Chiang Mai is a pearl of Thai north. It's known to be less touristic and cheaper than south of the country but it can still be expensive for long term travellers on tight budget. City is surrounded by amazing landscape which is mostly protected like national parks. As a consequence you have to pay the entrance fee. 200 baht here, 200 there and you can easily exceed your budget.
This article explain what is still possible to do and see around Chiang Mai without entrance fees.
1. Grand Canyon and Cock fights
Let's start with the least attractive. There is A grand canyon also in Thailand but for difference with the one in Arizona this one is not formed by the river. It looks like it used to be a gravel excavation area which got filled with water. The walls looks amazing and remainds of real Grand Canyon. Unfortunately local government took the opportunity and organized a part of it as aqua park. Now it's surrounded by fence but you can still enjoy a nice view from a restaurant with a tarrace overlooking it. Here are directions how to get there.
Not far away is an arena for cock fights. If you're lucky you might pass it when there are fights happening. When I was there they were and it was saturday afternoon...
Easiest and cheapest way to get there is by bicycles. You can rent them for 40 to 50 baht per 24 hours.
Then you just follow the road 108 to the south until the crossroads with outer ring road 121, where you should turn right.
After something more than a kilometer you will get the canal where road 121 stops and it continue as road 1269. Turn left there and go along road 3035 by the canal.
After 4km road 3035 turns slightly left, but you turn right. The road will start to go a bit uphill but turn left on tbe first crossroads. You'll already see the signs for Grand Canyon.
Just continue on that road and you'll see a Cock Fights Arena on your right (marked as A on maps below.)
If you just continue straight on the road for 1km more you will get to next crossroads with signs showing the way to Tuang Thong Restaurant. This is the one with nice view...
2. Huay Keaw and Pha Ngerb waterfalls
Huay Keaw and Pha Ngerb waterfalls lie somehow inside or on the limits of yhe Doi Suthep-Pui National park. However it's still possible to see them avoiding paying entrance fee for whole park.
Entrance is located less than 4 kilometres from the old city walls so the distance is manageable on foot.
After passing the ZOO the road starts to go uphill. Soon you will get to a big crossroads with signs telling you to turn left for Huay Keaw.
From there just follow the one and only way. Already very close to the waterfall you will get to the point where paths to Huay Keaw and Pha Ngerb separates. Ways are clearly marked with sign posts. First you'll probably want to turn right to the Huay Keaw which is on !y map marked with Wang Buabaan.
Then just return to that point the same way and continue towards Pha Ngerb. The way gets steeper and leads you passing a smaller shrine (marked with grey fortress sign on map bellow) and Water Conservasion Department Pavilion (grey picnic sign on map below.) Last one is on the other side of the river/stream and it's a nice place to rest and admire the view.
After gaining new strenghts continue the way. The way flattens here a bit so it's an easy jungle walk to Pha Ngerb.
3. Buatong A.K.A. Sticky waterfall
But the best attraction around Chiang Mai is a hidden jewel. It's not even in the common touristic offer and this makes it free of admision fees and crowds. It's called Sticky waterfall and if you're question is why sticky? Because you can actually climb on it! Yes, I'm not joking.
Lime stone does not only make rocks white and nice looking in contrast with green jungle but also not slippery. It takes some time before you adjust to the fact that you can step on the wet rock whithout the fear of falling.
So, how to get there? Unfortunatelly waterfall is located around 60 kilometres away from Chiang Mai to the north. The cheapest way to get there is by motorbike. You can rent it for 99 baht per 24 hours. You'll need around 3 litres of gasoline for the way there and back and still stay on the safe side. Expect to pay around 25 baht per litre.
So altogether 175 baht or less than 90 baht per person if it's two of you. But in any case is still cheaper than most of the national parks entrance fees.
The directions are quite straight forward. Just get to the main road 1001 towards Phrao and follow it for about 50 kilometres. Then you arrive to the Y-crossroads. Not very clearly visible sign shows the way right to Buatong.
This road is an experience by it's own. It's narrow and offers very scenic views in all directions. Just don't look around too much - the road is not in perfect condition and you can easily hit a huge hole in asphalt.
After 3 kilometres or so you will arrive to the parking area. Leave a bike there and head just further straight on foot. Waterfall is just a couple of meters in front of you.
You actually approch the waterfall on it's top. So you can descend down to it's base by the stairs. There are two floors where you can step on the waterfall and climb it's way to the top.
But waterfall is not only interesting place around. Just a couple of minutes away is a spring with amazingly blue water. It's located by the smaller shrine and it's even less crowded than the waterfall. To access it just find the way left of the waterfall. It's clearly marked with signpost: Nam Phu Chet Si but on the map above it's shown as Yetsee hot spring.
Last update on: 10/3/2016