So what brought us all the way out to Kanchanaburi was a place called “The Tiger Temple.” It’s a Buddhist monastery that has an animal sanctuary around it. There are lots of animals there, many of them running wild within the gates, but what we came for of course are the tigers. The best package you can get at the place has you coming in before all the main tour groups arrive in the afternoon. You have to be there by 0730 and first you have breakfast with the monks there. There was a whole spread of really good Thai food, which was a nice way to start the day. After breakfast, you go through small chores of caring for and interacting with different age groups of tigers. There were a total of eleven tourists there, including Martha and I. The other nine visitors came in two organized tour groups with their own tour guides. Martha and I were the only visitors flying solo. It was pretty badass rolling up to that place on a motor scooter without assistance. Not having a tour guide I think got us a little better experience as well, because we were just one-on-one with staff. So for example, Martha could say “can you make sure I get a really young baby tiger” and they made it happen. Stuff like that, really cool.
They have you feed the babies first. My tiger was a bit of a biter and a troublemaker. Martha got the youngest baby and he snuggled up very sweetly with her. Excellent pictures of all of this below. As soon as they get done with their bottle they are out cold for a little nap. A few minutes later, they’re back up and raising hell trying to attack stuff and making a lot of noise. They kind of sound like screaming children. Damn they’re adorable though.
After all of that is done they have you walk the babies and “teenagers” to another area for bath time. The babies are taken by the staff, as I think they really don’t care for bath time. The teenagers seem to know the routine already and are pretty cool with it. I got kind of a big teenager and he kept trying to attack another big boy on the way there, pouncing on the other tigers back. I’d have to pull him off the other tiger to get going again, and the staff lady (a very small Thai lady) who was with me would yell like I was the cause of his misbehavior. I mean, this tiger was big enough to mostly be walking me. Anyway, we got to the area for bath time, and all the tigers got secured. Martha and I ended up with the absolute biggest one which was basically an adult. He was very well behaved though and seemed to like the whole bath process. They get boiled chicken afterwards, so that probably helps too. They had us hand feed it to them and you really had to stick your fingers in their mouth halfway for them to not drop it. They were really pretty gentle though for how big they were.
After bath time, things got a little less controlled. Actually, if you stopped and thought about things, it was really a little scary. We went to another area to “exercise” the teenagers, a whole bunch of really energetic almost full-grown tigers. They have “toys” made up that are big bamboo sticks with bags, including like Tyvex feed bags and ribbon and stuff. Basically, you play with them like you would house cats…. tease them with something on a stick and mostly keep them from actually getting their claws and teeth into it. They really do have behaviors and mannerisms similar to domestic cats…. they’re just bigger than a human and can kill you.
So, we played with the tigers for a while, first in a yard area and then in the water, which was way more entertaining. There was a family from Norway with a son maybe ten years old, and the tigers were displaying some stalking behavior as a group towards him that seemed to have the staff concerned and they got him out of the area first. After we got done with play time, they had us take some pictures with a couple adult males. Then, they had us walk/be walked by an adult male. A deer ran by when I was walking mine at first, and the staff stepped in for a minute. He behaved himself though and there was no problem. After that was done, they put us all in a cage and put on a really entertaining show “exercising” all the full-grown tigers. They were out of control! This Thai guy with a big tiger tattoo across his chest (he earned that one) was doing some crazy stuff with groups of wild ass tigers. Really cool show for sure.
The whole experience was awesome and totally worth the effort. The ride on the scooter took us about an hour, and Thai driving behavior is remarkably polite and civil. The drive was really less frightening than I thought it would be. After getting back to Kanchanaburi we caught an afternoon train to Bangkok, checked in to our hotel, and grabbed some dinner on Khaosan road. Bangkok is pretty interesting and my thoughts on this definitely deserve a separate post. Loving the place so far though. Clean and very relaxed.
We took TONS of pictures at the tiger temple, so I just went ahead and made a separate gallery. Enjoy!