It’s been an extremely busy and exhausting past couple days in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat. Waking up at 3:45 am then touring all day long. In the trade-off between staying in and making a new post vs. going out and traveling, traveling wins. I’ll post more when I get the chance.
I told myself before my trip that if I could ride an elephant and get a picture with a tiger, I’d be perfectly happy coming home – that’s all I really wanted to do.
Well, on Christmas Day I crossed off the second item: I went to Tiger Kingdom.
Let me describe this place for those unfamiliar. Tiger Kingdom is more of a tourist attraction than anything. The tigers are born here and raised to be ‘comfortable’ around humans. I didn’t go without some hesitation though, as a tourist was mauled as recently as October 22nd, 2014.
The tigers are placed into categories based on age: smallest, small 1, small 2, medium, and big. In actuality, there are only 2 categories: can kill you and can’t kill you.
I decided to get a package deal and go in all of the cages available. The price for this, along with a photographer for three of the cages, was $72.45. After paying, they gave me a ticket for each cage and receipt. They also had me sign an insurance form which stated that if I was injured the medical costs would be covered. Only slightly reassuring.
You stand in the lobby to wait until they call in everyone to enter. In actuality, you can just walk right down to the gate and wait for someone else to walk out. The small door entrance is just to the left of this sign.
Once inside, the tigers are separated by age.
Walking past the bird cages, the first enclosure was the smallest – less than 4 months old. It was located in a covered open-air shelter and the line took about 25 minutes to go through – the smallest ones are the most popular. As a side note, this is the only cage that kids are allowed inside.
Prior to entering they make sure you’ve read the signs.
Once inside, they instruct you to get behind the tigers and place a firm hand on their back. They were surprisingly calm and reacted well to the human interaction.
Every once in awhile they would roll over and have you scratch their belly.
Next was the “small” tiger. To think these tigers are small is laughable. When you enter a cage, they have you move to an open tiger and come up behind them. They use a small bamboo stick to direct the tiger and if they need to distract it, they put some raw chicken on the end and give them a small snack.
Next was the medium size and the large tigers.
I was able to rest my head on its body and after listening closely, I could hear it’s breathing and a distant heartbeat. Pretty incredible.
However, I didn’t come out unscathed. After the first two enclosures, I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. Suddenly I remembered that I’m allergic to cats.
In preparing for my trip, I asked Jen what kind of medicine I needed to bring and the typical Advil/Pepto bismol seemed to be sufficient. That is until I was going to literally rub my face in cat fur for a couple hours.
Suffering through it, I moved to the medium cats. Also, ridiculously big.
At one point, the
trainer employee I was with got my camera a little too close…
I stayed in the cage for another 5 minutes then headed out. I picked up my CDs with pictures on it from the photographers, which turned out pretty well. The lighting wasn’t the best, but it was well worth the extra money.
So glad I was able to do this. And after telling my coworkers, family, and friends about it for weeks, I’m glad I’ll come back with all my limbs attached.