Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai

Waterfall in the forest

Walk up and down these Sticky Waterfalls in Chiang Mai!

Table of Contents

The Bua Tong Waterfall-Chet Si Fountain National Park

The official name of the Bua tong Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai is the Bua Tong Waterfall-Chet Si Fountain National Park (Thai: อุทยานแห่งชาติน้ำตกบัวตอง-น้ำพุเจ็ดสี). The waterfall is located within the boundaries of the Sri Lanna National Park, in Mae Taeng district, Chiang Mai province.

In the past decade this waterfall has become one of the most popular attractions of Chiang Mai. It is located on the road from Chiang Mai to Phrao, about a 45 km drive from Chiang Mai. Many foreign tourists visit the falls by motorbike. During weekends it can become quite crowded with local tourists but I have never found it overcrowded.

Waterfall in the forest Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai
The Bua Tong Waterfall

A fantastic waterfall not far from Chiang Mai

When I visited the Bua Tong waterfall about 15 years ago it was not yet known as the Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai. In those days very few people visited this lovely place. Only during the weekend did locals enjoy a picnic here and take a dip in the sparkling blue water of the falls.

I remember that there were no facilities, no visitor center, and no wooden walkways and staircase. One the below photo that dates back to 2010 we see people descend the waterfall fully dressed. Our guide Pornchai is the person on the right. I believe that social media played an important part in the current popularity of this waterfall. I don’t know who first came up with the nickname “Sticky Waterfalls”…

Waterfall with tourists Sticky waterfalls Chiang Mai
The Bua Tong Waterfall in 2010 before it became popular

The Legend of the Bua Tong Waterfall and the Chet Si Fountain

According to information at the waterfall, there is a legend behind the origin of the waterfall. Centuries ago two princesses of the Lanna Kingdom escaped to this area after invaders had killed their parents. A loyal soldier took them in his care and brought them to a cave in this area. The names of the princesses were Bua Tong and Bua Kaew. More people escaped to their safe hideout but there was no water. The princess then prayed to God and asked for water. He then ordered Phra Mae Thorani, the Goddess of water, to create underground rivers.

These rivers surfaced at a place, which is now called Chet Si Fountain, the “fountain of seven colors” (น้ำพุเจ็ดสี). The fountain is only a short walk away from the waterfall. A nice wooden walkway leads up to the fountain or, better, well. The water of the fountain formed the waterfall, which is called after Princess Bua Tong.

Holy site Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai
Nam Phu Chet Si fountain or well

The Bua Tong Temple

Just before you reach the waterfall you pass the Bua Tong Temple and Cave on the right-hand side of the road. Both are worth a visit. The temple has a nice chedi or pagoda and an assembly hall and several secondary buildings with statues. The most interesting is a sala with a bamboo-woven Buddha image, similar to the largest bamboo-woven Buddha in Wat Phra San in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province. When I visited the temple in August 2022, there was only one monk living at the temple.

The Bua Tong Cave

A long blue-colored Naga staircase leads to the small cave that contains a gilded Buddha statue and several smaller statues. There is a strong smell of guano, excrement of bats, in the cave but I didn’t see any. This is the cave where the princesses Bua Tong and Bua Kaew took refuge. After the princesses passed away people named the cave the Bua Tong Cave. The scenery around the temple and the cave is stunningly beautiful, especially in the rainy season. When I visited there were quite a few visitors at the waterfall but no one else at the cave and temple.

Why are the Sticky Waterfalls so popular?

As far as I know, these falls are the only place where you can safely walk through the cascade, from level to level. There are four levels. Park authorities have fixed ropes to facilitate walking from level to level. Young and old visitors use these to enjoy the refreshing experience of hiking the falls. The surface of the cascades is tufa, which is a kind of limestone. I am not a chemist but I understand that certain minerals from room temperature water create this kind of limestone. It is chalky and not slippery.

Apart from this, the setting of this waterfall is very beautiful and peaceful. It is about three kilometers from the main road so it is very quiet. Park authorities control the area around the waterfall so there are no rowdy scenes with people abusing alcohol and so on. This and the fact that the waterfall is safe to visit make it an ideal destination for families with kids.

people climbing a waterfall Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai
Tourists on the Sticky Waterfalls in 2018

How to get to the Sticky Waterfalls

The Buatong Waterfalls aka the Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai are almost 60 km from downtown Chiang Mai. From Thapae road in central Chiang Mai, it takes about one hour and fifteen minutes. The shortest route is via road no 107 to Chiang Dao and then turn right at the intersection with roads no 1095 and 1414. Road no 1001 is quieter but still partly two-lane so it takes a tad longer. Both roads I consider dangerous for motorbikes. We recommend visiting the falls in combination with other activities in the area to make it a full day trip that is well spent.

Map of route

Facts about Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai

The most important fact is that there is as yet no entrance fee to the waterfall, which is unusual at national parks in Thailand. The Bua Tong waterfall is open every day from 0800 until 1700. Over time national park authorities have constructed very good facilities and there is ample parking space. There is a small visitor center as well. You can store luggage for 30THB and rent a locker to store valuables for 30THB.

National Park rangers have installed ropes along the falls to make walking up and down the cascades as safe as possible and there are always park rangers and staff around. It is very safe and well organized. Over time they have added information boards and more signage.

rules and regulations
The rules of the Bua Tong Waterfall National Park

Visiting the Sticky Waterfalls with us

The Sticky Waterfall Chiang Mai is located in the Sri Lanna National Park, a 1048 sq. km protected area with lush valleys and mountains. Besides the Buatong Waterfall, the park features other waterfalls, caves, nature trails, and the Mae Ngat Lake, created by the Mae Ngat dam. We include a visit to the Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai in some of our trekking tours such as the multi-activity tour Hilltribe Culture, Ethical Elephants and Sticky Waterfalls. A “drive-by” visit we have included on the last day of one of our expeditions: the Great Doi Inthanon to Pai Adventure. The falls are also a great destination for families. We have included it in the trip Family Fun with Elephants and Sticky Waterfalls.

Children on a waterfall Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai
The sticky waterfalls is great for kids!

The Sticky Waterfalls Chiang Mai feature in these Green Trails tours