Getting Cosy With Chiang Mai’s Tigers
“You don’t realise how big they are until you’re spooning one,” I said to TCS & Starquest on-board lecturer Patricia Schultz, describing my Tiger Kingdom snuggle with a 9-foot, 16-month-old sabre-toothed beast named Roy. Roy didn’t think I was as cute as I thought he was. I could tell. (You can always tell.) Still, we snuggled awkwardly while photographers furiously snapped pictures of our faces—mine sweaty, Roy’s gigantic and toothy.
If tiger eyes rolled, I’m sure Roy’s would have been somewhere on the dark side of his head. It was a nerve-racking moment, playing mama spoon to nonplussed Roy’s papa spoon. I couldn’t quite believe this was happening: Unrequited tiger love. And a photo shoot to boot!? And not just any photo shoot. I was ordered by the photographer to lie flat, lounge, cuddle, stretch, hold the tail, caress the belly, put my chin on Roy’s head, now under it, open wide, say cheese.
Evidently, Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai is one of the only places in the world where you can actually snuggle with tigers. The clean, roomy facility seems to do a good job caring for the animals. In fact, most of the resident tigers surpass the average life expectancy by five years. A sign reading “Tiger No Need Drug” was all the proof I required to know this was a legit facility. Frankly, I was the one who needed drugs.
After my awkward blind date with Roy, I scheduled a snuggle with baby tigers. Visitors may choose from an à la carte tiger menu of smallest, small, medium, big and biggest tigers, with price points for each size. Of course, the smallest and biggest tigers command the highest fees. “Baby tigers are so worth the extra baht,” I thought.
As expected, the furry little cubs were adorable. Instantly I began racking up “Likes” on Facebook. But they were much more difficult to manage than Roy and his ilk. The two-month-olds were merely frisky fuzz-balls, while the four-month-olds were toothy and downright intractable. Still, hanging out with tigers for an afternoon—even if my affection went unreturned—was a magnificent experience that I’ll never forget. Like.