Andrew climbing the Sticky Waterfall, Thailand

The Sticky Waterfall, Freedom and Motorbikes

The wind battered my face as the city streets disappeared and we zoomed towards the mountains. Slowly, familiar motorbike-riding aches started to set into my body and I tried not to think about the purple scar on my knee and the crash in Vietnam that had caused it. After over a year, we were back on a motorbike embracing the freedom of being able to take a random Wednesday off work to explore. Destination: The Sticky Waterfall.

Us at the Sticky Waterfalls, in Thailand.

The most Precious Commodity of all: Freedom

I almost take freedom for granted these days because for years we’ve spoiled ourselves with it. Since we left the UK in 2013, Monday mornings haven’t been accompanied by the sinking dread of having to haul ourselves to work and everyday has felt like a weekend. When you travel, the days of the week become largely irrelevant, you don’t wish the time away until you have a holiday or a day off, because you’re filling your life with the things you really want to do.

Night-time view of Chiang Mai

This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from travel, that this kind of freedom really matters to me. Having control over my time and how, when and where I work is part of the key to my happiness. This doesn’t mean that we’re lazy; untold hours of work have gone into running this blog, making money online and teaching abroad since we left the UK. In fact, right now we’re putting in longer hours than ever on our digital work, but it’s worth it because we hope it will lead us to a future life of location and work independence.

Still, after too many days inside in front of our laptops, we decided to take advantage of our lifestyle perks and head out of Chiang Mai to explore the Thai countryside, and what better way to embrace our freedom than on a motorbike trip?

Renting a Motorbike in Chiang Mai

When we lived in Hanoi, riding a motorbike was part of the fabric of our daily life. We relied on our battered Little Cub scooter to take us everywhere and Andrew became a pro at navigating his way around the city and obeying the crazy unspoken Vietnamese driving rules. Despite this, I never felt quite as safe after our motorbike crash in Tam Coc and I’m definitely more wary of a bike’s power now I know what it feels like to fall off and I’ve experienced the agony of road rash.

Andrew on a motorbike in Chiang Mai

Still, motorbikes are second nature in Asia and there’s an unmistakable joy in the freedom of being able to hop on and whiz away on an independent adventure. To minimise the risks involved, we made sure to research the most reputable motorbike companies in Chiang Mai and we found out that one of the best places to rent a bike from was Mr Mechanic. The company has good reviews, well-maintained bikes and they supply insurance and helmets. We met up with fellow British travel bloggers James and Sarah and decided to rent one bike per couple from Mr Mechanic.

James and Sarah riding a motorbike in Chiang Mai

James and Sarah heading to the Sticky Waterfalls

To rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai from Mr Mechanic you’ll need your passport, or a copy plus 3,000 TBH (£70).  we chose 125cc bikes which cost 200 THB (£4.50) per day plus 50 THB (£1.10) per bike for insurance. The insurance policy covered breakdowns within the city between 8am and 6pm; if you’re outside the city they’ll fully reimburse you for repairs. There’s a 3,000 THB excess for accidents on a 125cc bike and a 10,000 THB capped fee if the bike is stolen. We have our own private travel and medical insurance, but the Mr Mechanic policy also covered medical expenses of up to 30,000 THB (£660) for the driver and 50,000 (£1,100) for passengers and third parties.

Exploring Bua Thong, the Sticky Waterfall

Getting back on a bike after over a year felt strangely normal and after we’d left the traffic of Chiang Mai behind we relaxed onto long, relatively-quiet stretches of road. Officially known as Bua Thong, the Sticky Waterfall is located around 55 kilometres away from Chiang Mai near Sri Lanna National Park and it took us nearly two hours and a couple of wrong turns to get there.

Sticky Waterfalls, Thailand

Are you wondering why the waterfalls are known as Sticky? Well, mineral deposits in the water have given the rocks a grippy surface, so your skin can easily latch on, despite the cascading water. This makes Bua Thong one of the most unique waterfalls we’ve visited in South-East Asia because you can actually walk up it, Spiderman-style, without slipping over. Well, supposedly.

