Backpacking in Thailand (Part 4): Chiang Mai Tiger Kingdom

After spending a day with elephants, we set out to see the tigers at Tiger Kingdom. 

Okay, so there's bit of a controversy surrounding this place. I've read many articles advocating against visiting, since these places provide an unhealthy environment for tigers. Tigers are caged, cubs are separated from their mothers, and some go as far as saying that the tigers are inhumanely treated and are drugged to make them more docile towards humans. 

We thought hard about going or not going, but in the end, we succumbed to our weakness and just went to see the the place for ourselves. Because tigers. 

One thing I must say, the rates are pretty expensive. But given the number of tigers they take care of, the facilities they need to maintain, and the number of people working hard for the welfare of the tigers and the visitors, I think it's worth the price. There are separate fees to enter each area, based on the size of the tigers. Aside from the big, medium, small, and smallest (as seen below), there are also separate rates for the newborn tigers and white tigers (much more expensive). There was also a separate fee if you wanted a soft copy of the official photos taken by their staff. As we paid for our tickets, we initially wanted to see the big tigers and the smallest tigers. However, we didn't make the height requirement.hahahaha The lady at the counter offered us tickets to the medium tigers saying, "Don't worry. They're actually kinda big, too."

They have very strict rules about how you should behave in the tiger enclosures. If you want to go home without any injuries, then it is best to follow everything the guides say.

We passed by the area for the newborn tigers and it was kinda weird to see them being prepped for full photo shoot mode. Guests are required to wear coats and gloves to protect the cubs. The cubs are also only out for limited periods of time. 

Finally, it was time for us to get up close and personal with the "medium" tigers. Can I just say that my expectations didn't quite match what we experienced? First of all, based on the photos I've seen online, I expected to go inside a caged area and see 1, or maybe 2 tigers. But it was far from that. The enclosures were actually pretty spacious and the one we entered had about 8 to 10 tigers. Second, I expected the tigers to be mostly lying down, but no. Most of them were walking around and were quite active. I was more nervous than I thought I would be. We were surrounded by tigers. I didn't expect them to be so many and just walking around, looking ready to pounce! The guides were very friendly with the cats but wouldn't let us get close to them unless they were seated or resting. We were taught how to properly stroke the tigers so that they don't get caught off guard (firm strokes at the rear area and never near the head). Lastly, the medium tigers were what I thought the big tigers should look like. As we passed by the enclosure for the big tigers, I actually was relieved we weren't tall enough to meet them.haha


After hanging out with the medium-sized tigers, we went to see the small tigers. They were in an indoor enclosed area, so it feels just like playing with a cat at home or at a cat cafe. The baby tigers were basically kittens.

My Princess Jasmine moment

In the end, I was happy we didn't skip Tiger Kingdom. The place was clean and very well kept, the tigers looked very comfortable and well-fed. They had large play areas and water pools. This is where they grew up in and yes, they may never be back out in the wild, but that's understandable. I believe that having tigers in safe places like these are better than having them extinct. I think it's great that we get to appreciate them up close. It's nice to see them making people happy. Giving people these experiences might lessen the fear and the stigma surrounding these predatory creatures, making them less likely to be hunted in the wild. I am just concerned because they keep breeding tigers, but where do they go? Surely they can't all be accommodated in the facility?

I'm not trying to justify everything because in an ideal world, tigers wouldn't be endangered and would be running wild and free, hunting for their own food. But our world is far from ideal, so to see wild animals like these tigers being cared for might be better than not having any tigers at all.


Guide: Okay, tiger pose!

Look at the 2 lazy tigers in the background.hehe
Read about the rest of our Thailand adventure below:

Thailand (Part 1): Backpacking in Thailand

Thailand (Part 2): Chiang Mai - Walking Tour of the Old City, Doi Suthep, and Thai Cooking School

Thailand (Part 3): Chiang Mai - A Day with the Elephants at the Ran-Tong Save and Rescue Elephant Centre

Thailand (Part 4): Chiang Mai - Tiger Kingdom

Thailand (Part 5): Bangkok 

For more on our 16-day Indochina backpacking trip (full itinerary + expenses), click on the photo below.