Growing up my favorite Disney Princess was Jasmine for two primary reasons: 1) she had a magic carpet to ride around on and much more importantly 2) she had a pet tiger. That is basically the most badass and epic pet to have, so naturally I was insanely jealous. Unfortunately, while growing up I realized that it was a struggle for me to keep even simple things like gold fish or an aloe vera plant alive for longer than a few weeks and knew that my dream of having a tiger as a best friend was probably not meant to be. However, when I heard that there was a place in Thailand where I could play with baby tigers, I was 100% in.
As I was planning the trip and talking to others who had been to Thailand I found out that many places drugged their tigers in order to allow visitors to get close enough for pictures. Visiting a tiger that could not open his eyes was not an appealing idea, so I looked up places which had good reputations for ethical animal treatment. The first I found was Tiger Kingdom and upon arriving and watching the playful tigers in person, it was abundantly clear that they were not drugged. They were actually active to the extent that the visitors were frequently escorted outside of the cages for their protection when the tigers would start rough-housing with each other.
The tour of the facilities started with visiting the baby tigers and almost immediately I was separated from the rest of my tour group because I was the only solo traveler. Sometimes this means that I have to wait for all the couples to finish taking their 467 photos and selfies, but this time it certainly worked to my advantage because the staff took me to my own separate pen and put two of the babies in with just me. Maybe this was a little out of pity (the “You’re all alone?” question no longer bothers me and now I just laughingly respond that I have no friends), but it was fantastic because I got to have the undivided attention of two baby tigers. I was absolutely in heaven and by the end my face hurt from smiling so big!
I got to wrestle around and play tug-o-war with the little guys while one of the staff members picked up my camera and became my own personal photographer. The next twenty minutes flew by and soon they were dragging me away from my adorable furry friends. Next we visited the cage of the adult tigers which were generally more interested in snoozing in the sun broken up by intermittent wrestling matches in the pool with the other tigers. Again, the staff offered to take my camera and snapped away the whole time. Even though they did recommend a few cheesy shots, I was happy to comply and snuggle up next to the massive tigers.
We continued on to the final cage with the young-adult medium sized tigers. Two of the young ones took a fancy to me and started guarding the other tourists from me in the cage. Over-all it was an incredible and very memorable experience. I was just a little disappointed that they did not let me adopt one of the babies despite my most persuasive arguments.