Andrew climbing the Sticky Waterfall, Thailand

Perhaps the waterfall’s famous non-slip reputation lulled us into a false sense of security, but we’d barely been there 10 minutes before Andrew slipped over, banana-skin style, and landed hard on his lower back on the rocks. Shortly after, I did exactly the same thing. We weren’t the only klutzes around either, as we saw several other people take a tumble during our visit.

The cascading Bua Thong Waterfall, Thailand

Before you start thinking that the waterfall isn’t so sticky after all, I should point out that the rocks were extremely grippy in most places under the main water flow. From the bottom level of the falls, Andrew grabbed a guide rope and effortlessly scaled the steepest section of the waterfall; it seemed to be the rocks in shallower areas which had developed a slight algae coating and become perilous. So, be warned!

Rediscovering Doi Suthep

On our way back to Chiang Mai we took a detour up Doi Suthep mountain to the famous temple, which we can just spot from our apartment. As the road spiralled upwards the air cooled and I begged Andrew to brake harder at each turn until we finally reached the familiar dragon statue steps leading up to the golden pagoda.

The steps leading up to Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

It was late afternoon as we made our way around the edge of the ornate cluster of buildings. Of all the visits we’ve made to Doi Suthep over the years, I think this was the least crowded and most peaceful. Although covered by a typical Chiang Mai mist, the view of the city below still looked immense as the sun faded from the sky and lights blinked on in Thailand’s second-largest metropolis below us.

Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

We slipped off our shoes to enter the main part of the temple, which you should circle quietly three times in an anti-clockwise direction to show respect. The focal point is a golden peak, which is surrounded by dozens of gold, stone and jade Buddha statues. Buddhist worshippers carried prayer cards and flowers as they circled, while others lit incense and kneeled to pray. Monks in orange robes and temple dogs padded softly by.

Buddha and Pagoda at Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

As our visit drew to an end, the sound of a gong broke the peace, calling the monks to their evening chant. We couldn’t stay to watch as we had to make our way down the hair-raising bends back to the city before darkness completely set in. As we spiralled our way back down I caught glimpses of Chiang Mai’s glittering lights below us and felt a wave of exhausted gratitude to be here, living this life of freedom in Thailand.

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8 Comments
  • Loes
    Posted at 10:54h, 23 September Reply

    I would love to go there one day! It sounds adventurous 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:37h, 24 September Reply

      You would have loved it Loes, I can just imagine you bounding up the waterfall and taking loads of photos of course! 🙂

  • [email protected]
    Posted at 16:57h, 23 September Reply

    We really enjoyed our day out with you and love this write up. Such fun!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:36h, 24 September Reply

      Thanks James, we had a great time too 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 20:49h, 23 September Reply

    Brian and I love our motorbike road trips, but like you I always feel a little uneasy since we also have had a accident many years ago in London. But the sense of freedom that it gives can be quite addictive. The Sticky waterfalls looked amazing and a lot of fun…minus the slippery and not so sticky bits. Your photos brought back great memories of Doi Suthep, it was my favourite temple in Chiang Mai. Sounds like you are settled and fully embracing this new life chapter, so pleased for you?
    Gilda Baxter recently posted..A Weekend in East Devon and Our First Airbnb ExperienceMy Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:38h, 24 September Reply

      Hi Gilda, I hope it wasn’t a bad accident you had in London? It really sticks with you, doesn’t it? Glad you loved Doi Suthep too, we want to go back one evening to watch the monks chant and see the temple all lit up; it’s one of our favourites in Chiang Mai too. Yes, we’re all settled in and are happy to be here 🙂

  • Victoria @The British Berliner
    Posted at 17:10h, 27 September Reply

    Yep! That’s what a life of travel, being a digital nomad, or simply being an expat, is all about!
    I looooove Thailand especially in the North. We also went to Doi Suthep. It was fiercely raining, but that didn’t stop us lol!

    Yippee!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..9 traditional East European things to eat in Slovakia!My Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:17h, 28 September Reply

      So true Victoria 🙂

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