Many backpackers speak highly of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, claiming that its “chilled out” and easier to navigate than Bangkok. Personally, I highly disagree with both of these. Whilst it is a small city, Chiang Mai is far from being chilled out and the rivers and walls that run throughout the city make every main road look exactly the same. Don’t let this put you off though, because there’s absolutely no shortage of things to see and do in and around Chiang Mai. There is a lively backpacker and expat scene with excellent nightlife, enormous markets and hundreds of tours to be booked, such as trekking, zip-lining, animal encounters, white-water rafting and even cooking classes.
A particularly popular attraction is the Tiger Kingdom, just outside the city in Mae-rim. Now before you get all worked up about ethics and morals and mistreatment of animals, I’d like to point out that these tigers are NOT DRUGGED. Unfortunately, there are tiger facilities in Thailand that sedate the tigers in order for them to be petted and played with by humans, without the tiger becoming aggressive. The tigers at Tiger Kingdom, Mae-rim, however, are trained from the age of one month old, and grow up with constant human attention, affection and guidance. In fact, they are so used to humans touching them that they are practically desensitised to it enough that they don’t even notice. The tigers are happy and healthy and the guides and trainers are more than happy to answer any questions. Truthfully, from my experience, the tigers are treated as well as they would be in any zoo of Western standards and at no point did I feel as if I was doing the morally wrong thing by being there. If you’d like any more information about how the tigers are treated then head on over to Tiger Kingdom, Mae-rim’s website.
I opted to go inside the cage with the smallest tigers currently at the kingdom, who from memory I think were about three-six months old. The whole experience seemed to be both too nerve-racking and exciting for me to manage to smile normally in a photo, so here are a few photos of me looking like an idiot, and some very pretty kitties.