Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai

Thailand is well-known for its tiger sanctuaries.  They're essentially tiger zoos that allow you to interact with the animals.  It's something that has been on my Thailand Bucket List, things to do before I leave the country.  I had the chance to visit the Tiger Temple when I was visiting Kanchanaburi in October 2011.  However, there's controversy over whether the tigers at this facility are drugged (to make them docile enough to be around humans without eating them).  After doing some research, we concluded it probably wasn't very ethical, and decided to hold off.  

I recently got my second chance while in Chiang Mai for the Christmas marathon.  Chiang Mai is home to the Tiger Kingdom.  Tiger Kingdom is humane in its training and treatment of the tigers and there are far less complaints about it, at least that we could find.  I only have a few months left in Thailand so this would be my last chance to wrestle a tiger!

In Chiang Mai, tuk-tuk drivers are constantly offering to cart people out to the Tiger Kingdom-- it's probably a good 20 km outside of town.  Britt and I decided to do it on our own.  We rented a motorbike (200 baht/day) from the guest house, grabbed a map, in after an easy 30 minute straight-shot out of the city... Hellooo Tiger Kingdom!

Upon buying an admission ticket, we picked from the various packages.  We chose to do one session with the big cats and one session with the small cats (unfortunately, the baby cubs weren't available).  We also splurged and paid for a photographer for each cage.  The total was 1239 baht/each ($40 USD/each)-- well worth it. 

I grabbed a beer and waited for our turn to get in the cage.  After 30 minutes, we entered the tigers' den.  The trainers gave us a few obvious instructions on what not to do (i.e. don't touch his face!).  We got to spend a few minutes with each tiger.  They really are just big lazy cats, laying around, wanting to be pet.  It was cool posing with them but they weren't quite as active as I was hoping.  First, we got to see the big Tigers.

"I call big spoon!"

Luckily, I remembered to bring my Santa hat and got some pics for my annual Thailand Christmas photo.  
You've been a naughty tiger this year!

At first I was nervous about even petting them, but after seeing how docile they were, I was surprised with how much I could get away with.  

I guess I got a little too comfortable.  At one point and I gave a nudge to one of the tigers to try and get him to play.  He snapped his neck around and gave me the "eye of the tiger", reminding me that he could easily go Siegfried on my ass any time he wanted.  I thought for a moment about maintaining the stare for my Alpha position.  On second thought, this was tiger.  A freaking tiger.  He won.  Respect.

"Eye of the Tiger"
The smaller tigers had some more energy, but were still kind of boring.

However... it was much easier to assert my dominance with the smaller ones.

Overall, it was a great experience and one of the best photo ops ever.  I'd highly recommend hiring the photographer-- we got well over 100 awesome photos put on a CD.  Also, if you're allergic to cats, beware.  The fact that tigers are just really, REALLY big cats escaped me, and after rolling around with them in their cages, I was sneezing and itching for days!  Other than that, the Tiger Kingdom was great.  The tigers are really well trained and while there's no way to be absolutely sure, I don't think that they use drugs here.  To cap it off, in one of the cages they even had a Liger, my favorite animal hybrid!  It's a little expensive, but well worth it.  If you're in Chiang Mai and have the time, check it out!

"Take that, Richard Parker!"



  1. Blake,this is awesome!!!I was just searching around Google and gound your blog!!I'd be scared to death by the way,but those pictures are amazing... We were in Thailand at the same time this year,I'm looking for going back in feb 14 and was wondering if chiang Mai is worth a trip.can you recommend it?

    1. Thanks for reading and, YES, I definitely recommend Chiang Mai! The "Old City" is awesome. There's tons to do in or around the city (trekking, tiger kingdom, cooking classes, bicycle/motorbike tours, etc.). And the Khao Soi Gai ("Chiang Mai Curry") is one of the best Thai dishes I've had. It's def one of my favorite places.

    2. Salut blake, dit je voulais te demander combien de temps ou de jours a ton avis , faut rester a chiang mai?

    3. Hi Jamal, I've been to Chiang Mai several times and I usually spend about a week there. If you're going for you first time, I'd recommend spending at least 3-5 days because there's so much to do. There's the Tiger Kingdom, there's great trekking, sight seeing, and lots of great places to eat, drink, and meet people around the city. Chok Dee (good luck)!

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  4. They ARE tranquilised- thats why they look so lazy.

  5. pathetic man... The tigers are drugged and kept there for people like you to pose in photographs with... Disgusting