It’s a little bit annoying when I see people putting up pictures of themselves cuddling a spaced out tiger when they pass through Chiang Mai and visit the Tiger Kingdom. I thought I would play catch up and give my own thoughts on visiting the restaurant there.
This is a Tiger..
A ferocious animal with prowess, agility, stamina, instinct and a natural urge to chase, kill and rip the flesh from its prey.
When I first arrived in Chiang Mai, I stayed at Spicy Thai (as I had spent a month on Spicy Tao) and on the table in the main common area, there are posters under the glass which are trying to explain how the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai is a sanctuary that helps the tigers to have a better life.
I think personally, that this is a load of shite to try to make it sound ok to pay 500THB $15 to see caged up, depressed tigers. Also, the hostels, hotels and tuk tuk drivers get a commission for booking tours and bringing you there. Anyone who has walked around Chiang Mai will have had tuk tuk drivers hold up signs and shout ‘tiger kingdom’ at them.
Keeping in mind that most backpackers and travelers, are a unique bunch of opinionated aristocrats. Travel broadens the mind and opens it up to a whole new way of looking at the world. With a camera in hand, minimal clothing and a stench of Chang or Samsong seeping from the pores, the tour companies want to hurdle these ‘world travelers’ into the back of a Songtao, charge them an extortionate fee and drag them around to the usual tourist haunts for pictures so they can put it on Facebook and show everyone at home how cultured they are. But if you really think about it – they went to a zoo and walked into a cage. (FYI – This is what happens if the tigers are actually active and alert – You get mauled!). We decided to have lunch at the Tiger Kingdom restaurant, to see what all the fuss was about and make our own opinion about the place.
The lunch option at the Tiger Kingdom cost 200THB each for a buffet feast of all you can eat food. It was the most mediocre and gloopy Thai food I had eaten while in the Chaing Mai area.
It’s a Tourist Trap
My thoughts after sitting for an hour and watching the goings on inside the enclosure is that this is a full-scale money racket and tourist trap. From our table we had a full view of the main photo-taking & viewing area, tiger play pool and cubs – hence the pics. This gave us enough of a scope to watch the people who were coming in, the trainers actions with the animals and the tigers playing and jumping in the pool.
Patrons are edged through the cage door trembling like lambs before a lion. The fear is evident as they meander around tourists looking for a sleeping tiger to lie down beside for a photo opportunity. The Thai ‘trainers’ tease the tigers by pulling their tail, hitting their nose and pulling their heads up for photos.
It was a dismal display. An honest description would be that the tigers look defeated. If they move at all they are hit with a stick unless they are jumping for a plastic bag on a stick. When they try to relax they are pulled and prodded for the amusement of the Thai workers or for the tourists photos. It is amazing that there are not more attacks on civilians and staff!
Have A Think About Where You Are Spending Money
What I am trying to get at here is to suggest that you think about what sort of tourism you are putting your money into. The Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai and the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi (which has been covered extensively by Turner Barr here) are both money-making machines, wearing the mask of ‘animal sanctuary’ in my opinion. They don’t really care about the animals, they care about making money. They claim that life is better for the tigers and that they are well fed and have access to a vet, but if you actually think about it, is it really? Do you honestly think tigers enjoy being caged up in tiny confinements all day? If the tiger shows any signs of its natural aggression towards the trainers do you not think it would be put down or skinned and sold? It is a meagre existence for such a big and powerful animal, but it knows no different so people call it ‘animal preservation’.
The same goes for elephant riding (which is a massive industry in Thailand), monkey shows and anything that involves the containment of animals for human amusement. By paying into these attractions they continue to be funded. I am guilty of taking an elephant ride in Bali, but it was enough for me when I have seen the big mahout hook being buried into the holes in the side of the animal’s head to never do it again. Thailand has a long history of using elephants for work and many regard them highly in a spiritual sense. I am in no position to pass a remark on a countries cultural historic uses of animals, but times have changed and as Bangkok is now one of the busiest airports in the world, millions of tourists are flocking to Thailand and partaking in these activities. Have fun, stay safe and don’t support the exploitation of animals for profit! I give the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai a big fat thumbs down.. There are better ways to spend the day.