Bua Tong Waterfall north of Chiang Mai (using public transport)
Chiang Mai. The backpacker hub of Northern Thailand. You can tell by the number of flyers advertising dozens of activities outside of each of the dozens of hostels. Ziplining, elephant ____ (put your favorite elephant related activity here), rafting. You name it, they have it. I had a full day to plan an activity and went with a recommendation of a friend: Bua Tong Waterfall (also known to tourists as “Sticky Waterfall”). The place is about 60km north of Chiang Mai in a fairly remote area. It seems that most tourists just go there by scooter. There aren’t really any tours going there it seems (which is good). I couldn’t find any reports of people going there by public transport but figured it must be possible somehow.
So I left Chiang Mai relatively early and caught a white Songthaew from Chang Phuak Station towards Mae Taeng (40 Baht). There are two roads going north; the 107 and 1001. Eventually you have to get on the 1001 but the Songthaews near my hostel went north on the 107. After about 45mins there was a road that crosses the river and connects to the 1001.
I had to walk this section for about 20mins but was soon offered a ride by a friendly lady. On the 1001 I again walked for a little while until I was offered a ride by an ice cream truck (no free samples unfortunately). I also saw the first sign of the Bua Tong Waterfall. I was briefly worried whether I was on the wrong track after the lady who gave me a ride didn’t know it and neither did a couple of people she asked.
After a short ride we left the main road. The spot where you have to leave the main road is easy to miss as the signage is not well placed.
You’ll see this sign – which isn’t so obvious for non-Thai speakers.
On the right, you’ll see this (but only after you’ve left the main road):
Three kilometers later we made it to the parking lot of the Bua Tong Waterfall:
Now science was never my favorite subject in school, so I also wasn’t particularly interested in the science behind the Sticky Waterfalls. But apparently there is some kind of special mineral contained in the water, that stays on the rocks and causes them to become “sticky”, i.e. you can stand on them without slipping. They have place ropes along the waterfalls which allows you to climb up and down. Pretty unique.
The parking lot is at the top of the waterfall and there are stairs that take you to the bottom. From there you can then climb back up.
Just a short from the waterfalls is a hot spring that looked very special as well:
Getting back to Chiang Mai proved to be a bit easier. I walked the 3km back to the main road and waited there for a Songthaew. On the way to the main road I didn’t cross a single car but saw what looked like a dog sleeping in the middle of the road. All of the sudden the dog started howling and it sounded kind of like a wolf… because it turned out it was one. I made some noise and luckily the wolf got up and disappeared. Back at the main road, a Songthaew turned up after about 20mins of waiting and brought me back to the Arcade Bus Terminal in Chiang Mai for 40 Baht.
Since Bua Tong Waterfalls is on the Chiang Mai – Phrao road, I would assume that you can catch a Phrao-bound Songthaew somewhere at the big Arcade Bus Station and hence do the trip in a quicker way than I did it getting there.
Don’t forget your swimming gear when you visit this unique waterfall! Oh and by the way, there is no entrance fee, it is based on donations only.