Mae Ya Waterfall (Namtok Mae Ya)

Doi Inthanon National Park / Mae Chaem District, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 1.5
Mae Ya Waterfall

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Mae Ya Waterfall was definitely one of the better waterfalls we saw in Thailand, and it seemed to us to be the pride of the Chiang Mai province. It certainly surprised Julie and I with its enormous size, which our guide said was about 260m tall and up to 100m wide (though I've seen more modest claims that its height was more like 40m).

And while Thi Lo Su tended to get a good deal of votes for Thailand's most beautiful waterfall, Julie and I actually thought Mae Ya was every bit as good. Our guide, who happened to be from nearby Chom Thong Village, thought this was better than Thi Lo Su, but there might be a little bit of a local bias. Nonetheless, we thought highly enough of this waterfall that we put it into our Top 10 List of Best Asian Waterfalls.

We've been told that this was supposedly the tallest waterfall in the country (we're not sure about that assertion), but it definitely held its own in terms of size. However, what really made this waterfall stand out was the massive triangular fan shape and the multitude of stepping drops that gave it character and texture (especially if photographed in long exposure). We saw plenty of people who came with big cameras so I think it was safe to say this was also a photographer's favorite.

In addition to photographers, we saw many other people simply content to bring their families and play in the water further downstream of the falls. Given that it was mid-afternoon when we showed up (around 2:15pm) and there were lots of people here, the best viewing spots at the end of the trail had limited space. Thus, in order to avoid having people inadvertently photobombing your shot, some patience was required in order to get that desired photograph, especially for those long exposures would require a tripod to be set up.

The walk was a mere 600m from the car park though we easily spent nearly an hour here for the hiking and relaxing. Part of the reason why we stayed as long as we did was to wait for the sun to hide behind the mountain so we would be able to take that long exposure photograph without washing out any part of the photo that the sun was still shining on. That probably didn't happen until some time close to 3pm during our December 30, 2008 visit.

As for the path itself, it pretty much followed the river so we could see from its size that the waterfall probably had year-round flow. Meanwhile, the car park was decked out with a large row of tented cantines and markets. The top part of Mae Ya Waterfall was visible from here, which suggested to us that there was some merit to our belief that it was big. Of course, it also hastened us to get onto the walk with plenty of excitement.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Our first look at the gorgeous Mae Ya Waterfall.  Note how we had to wait out the sunlight in order to take a long exposure photographOur first look at the gorgeous Mae Ya Waterfall. Note how we had to wait out the sunlight in order to take a long exposure photograph
Further up the mountain of Doi Inthanon from the Mae Ya Waterfall was where we could get panoramas like thisFurther up the mountain of Doi Inthanon from the Mae Ya Waterfall was where we could get panoramas like this
This silver chedi was one of two main chedis at the summit of Doi Inthanon. It was very busy during our visit as many Thais come here on holiday to sightsee and worshipThis silver chedi was one of two main chedis at the summit of Doi Inthanon. It was very busy during our visit as many Thais come here on holiday to sightsee and worship
At one of the gates in the main city center of Chiang Mai (where we had spent at least three nights) was our base for Northern Thailand as it was roughly a 90-minute drive from Doi Inthanon.At one of the gates in the main city center of Chiang Mai (where we had spent at least three nights) was our base for Northern Thailand as it was roughly a 90-minute drive from Doi Inthanon.
Looking out towards Doi Inthanon from the road to the Mae Ya WaterfallLooking out towards Doi Inthanon from the road to the falls

At the car park for the Mae Ya WaterfallAt the car park for the falls

Sign indicating that it was a mere 600m to the Mae Ya WaterfallSign indicating that it was a mere 600m to the waterfall. Note the concrete surface attesting to how developed the trail was, at least at the start of the trail.

Looking downstream over some cascade on the way to the fallsLooking downstream over some cascade on the way to the falls

Julie having a seat and checking out the impressive Mae Ya WaterfallJulie having a seat and checking out the impressive Mae Ya Waterfall

With limited viewing space at the end of the trail, I tried to see how else I could capture the Mae Ya WaterfallWith limited viewing space at the end of the trail, I tried to see how else I could capture the Mae Ya Waterfall

This was about as close to the waterfall as I was willing to set up the tripod for this photo of the Mae Ya WaterfallThis was about as close to the waterfall as I was willing to set up the tripod for this photo of the waterfall

We saw quite a few people enjoying the water downstream of the Mae Ya WaterfallWe saw quite a few people enjoying the water downstream of the Mae Ya Waterfall


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep from the lower portion of the falls to the narrow top of the falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The falls is about 14km from Chom Thong Village at the end of a scenic road that teased us with distant views of the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest point. Note that the road to Mae Ya was different than the road leading up to the summit of the Doi Inthanon summit (both split from each other around the Chom Thong Village).

Since we were on an escorted tour, we noted that it was also about a 50km (30-minute car ride) from the Mae Klang Waterfall, which was the attraction we came from to get here. It took us about 90 minutes to ride back to Chiang Mai from this waterfall.

For geographical context, Chiang Mai was in Northern Thailand roughly 700km north of Bangkok. It would take around 9 hours to drive or a little over an hour to fly between the cities.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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