Wednesday found us at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, a few hours outside of Bangkok. I was a bit concerned about going because I didn’t want our year stay to end within the first two weeks due to gashes on any parts of our body.
My other concern was because I am not a huge fan of zoos and animals being locked up. I was worried how the animals were treated and how they could possibly be so calm around humans. The staff’s answer is because they have been around humans their entire life (all were born in the park), they get lots of exercise, are loved, and fed a diet of cooked chicken (4-5 whole chickens for the bigger cats) and carnivore supplements. I’d say a bit of magic is involved too, for no one was chewed on while we were there, and we all got up close and personal with them.
The staff was a really nice part of the experience too. They guided us how to walk around the animals and had a constant watch on us. They also took a lot of close-up pictures for us, putting the camera right in the tiger’s face. They all seemed shockingly comfortable with the tigers, even when the only thing controlling the tigers appeared to be a simple leash and skinny piece of bamboo.
The price for admission was 600 baht, so at the current rates, about $21. This gave you access to pet the tigers and have pictures taken, by yourself. A few times group photos were allowed with the smaller beasts. One special photo involved the opportunity to walk the tiger, where you are given the leash. I took comfort in the many staff around, and the monk beside me.
The walk lead us into a canyon where we all waited until each tiger was down before we were allowed to leave. As each tiger came down, we were told to stand up and look at the tiger (as they attack from behind).If these opportunities were not up close and personal enough for you, there were additional programs for 1000 bahts ($35), which we decided to take advantage of. James opted for “exercising” the younger tigers, which still weigh in at over 200 pounds, in a pool. For me this sounded like an excellent way to be drown and eaten.
So, for the same price, I choose to feed and play with the cubs, which were about the size of a medium size dog. This activity had the added adventure of a slick floor, in bare feet, and the cheeky buggers jumping on you if you had your back to them. They were fun to feed though.
Overall, the day exceeded expectations. One of the staff praised all of the good work of the monastery and Abbot. They’ve setup a daily soup kitchen, provided rabbies vaccinations to local animals (and people) and provides scholarships for schooling. Their goal is to help the locals so that they didn’t have to poach animals to survive.
So I would definitely recommend the opportunity to touch a tiger and I think James is debating the one month opportunity to volunteer there. They said they’d work you to death but you get to take care of the cubs. That would definitely be an experience! Check out tigertemple.org for details.
Want to play with a tiger?
Click on a picture above or below to see more details. Few more pics from the day: