Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall – Mae Ho Phra, Thailand - Atlas Obscura

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Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall

Mae Ho Phra, Thailand

You can walk up Thailand’s naturally non-slip waterfall.  


Thailand is full of pretty waterfalls, some big, some small, some in-between. And like most waterfalls in the world, and rivers in general, the wet rocks nearby tend to be slippery, often treacherously so. But one waterfall, Bua Tong, stands out from the crowd for offering a surprising amount of traction.

Bua Tong Waterfall is a small, picturesque waterfall whose milky-white waters tumble through the surrounding jungle. It falls over three tiers, at an angle of about 45 to 50 degrees, over rocks that have a strange bubble-like appearance. If this were any normal waterfall, it would be great to slide down the slippery rocks. But people don’t come to slide down Bua Tong, known as the Sticky Waterfall by locals. Instead, they walk up it.

The waterfall is fed by a calcium-rich spring at the top, which plunges down over the rocks. Over time, mineral deposits have given the rocks a pumice-like texture. So rather than being perilously slippery, the wet rocks along the Bua Tong Waterfall are actually quite rough and therefore easy to walk along—and up—even when wet.

You can walk barefoot over the “sticky” rocks, which are rough but not so rough that they’ll cut or hurt your feet. You still need to watch out for some sneaky rocks that offer less traction and are therefore potentially slippery. These tend to be grayer in color than the surrounding rocks.

The waterfall is a popular spot among locals, especially on the weekend, but is still quite light on tourists. So you can normally make the ascent without any crowds, enjoying the refreshing water and the jungle scenery as you walk up the Sticky Waterfall. And if you feel like walking some more afterward, there’s a trail from near the top of the falls to Nam Phu Chet Si, a sacred spring and shrine in the jungle. Its supposedly healing waters contain the same calcium carbonate that made Bua Tong sticky.

Know Before You Go

Bua Tong Waterfall is located about 20 miles north (as the crow flies) of Chiang Mai, which is the largest city in northern Thailand and the capital of Chiang Mai Province. To get to the waterfall from Chiang Mai, head north along highway 1001. Stay on the highway and after about an hour and a half you’ll see a sign telling you to turn right for Bua Tong Waterfall. After that it’s a short drive to the falls. You can get there easily by taxi, motorbike or tour. There is no entrance fee to the Sticky Waterfall. Opening hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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