The Tiger Kingdom is located in Mae Rim, about thirty-five minutes by tuk tuk from Chiang Mai. This was to be not only our first outing in a tuk tuk, but also our first encounter with a tiger – inside it’s enclosure.
So, what’s a tuk tuk, you ask. Well, doing a similar job to a taxi, Thailand’s ubiquitous tuk tuk is so named because of the sound of their engine. They are motorized rickshaws and are popular amongst tourists for their novelty value. They are often faster than taxis in heavy traffic as weaving in and out is easier.
Anyway, back to the stars of the show – the tigers. On arrival at the Tiger Kingdom we had to choose whether we wanted to see the babies, the small, medium or large tigers or a combination of any of these. The baby tiger cubs and the large cats were proving extremely popular, with long queues of people waiting, so we opted for the medium sized tigers. These were both male and female and around fourteen months old. They looked pretty big to us!
We were instructed how to behave once in the enclosure and even though usually groups of 10 people at a time were admitted, initially there was just me and Michael as well as the handler. The three tigers we interacted with were called Mr Ben, Mimi and Chi Chi – a male and two females, though there were other tigers in the enclosure at the same time.
Our touching tiger experience lasted fifteen to twenty minutes, but the memory of it will stay with us both for ever. This was absolutely unmissable and the highlight of our trip so far.