Cost: 1100 Baht
Time: Half a day
Don’t take valuables, but DO take your GoPro or waterproof camera!
I have been living in Chiang Mai since the beginning of May, and it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve heard excited talk of ‘The Sticky Waterfall’ (or Bua Tong to the locals), a mysterious waterfall that is climbable, no safety gear required. It wasn’t until I saw a friend’s photograph, that I realised that I had actually been before, scoping out the surrounding forest as a site for Geography and Biology study.
Getting to The Sticky Waterfall
The drive to the Sticky Waterfall takes about an hour. If you are a confident biker, you can drive it, but the signposting is not perfect, so I would recommend a songteaw. Try to get a group together to keep the cost down: we went as a group of eight, so it only cost us 140 baht each in a songteaw from outside Maya mall, and the driver will wait for you whilst you are there.
The drive there is beautiful, and takes you up through the orange plantations North of the city. Eventually, you will pull off the main road and take a bumpy five-minute drive into the woods. I chose not to use the word jungle here, because the setting actually reminds me very much of an English country park. Park up, and walk forwards, and you will see the falls. There are toilets, but they are certainly not for the faint-hearted, you should also take some food with you, because there are a couple of little shops selling ice cream, but not anything particularly substantial.
At the Sticky Waterfall
On the left hand side just past the shop, you will see an archway that leads onto the steps that descend to the bottom of the Sticky Waterfall. Follow them all the way down, and you will come out in an area where we left our bags – luckily one of our group had a dry bag that we used for all of our valuables, so don’t take anything that you really care about.
When it comes to climbing, I would recommend doing it barefoot. The rock is a porous type of limestone, so is incredible grippy, and being barefoot not only improves this grip, but also makes the experience ten times more fun! The climb is split into three levels, and in the steeper areas there are ropes to use as support. Be sure to keep in the areas where the rocks are submersed and the water is fast flowing, because the slower flow and exposed rocks is the perfect growing conditions for algae that makes it a bit risky. Also, make sure to use the rope on the final part of the climb, and don’t let go until you are completely up, as it is super slippery up there.
Once you’ve climbed the Sticky Waterfall and you’re feeling suitably proud of yourself and pumped, follow the river upstream, and you will see the beginning of a boardwalk that heads into the forest behind the pools that you will see local kids splashing in. If you follow the boardwalk, it will take you to the source of the water, a crystal clear spring full of fish. If you look closely you can see where the water is coming out of the ground, as it stirs up the sediment. You cannot swim in this pool, as it is considered sacred by the local Buddhists, evident by the shine and also the long sticks and buckets used for retrieving the water to be used in purification ceremonies.
All in all you’ll want a couple of hours for this trip, and sitting in the sun afterwards to dry off can add a little more time. I spent a while sitting is a perfect bum groove, forcing myself to do one of my weekly reality checks and grounding exercises (it’s easy to take life for granted), as I felt the water rush past me and stared out over the treetops of the surrounding jungle – perfect!