotiating, Brecht brought the 3,000 baht (~ $90 ~ €81) deposit down to 400 baht (~ $12 ~ €11), and we left a copy of one of our passports.
We left for the Sticky Waterfall at about 11:00 in the morning. After some trouble trying to make it to the right side of the highway, we finally turned left onto Route 1001, driving north. After following this road for about 54 km (~ 33 miles), you have to make a right onto a smaller road leading straight to the waterfall. There should be a sign pointing towards the Bua Tong Waterfall. From there it’s another 3 km (~ 2 miles) to the car park.
According to Google Maps this trip will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but all in all it took us over 2 hours to get from Chiang Mai Old Town to the Sticky Waterfall. In our defence, there were 2 of us on 1 motorbike, and we weren’t familiar with the road.
Visiting the Sticky Falls with a songthaew
A red songthaew filled with tourists is a common sight in Chiang Mai. You can hire one of those to get you anywhere, including the Bua Tong Waterfall. The price of a return trip to the Sticky Falls depends on how many people you’re sharing the songthaew with, and (obviously) your negotiating skills, but it’s usually around 1000 baht (~ $30 ~ €27) for the entire songthaew.
Visiting the Sticky Falls on a tour
If you’d rather do a tour including the Bua Tong Waterfall instead of exploring it on your own, there are plenty of options as well. You can check at the reception of your accommodation or with a local travel agency, or book a private tour with a local through TakeMeTour. Transportation is included most of the time.
Visiting the Sticky Falls using public transport
Our readers shared how they got to the Bua Tong Waterfall using public transport. While it only cost 80 baht (~ $2.40 ~ €2.15) per person return in 2019, it now seems to be 100 baht ($3 ~ €2.70) per person one way. We’ve summarized their tips below, or you can check out Mateusz’ commen, Liisa’s comment, and most recently Adam’s comment at the bottom of this post.
Note that this is not the best option at the time, because of the limited service, which doesn’t give you enough time at the Sticky Waterfall.
So, one of the cheapest, but not the easiest nor fastest, way to get to Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall is using public transport. Head to Chang Phueak Bus Station, otherwise known as Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1, and find the red and white signboard reading “Prempracha” at one of the shophouses outside the main terminal. They have songthaews, minibusses, vans and busses running between Chiang Mai and Phrao, passing the Sticky Waterfall.
One of our readers commented there are only 2 busses leaving a day, one at 11:00 and another at 17:00. So you’d want to catch the 11:00 one. This bus tends to sell out, so to be sure, you can prebook your ticket through the Prempracha Transports website, or just check availability online. You need a ticket from Chang Puek to Prao.
When buying a ticket at the counter or boarding the bus, show them on a map you want to get to the Bua Tong Waterfall, so they’ll know where to drop you. It’s about a 40 minute bus ride to the drop point. From the drop point, it’s another 3 km (~ 1.9 miles) to the Sticky Waterfall entrance gate. You can walk (about 30 minutes) or hitchhike to get there.
The return bus from Prempracha leaves from Phrao at 13:00, which doesn’t really give you enough time to properly visit the Sticky Waterfall. So when heading back to Chiang Mai, return to the drop point and wait for a songthaew driving in the right direction. Wave them to a stop, agree on a price and climb aboard.
TIP: It’s safest to have the exact amount to pay the driver. Otherwise it’s possible they suddenly don’t speak any English anymore, or conveniently don’t have any change.
The Bua Tong Waterfall – Practical Information
Entrance to the Bua Tong Waterfall is free. There are (squat) toilets at the car park, but no toilet paper. At the top of the waterfall there’s a picnic area and a few restaurants.
If you’re hungry after your climb, the restaurant closest to the park entrance serves an excellent (spicy!) khao soi according to Aditya.
We didn’t have lunch at the waterfall though, but stopped at a shabby looking cluster of shops a couple of minutes after we left the Bua Tong car park. It felt like quite the adventure as the shops looked shady and poor, but the food was actually surprisingly good. It was cheap too, costing us 200 baht (~ $6 ~ €5.40) for lunch for 4, including drinks. Yay for us taking that “risk”!
When visiting the Bua Tong Waterfall, best bring the following things: swimwear and a towel, flip-flops, sunscreen, mosquito spray, and a (waterproof) camera.
We spent about 2 hours at the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall, climbing it, taking pictures, and checking out the Bua Tong Spring. That’s as long as it took us to drive up there on our motorbikes, but it still was a day trip worth doing. The motorbike ride is part of the fun and now we get to brag about climbing a waterfall on our bare feet!
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