TAT imposes Tipsy Tubing ban over the River Pai

The tourism authority has no choice but to enforce safety regulations

The viral popularity of tubing down the Pai River in Mae Hong Son province has proved much too much for the provincial office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The authority has imposed a Tipsy Tubing ban, putting a quick stop to all that highly profitable fun.

The authority claims to be doing nothing more but enforcing safety regulations and “protecting visitors from price gouging and shoddy services.”

Phanuwat Khatnak, director of TAT’s Mae Hong Son office said…

“Operators must stop tubers from drinking alcohol while floating down the river.”

@travelguide210123 Tipsy Tubing in pai! #pai #tipsytubing #friends #bagpack #asia #thailand #fyp #drunk #party #travelling #love ♬ Don’t Stop the Party (feat. TJR) – Pitbull

Ultimate backpacker attraction ended by Tipsy Tubing ban

The prohibition of drinking while tubing was made last year, but enforcement will become strict due to the “surging numbers” of tubers, Phanuwat said. And there seems little doubt that the action will put paid to the surging numbers, at least.

Operators are also required to provide a minimum of one lifeguard for every 10 tubers, creating valuable jobs in the community, Phanuwat said, without mentioning who came up with such fine rules in the first place.

“Tipsy tubing”, the leisure activity of floating down the river in an inner tube, is described by some travel websites as “the ultimate backpacker attraction.” It’s a very widely advertised and transparently popular afternoon activity. A recent viral video shows hundreds of backpackers tubing down the shallow waterway, many of them drinking!

Tubing on Pai River is nothing new, but its popularity has grown fast among backpackers since borders opened last year. Tubing is only permitted from November to May when the river’s level is low – about waist level – and safe for tubing. Tubing is banned during the rainy season, when the depth can reach three metres.

Tipsy Tubing ban mirrors lofty TAT aspiration

Leila + Joshua | A Waterfall Wedding - Jasmine. A Photography

Phanuwat perhaps sees the activity as perhaps not quite good enough for TAT’s lofty aspirations for the district. TAT’s dreams are devoted to local cuisine, festivals and wellness destinations like hot springs. Flotillas of happily overspending foreign drunks are not part of those plans.

“We have a variety of destinations, including waterfalls, hot springs, and [mountain] viewpoints. There are also many activities for digital nomads, workation travellers, and hybrid workers,” Phanuwat said.

The official seemed oblivious to the apparent truth that many visitors are more interested in Tipsy Tubing than in watching crowds of other visitors photographing themselves in front of waterfalls, or drinking slightly better coffee in a glorified internet cafe.

Hot News

Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.