I try to be as open and honest as I can about our travels. Hopefully, you’ve already noticed that for yourselves… You’ll find a number of posts on this site discussing the regrets and misadventures we encounter. The majority of them happen to be from our month in Thailand (and Laos). Does this mean that trip was a failure? Certainly not. In fact, it still remains one of my all-time most favorite voyages. Some of the highlights, like playing with baby tigers in Chiang Mai, more than makeup for all the broken down buses and dodgy hotels.
If you think regular kittens are cute (and even if you don’t), let me tell you, tiger cubs are a whole new level of furry cuddly cuteness!
Chiang Mai wasn’t even initially on our itinerary. Until we learned that’s where the Tiger Kingdom was located, that is. The Tiger Kingdom in Phuket wasn’t open at that time, so heading up north was our only opportunity to connect with these loveable felines in a chain-free environment.
We had the choice of interacting with four different sizes of tigers (small, medium, big and giant). We already saw medium and big tigers in Kanchanaburi at the awful Tiger Temple. And our funds were beginning to dwindle at this point in the trip, so we opted to play exclusively with the baby tigers.
It cost each of us 500 baht ($15 CAD at the time) for 15 minutes in the playpen. You could spend that 15 minutes playing and petting the cubs, or have a staff member come in and take pictures for you.
We couldn’t quite decide which we’d prefer, so we chose to do both. 15 minutes of playtime while taking our own photos, and 15 minutes with the staff photographer. The two of us were fine sharing the CD of images afterward, so they let us split that additional cost instead of charging it individually.
I never once felt unsafe in the tiger pen. Mind you, one of the cubs did bite me. But it was more of a playful nibble, not so much an “I want to eat your flesh” bite.
We were reassured over and over that the animals were NOT drugged. If they happened to be asleep, that’s because they’re cats. And cats nap. You’ve seen tigers at the zoo lounging around during the day right?
We didn’t get that icky feeling like we were being lied to the same way we did in Kanchanaburi. The tigers here had plenty of spunk and energy and didn’t appear to be under the influence of docile-behavior-inducing drugs whatsoever.
It’s still a moral dilemma to decide if you should visit this place, though. At the end of the day, the call is yours to make. There are animal rights activists, and animal lovers in general, who feel the Tiger Kingdom is not an ethical establishment. From what I personally witnessed, though, it was well above board.
But it has been a few years since I was there, so please do your own research before taking my word for it. Just know that I would never intentionally go, nor would I recommend going, to a place that wasn’t legit and upstanding.
But unless you’ve stumbled upon this blog for the first time now, you should already know that 😉