Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai – Idiot Tourism in Thailand

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai - Idiot Tourism in Thailand
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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.

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai Thailand

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.

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai Thailand
Some tourists looking skeptical

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. 

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai Thailand

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.

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai Thailand

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.

Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai Thailand


Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai - Idiot Tourism in Thailand


  1. With all the crazy poachers out there also, maybe they are safer in a Zoo. But preferably (if there is any) a good Zoo.
    And Zoo’s I guess will help (hopefully) people see these animals alive in generations to come. Although I don’t know if zoo’s is the best way for it, but maybe for some animals it may become a necessity to not become extinct.

  2. In modern times, dogs by nature are loving animals BUT people can train to be extremely aggressive to humans. It is the opposite with Tigers, the ones in the Tiger Kingdom have been trained to be tame in the presence of humans.

    It’s a basic case of Nature vs Nurture.

    Yes, you might argue the ethical implications of domesticating an species of animal (but hey, it worked like charm for our ancestors thousands of years ago) but the Tiger Kingdom IS one of the few places where you can be 100% certain that the animals are NOT under any kind of drugs in order to be tame, contrary to circus and other abominable places such as the Lujan “Zoo” of Buenos Aires.

    Are the methods of taming the tigers reproachable? Yes, I believe they are. But think for a second of the alternative…without monetary incentives, NOBODY in Thailand would care about the breeding and conservation of the Tigers and this majestic species will inevitable become extinct at a faster rate.
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    • Yes, at the end of the day Tiger Kingdom is a tourist destination. Is being swarmed by hundreds of humans the ideal life for a tiger? No, it isn’t. Tigers are still able to live in captivity for protection without being a tourist attraction. But without the added layer of the tourists, there would be nothing funding the food, shelter, medications, and vigorous upkeep for these animals. The same goes for Thailand in general. So much of the country is funded by tourism, which is heavily relied upon. The recent protests in Bangkok have plummeted tourism in Thailand greatly, and it makes a big difference.

      Same goes for the elephant riding, you may have had an awful experience in Bali like you say, but that is one out of hundreds of facilities. In Laos I witnessed firsthand the caring interaction of elephants and their handlers.

      Of course, some centres are unethical, and wrong, and should be illegal. But they are not all like this . . .

      • Its a touchy subject, but one that both sides seem to have equal merit for argument! No tiger kingdom – no tigers | no tourists – no money to keep tigers alive. Elephants.. Well when you look at the mahouts, they have trained elephants for centuries with a hook. Its how they have always done it. Who am I as an Irish traveler to say that it is the incorrect way to do it. It looks horrible and I don’t agree with it but it is part of another countries culture and sometimes you just have to accept that. Thailand really thrives off tourist money so these protests would be a disaster for Bangkok tourism. I imagine it is pretty hectic

  3. I agree with you 100%. I’m living in Chiang Mai at the moment and I refuse to visit this place. To be honest it defies belief that tourists honestly think the tigers are “tame” and “trained” and “having a nice life”.

    Head to the Elephant Nature Park which actually is a sanctuary. Lek, the woman who runs the place, rescues elephants from around SE Asia and gives them a new life. I’d much rather people spent a day out there and contributed their money to a good cause then took photos with drugged, defeated tigers.
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    • Hey Stacey, the Elephant Nature Park is a great project. There are lots of dodgy elephant shows around northern Thailand but Lek has done a fine job. I don’t think the tigers are drugged though to be honest, they looked pretty alert when there was food around!

  4. Yeah – these for-profit places that use animals as profiteering devices are no bueno. I checked out Tiger Kingdom for a comparison sake, and they too only give the tiger’s chicken – vs what they should be eating, red meat, to get the enzyme taurine for their muscle develop. They claim it is “too expensive” to give the tigers’ red meat, yet in the same vein, are making money. Blah. They also take the cubs away from the mother to be hand raised by humans at one week like Tiger Temple, but at least they keep tourists away I think until 6-8 weeks – TT is 2 weeks:(
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    • Your investigative blogging shared a good story from the Tiger Temple Turner. If they are all for the Tigers then they should be sacrificing profit to feed the animals what they are supposed to eat. There is no decency in taking a cub away from its mother at 1week so people can take photos with it. I’m sitting here looking at my 2 week old girl and can’t imagine what I would do if someone tried to take her away.. I’m sure you seen Blackfish and what happened there, sad stuff.

  5. Hey Adam,

    I’ve got to say I disagree with you on here big time. There are some places that obviously mistreat or drug the animals (case in point some of the elephant camps where you ride them).

    I’ve been to tiger kingdom. I’ve been there in the evening during feeding time.

    These tigers are not drugged, and they are not mistreated by any measure that I could tell.

    Tigers are naturally slothful during the day but if you stick around for feeding time you’ll see these tigers with surprising energy and alertness. This is simply the natural cycle of how animals generally operate.

    I’ll also say that whenever possible, animals should be free in nature to do their thing. However, these sanctuaries are literally keeping the species in existence so if it takes ‘commercializing’ it as an attraction to fund the sanctuary, so be it. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes ends meet.

    My 2 cents.
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    • Ben my man, I respect your honest opinion. I never said the tigers were drugged, just defeated. It’s a questionable co-existence between letting animals go extinct or keeping them alive funded as a human attraction.. Ideally they would be chasing scooters along the road to Pai, but sure that would’t work out either! I seen the trainers pestering them while they were sleeping and hitting them with sticks. They look powerful when they are being fed, there is no doubt about that.

  6. They do have another view on animals here in Thailand.

    And a lot of the time these “tours” are mainly for getting money from tourists rather than animal welfare.

    I haven’t tried one of these Tiger things before, but have been on a few elephants. If you want to do something where the animals are at least treated decent, try to look for “elephant hospitals”.

    We have one here in Hua Hin that actually get a lot of westerner volunteers. It’s elephants has it better, but you can still get a few crazy “elephant baby show” where it runs around like a trained monkey (don’t like that one bit).
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  7. Adam, I respectfully disagree with your giving Tiger Kingdom two thumbs down. I guess I am one of those “tourists” you described, however the experience for me was magical. I went into 5 different cages with tigers ranging in age from 2.5 months up to full grown adults. At no time did I witness anything but respect from the trainers toward the tigers. This experience was one of the highlights from my trip to Thailand. I had the opportunity to interact with majestic animals and I am grateful for that.
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  8. I remember skipping that place on my trip in Thailand, we both did with my best friend and I think it was great decision. I do not support wild animals being kept in cages or any close up area just for a sake of tourist enjoyment. I love safaris, but refuse to go for ones in parks where they allow to follow animals, it is just too much for me!
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  9. I respectfully disagree with you too. I have been to TT and loved every minute of the tour, photographs included. It was an amazing experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also do not believe that the tigers there were drugged or mistreated. Since there are very few tigers left in the wild, I think that rescuing/breeding is needed to keep them from being extinct. I do not like the way some Thai’s treat their elephants (or other animals for that matter). I also do not like to see them with slow lorises on the streets wanting to take my picture with the poor animal. Now there’s a column you could write and maybe do some good. That practice has got to stop.


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