Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai was up there on the list of my favorite things we did in Thailand. Actually, it was my second favorite behind our road trip. If you're a reader or blogger in Blog Land chances are you've seen others post about Tiger Kingdom, too. I know I did, which is why, around a year ago, I took a mental note, "We must go to Thailand and we must lay with tigers." This was heck-a appealing to me from the very beginning for 2 very good reasons. First off, my favorite animal in the whole world for my whole life (well, before my golden retriever love affair started) has been a white tiger, not that white tigers and tigers are exactly the same, but they're basically the same. So, I knew, if I had a chance to get all snuggly with one, I would take it! Second, I don't know if you've ever noticed but Chara is very lioness to me. And since I'm obsessed with Chara, and tigers are basically lionesses, well obviously, I should pet some tigers. Obviously. For these 2 reasons mainly, okay, okay, and also for the whole fact of them being tigers and that we would get to pet them, we made our way to Tiger Kingdom as soon as we could once in Chiang Mai.
To my great surprise, Tiger Kingdom also had some white tigers! They were caged and we didn't get to get all snuggly, but still, we watched them and they were lovely. Their eyes were blue, just as they should be, and their fur was white and beautiful. And look at that beautifully pink paw! I wanted desperately to put my fingers through the wire fence and pet them, but I resisted.
Tiger Kingdom, along with most tourist sites in Thialand, was incredibly, surprisingly, organized. Upon entering, you are greeted by several smiling faces showing you the different choices of tiger experiences and prices are listed clearly. Once deciding what tigers you're interested in seeing, you line up, grab your ticket, and wait to see your numbers on the screen. Easy Peasy. We decided on seeing 3 tigers, which was a package for around 1250 baht each. We chose to see the medium tigers (the Big tigers had a way longer wait and their sizes weren't that much of a difference), the small and the smallest. Always choose the smallest! Don't you dare come to Tiger Kingdom and not see the smallest, you guys, it's the best!
Tip: Don't pay for the camera man! We had heard that this was a bad idea and so we skipped it and didn't miss anything at all. We had no shortage of pictures and all of the tiger guides grabbed our camera from us to take pictures. If you choose to pay the extra for the camera man, we have heard that they push you through much faster and take pictures from very unflattering angles. Have you had a different experience? Let me know!
While you are waiting, there is a restaurant surrounding the big tiger area, where you can eat and watch the tigers play. There is also a gift shop, a brownie shop and other activities available to entertain yourself while you wait. We walked around the park and admired the white tigers, lions and new born tigers, through their chain link cages.
The lines moved fairly fast which was great for the wait. Surprisingly, despite things moving quickly, we never felt too rushed in each tiger cage. We watched the tiger screen and saw that our time in the medium tigers cage was up first! We made our way to the cage and were briefly explained the rules.
1. Don't look the tigers straight on in the eyes.
2. Don't touch past their front shoulders.
3. Don't try to play with them. (The older ones)
Why were they sleeping so much? Tigers sleep 18 hours a day in the wild. That's a whole lot and we came around 1 pm. The sun was up, it was warm and cozy, and probably a good time for sleeping. Also, they are used to people always around them. This is their life. I imagine they are used to it and could care less who is coming to see them if they are wanting a nap.
Also, why don't they bite your face off? All of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom were born and bred in captivity. From birth they have been around and handled by humans and because of this they view humans as just another kind of tiger. This is the reason why you can't look them straight on because they will view this as a sign that you want to play. All of the precautions in the tiger cages are to prevent them from hurting you unintentionally while playing not because they are aggressive.
A tiger yawn. With Chara I always touch her tongue when she is yawning. It's just a game I like to play. But I resisted with this girl, let's call her, Eva! That sounds like a tiger name, eh? Though, if they would have allowed me, I totally would have! This sleeping beauty was the one we got really cozy with. She was sprawled out having a rest when we came up. She was so beautiful and strong! I loved seeing all of their stripes! I didn't realize how beautiful they were until I got up close to them!
Look at those huge paws!
The small tigers were much smaller. It's amazing the size differences. With these small guys, I really wanted to get up close and personal! Their fur was still that sweet, soft cub fur. Zachary had some fun petting one on the bead, kind of pushing it around a little, like he does with Chara, and the tiger was completely fine with it. Then our guide saw, and boy oh boy, you'd think we killed his dog. We tried to talk to him about his job and other life things and every answer ended with, "but I don't like it when people don't listen and touch the animals the way they're not supposed to." Geesh. So, please note, DO NOT touch the big, medium, or small tigers above their shoulders, your guide will freak out, and he will make you feel terrible about it.
The tigers reminded me more of dogs than cats. I've never had a cat, so maybe cats act like this, too, but they just seemed so Chara-ish to me. This big softie rolled over so Zachary could scratch his belly more.
Next we went to the smallest tigers area. I absolutely loved this part of our time at Tiger Kingdom. In the small tigers area there didn't seem to be any rules! We took our shoes off, climbed in and were sort of free to play, snuggle and interact with the babies. They were precious. I fell in love with them instantly. They were soft and snuggly and just really wanting to play constantly. There was no sleeping there!You better believe I kissed these guys and snuggled with them as much as they'd let me! I wish we could have gotten better pictures of them but they never stopped moving! There is no posing or lounging, perfect for that perfect photo, with the baby tigers! We got mostly blurry pictures with that rambunctious group.
Look at those stripes! Just precious!
They had little wood blocks out for the tigers to chew on.
We played with the smallest tigers for 20 minutes or so, which in my opinion was too short! We had a good amount of time but I never wanted to leave! After, we walked around the park a little more and enjoyed looking at the other tigers that were "off" work, I guess.
A few cages over was this beast. It's funny, because as comfortable as I felt with the tigers, you'd think I'd feel the same with a lion. But no! When that lion looked at us, I freaked. Really, there's a reason they call them the King of the Jungle. They are so intense. No wonder C.S. Lewis used a lion as a character/symbol for God in the Chronicles of Narnia. He, the lion, was so majestic and just looked, I don't know, strong, powerful, like he could search your soul or something! Of course, I know, he's just a lion, and totally can't, but you know what I mean! Right? If the opportunity to go in his caged area had arisen, I seriously don't know if I would have taken it. He was intense. The tigers were playful to me but the lion, intense. I'd feel totally vulnerable. I could go on and draw some many parallels, like C.S. Lewis does, to God, but I'll stop, and let this just be a Tiger Kingdom post. :) And I'll spare you from another 12 paragraphs of my processing, and go.
Go to Tiger Kingdom if you ever get a chance! It doesn't disappoint!
Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai
Getting there: In Chiang Mai, every taxi and tuktuk driver will know where Tiger Kingdom is. There are several that have the Tiger Kingdom logo all over their vehicle, these you can know for sure, will get you where you're wanting to go.