How to Hug a Tiger
Hi guys! Here's another animal video because... well... I love animals. First I had my "How to Hug a Panda" video and "Chengdu Pandas" video. This time I have the Tiger Kingdom. I first visited the Tiger Kingdom back in 2008. I loved it because I got to really talk to the employees and I felt like the animals were treated fairly. For example, some of the cages have electrical wires to "protect" the tourists. I asked if these wires hurt and the guide merely said "touch it." I did. It was a mild buzz. My friend did more damage to me with a broken B.B.Q. starter. To a Tiger, I doubt they'd even feel it.
Now here comes the info:
First, the best resource of information is their official website: http://www.tigerkingdom.com/
Now that that's out of the way.
1) Buy a flight to CNX. This is the airport code for Chiang Mai, Thailand. I recommend going during their new years festival: Songkran. It's a great time and I'm working on that video too. I recommend using a website like Kayak to get a rough estimate of ticket prices, then going into a travel agent to see if they can beat it.
2) You can get hotels online, but it's just the same to show up. There are so many places to stay you'll have no problem. Once you exit the airport, grab a taxi to Chiang Mai. It should cost less than $5 USD.
3) You will notice that Tiger Kingdom will be advertised everywhere. You will have no problem finding the place. The actual Tigers are not in Chiang Mai, but a neighbouring city called Mae Rim. It is about 30 minutes away and the drive should cost about $10 USD for a round trip in a red car. If you want to have a better time, get a one way. If you get a round trip, your driver may try to rush you to go home. If you get a one way or scooter, you can enjoy a meal while watching the tigers play, or stay for the evening feeding. You're the boss.
4) You will now have a choice of which package to purchase. For about $70 USD you can spend time with all the tigers for a grand total of about an hour. Honestly, I never felt rushed. In fact, when they seemed to want to move things along I just chatted them up and they loved to talk back. I spent way over the allotted time in the cages. If you're wondering, seeing the babies alone is around $20 USD. Big Tigers around $15 USD. But really!? You've flown around the world to be cheap on tigers? Go all the way.
5) For a little more money, you can also hire a photographer: $10 bucks. If you're like me and have a sexy camera with a size and length that makes thieves around the world salivate, you can give the photographer your own camera and skip their CD package. The photos are pretty good. I did this the first time around and it was a good idea because these photographers do this all day every day. They know good angles through sheer practice. Expect the cameras to be entry level DSLRs. In case you were wondering.
6) Look into other animals things around the Tiger Kingdom. There's a Cobra show and some Monkey things but I heard they were a little less... kind to their animals. As always, there are also elephants.
7) Buy some souvenirs and eat at their restaurant. You can actually eat while looking down at the tiger cages. If you want some good photo chances, this is a good spot.
8) Fly back. Post photos on Facebook. Wait for the "likes" "omgs" etc.
Remember! Depending on when you go, some animals may seem totally out of it or not interested in you. The first time I went I got a small nibble on my face from a baby tiger. I thought it was cute. The second time I went they were completely out of it. Totally nap time. I'm pretty sure they are NOT drugged. I've seen them go from totally out of it, to sprinting and playing, to totally out of it again. If you've ever owned a cat, you know how often they sleep and roll around.
Also remember, this place is getting popular! Show up early if you want to avoid crazy groups. Or late! When I was there in 2008 I had some cages to myself. Now, there were waiting lists for each cage. Expect people. Expect a commercial feel. Expect the exploitation of animals... but then again, they're happy. I think. They have lots of babies every year. The trainers really seem to love them. There are always volunteers. They eat a lot of chicken and get pet all day long. They're even supplied a constant stream of ice blocks.
Also, by the time this is out, expect another location to be open in Phuket!
After 6 years of travel, this is still one of my favourite places in the world. Holding a baby tiger... Petting a 300lb tiger... I can't explain. They're majestic. Do it! Eat some Thai food. Play Songkran! Level up. I highly recommend it.
Side note: I did not choose another place in Thailand because I saw photos of the tigers in chains. This place seemed much more friendly. Also, please watch the full interview with the Tiger Kingdom Volunteer. He sheds light on lots of topics.