I really don’t want to tell you what you are about to learn, really it should stay a secret, only passed around by “those that know”, and just kept it hush hush. Knowing this is not the “Lonely Planet”, Frommers,trip advisor et al, and since you are smart enough to be reading NorthernThailand.com, I guess we’ll let you sneak into the inside group, but keep your mouth shut, and don't post it anywhere ok? Figure yourself lucky to be an insider.
This is the waterfall that the park service and tour guides forgot. I really don’t know who “owns” it, or how it slipped under the radar, but there are no guards at the entry to collect your inflated Farang entry fee, just a little shack selling snacks, a nice bathroom, a small Wat (temple), and that’s about it. It looks like there might be a bit of camping going on over on the side, and there are some ladies that sweep the dirt and pick up the trash, so it has a nice homey feel. The thing you won’t see are crowds of tourists piling out of all the buses lined up, or dodge through flocks of Tuk Tuks glommed together like up at Doi Suthep, nope, you are as close to untouched jungle that you will find without having to hike a mile or three.
So grab your mats, your water, and all your snacks, hey this is Thailand, and other goodies you think you might need and let’s go. Some other things you might think about is a change of clothes, at least for the kids, if you really decide to get wet, but at least wear shorts/cutoffs, and if your feet are tender bring shoes or flipflops that you can get wet.
Drive up Highway 1001 from Chiang Mai, through Maejo and keep going on up the valley. At around milepost 34 or so, you will leave the valley and start into the hills. About this time you will see a sign saying Buotong Waterfall, 18 km., that’s where you are headed. You will be going up and down and around but the valley will stay on the left side. Then the road will turn to the right and start heading up the hill. There will be a bright pink house on the left that the wife made me visit once and a little market just on past. A commercial teak farm is on the left. This is just before you are going to make a right turn onto the small road that dead ends at the waterfall. There is a big wooden sign that clues you to the fact that you are on the right road. Now, no matter what, assuming you made the correct turn, keep on going through square corners and speed bumps till everything ends in a parking area under a canopy of trees. There is a nice grassy area you can picnic on and lay out the mat, the snacks, and the other stuff you brought. Last time I was there, a Turkish family had hauled in a charcoal barbeque and practically a whole little kitchen and were fire roasting tomatoes and green and red chilies to go with their barbecued chicken. It drove me nuts reminding me of my travels through the American southwest. When all was said and done I was munching on fire roasted chilies and tomatoes with cucumbers, lemon and salt. But that’s just another day at our secret waterfall.
A crystal clear stream boils out of a big spring that we will hike to later, but right now we are headed to the waterfall. The stream goes under a little bridge with safe clean swimming holes for the kids, and then goes over the edge. Instead of the typical shear drop, it cascades down the hill over beautiful cream colored, convoluted flowstone that you can walk on. The top can be slippery in a few places, but once onto the waterfall you can walk up and down and stick like a limpet, which is cool.
Instead of going down the waterfall at this point, let’s head down the cement stairway to your right. It ends in midair where the money either ran out or the contractor wanted a new Isuzu pickup, so you will hop to the dirt and go down the rather steep but doable path to the first level. The water is bubbling and dancing over the flowstone, just calling you to come and play. Sorry, but it just turns you into a kid, forget how old others say you are, you are a kid for right now. Some days it will be packed, and others you may be the only one there. The water is warm, and you can lie down and let it splash over you, or you can climb up and down the smooth rolling stone.
There are three cascade sections and you are at the bottom of the first. Follow the stream on down a little ways and you will be standing over a steep drop, and when you peer over the edge you can see down to the next level. It’s a little tricky to go down this one, but there is a little “granny” stream to the left I like to take that, and it is safe and easy. The third and last section ends in the stream at the bottom.
Spend time playing, climbing, and just horsing around till you are ready to go back on up. This time forget the trail, and head right on up the falls for all three sections. You will get a little adrenaline rush, there will be a grin a mile wide on your face, and you will be glad that you went ahead and climbed it.
Treat the falls with respect. Most countries would not let you walk on it, and if they did, it would soon be torn up and disfigured. You have a once in a lifetime chance here, so leave it like you found it for the next person.
Now back on top, head on up the trail to the spring, it is cement railroad ties all the way, ending at a stunning spring surrounded by an awesome vine covered forest. There are poles with dippers that the kids will use for pouring over each other, especially if things are hot out. If you are burned out with Songkran and can’t even stand the thought, you can have your own civilized version of Songkran each time you are here. This one will actually be fun every time .
You will notice that people are affected by the falls and drop the sour looks and for a few moments are happy and friendly. I haven’t checked to see how long it lasts, but I know the kids are easier to deal with for a little while. So whenever they twist my arm to go, I am usually up for it.
There you go, now you know the secret. Don’t spread it around to too many people or it might change, but enjoy.
Namtok Buatong Lae Namphu Chet Si Forest Park
For overnight stay, permission from the officer of the forest park directly.
Please bring your own tents and food. Any further information, please contact
Namtok Buatong Lae Namphu Chet Si Forest Park
Mae Hor Pra Sub-district, A. Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50150