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Dont mess with sleeping tigers

January 25. Day 41. In the past couple days, I booked 11 plane tickets (my time in Thailand was coming to a close), got a refund for the replacement of my stolen helmet that caused a brief run-in with the Royal Thai Police using my travel insurance from World Nomads, and met up with a friend who I met a few weeks prior when I was in Koh Phangan (Constanza from Chile). Rachelle was working so we decided to venture off on our own for a day before she was planning to head to a 3 day meditation retreat at a local buddhist temple. Our destination? Tiger Kingdom.

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Before I get berated with comments about your opinions about Tiger Kingdom, let me begin with the question – have you been there? Talked to the vets? Keepers? Spent 7-8 hours with the tigers and the staff that take care of them? Because I have. And everything (negative) I’ve heard about this place is COMPLETELY FALSE. They don’t drug, beat, mistreat, neglect, nor abuse the tigers in ANY way.¬†With that said, on to the good stuff.

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Our tuk-tuk ride was lightning-fast as usual (when they weren’t braking, they were accelerating – hard) and we arrived in just 20 minutes coming from the Niemann / Suthep intersection. The costs for seeing the tigers was cheap so we decided to pay the baht to get close-up with both the biggest and smallest cats. They gave us a ticket with a number on it and told us it would be about 15 minutes before we could go see the cats. We wandered around a bit and got our first glimpse of these amazing creatures.

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Before we knew it, our time came to go see the youngest cats they had. These little things were absolutely adorable and VERY playful. They constantly wanted to be held, touched, and loved on. As you can imagine, it was very easy to comply with all three.

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20 minutes flew by and it was time to go see the BIG kitties. We took our time going from one enclosure and area to the next and guesstimated that they had about 75+ tigers. Everywhere we looked, there were tigers – most of the them sleeping since they’re nocturnal creatures. The babies were rather lively, but all the older cats were sleeping or constantly being woken up by people eager to take more pictures and love on them (like Constanza and I).

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Our names were called and we tip-toed into the enclosure where there were 6 full-grown bengal tigers. They kept saying there was nothing to be scared of, but then gave us very stern instructions to not get in front of them from the shoulders-forward because that was the “business end.” We took turns laying on, petting, taking pictures of, and being amazed by such amazing animals. To my dismay, I learned they prefer firm – and almost aggressive – touches compared to light and gentle touches. The easy touches seemed to tickle them whereas the harder ones were welcomed. They literally rolled over like dogs and wanted to have their bellies scratched every time we started to pet them. I had to hold one of them up from rolling down the steps he wanted his belly scratched so much (but was apparently too lazy to move so he had room to roll over).

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They were amazingly tolerant of pretty much everything anyone would do to them while they slept. Pull, pull, jab, roll, mess with, etc. I became very comfortable very quickly with the big cats and started to push my luck a little too much perhaps and one woke and turned towards me rather quickly; I couldn’t believe how fast he moved. This picture caught the moment perfectly:

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Moral of the story? Don’t mess TOO MUCH with a sleeping tiger. They might just turn on you. Be well. And namaste.

 

What animals have you encountered while traveling? (whether accidental or intentional)

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