The Sticky Falls (Buatong Waterfall)

Sticky Waterfall Chiang Mai
The middle level of the Sticky Falls.

After being in Chiang Mai for a while, you may hear foreigners talk about a waterfall you can climb up like a gecko climbs up a wall, and they might refer to it as the "Sticky Falls", or maybe, the "Limestone Waterfall". You might hear a Thai person talk about "Buatong" or "Nam Phu Chet Si", and casually refer to it as a nice place to visit. They would all be talking about the same place, and anyone will tell you it is an attraction well-worth experiencing, probably unlike any other you've had before.

What makes this waterfall different to the hundreds of others in Northern Thailand, is that its fed by a calcium-rich spring at the very top, which rushes downwards over the boulders of the waterfall. This makes them feel and appear quite "sticky", and unless you've had much experience groping calcium-hungry rocks, you will be shocked at your ability to grip them with your bare skin. On top of that, they look rather cute, being all smooth and rotund, and almost seem like fat little steps when you climb higher up the waterfall.

The falls are about 50km north of Chiang Mai, in a very quiet, tourist-free area, sans the occasional Thai family or couple. There are places to stay nearby if you want to build a weekend around the falls, such as the Mae Ngat Dam Houseboats, or the Rabeang Pasak Tree Houses. It's also a good place for a day trip, and as the area is so isolated and undeveloped, it might be wise to bring a picnic and a few beers. You can't take any food or drink down to the actual waterfall, but there are picnic tables at the top level, and plenty of wild forest to explore.



View Buatong Waterfall in a larger map


To get there, you need to take the 1001 Highway, and that is the easiest part of the trip. If you are on the Superhighway, the 1001 turn-off is on the north side of the highway, east of Chang Phuak Road. It's the one that leads to Mae Jo. You stay on the 1001 for pretty much the whole journey. The hard part of this trip is knowing when to turn off to the waterfalls, because contrary to what earlier blog posts and articles might say, the waterfall is NOT well signposted. In fact, when we eventually realised we had already seen and passed the sign to the waterfall road, it was only because there are no other signs for 5km after that one. So if you see a big old sign that is completely washed out and faded, with a few other little indecipherable signs scattered around it, you're almost definitely on the right track. Also, it is the next road after a series of wooden huts selling vegetables and plants, along with a tiny bottle store, and probably a few friendly locals milling about. It's not hard to miss, unless you are notoriously prone to missing all things obvious, like me.


Buatong Waterfall

Sri Lanna National Park
The steps down to the Sticky Falls.
Buatong Waterfall Chiang Mai
Furry ground!


The limestone gives the falls a strange pale colour.


Going further down to the lower levels of the waterfall.

A beautiful place to waste a day away.
It poured down on the day we went, although we were already wet from the waterfall.


After the rain.

11 comments:

  1. I agree. The sign is not well posted so keep your eyes open for group of wooden food stalls when you get close. It'll be the first place that looks like anything after driving for some time.

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  2. Sticky waterfall: an appealing name. I fancy being able to emulate a gecko as well. This place looks wonderful

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  3. Beautiful! Can't believe that crazy downpour at the end.

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  4. Very informative. Thanks

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  5. Thank you!! I went here with friends and used this post to help me get there, it was such a beautiful journey though well worth getting lost ;D

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  6. I used this blog post my first week in Chiang Mai to help me find Sticky Waterfalls, and now it's been one year and I'm using it again. Although this time around I'm good friends with the author!

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  7. Do you know if you can take a pet dog to this waterfall? She is only a puppy :)

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    1. I don't see why that would be a problem! Just be sure to keep her on a leash and possibly watch out for the stray dogs in the area that might want to rough her up. There are always dogs around almost everywhere you go exploring in Chiang Mai, so I really wonder how there'd be a problem with a domesticated dog added to the mix! Good luck =)

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  8. Christopher Turvey2 October 2015 at 20:56

    Hi all, we went today to the sticky waterfalls today, it was awesome, a lovely 'out of the way' waterfall, with the bonus of being able to walk right up it with no algae to slip on! I didnt find it that hard to find to be honest, from chiang mai, Maya mall is a good place to start. Take the Super Highway untill you hit route 1001, from there, its about a half hour drive at 80 kmh.. all on the same road, dont know if this was there at the time of writing this article, but there is a clear Sign saying Bua tong Waterfall, 18km... so just travel 18km until you reach the roadside market mentioned above.. then carry on for 1 km and on your right there is a turning with another big sign saying Bua Tong Waterfall 3 km. simply carry on this road until you come to the site!

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  9. what is the best way to get here? my friends and i do not have a car so would be relying on public transport

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