Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, is a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand that was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals, among them several tigers, the majority of which are Indochinese tigers. The tiger temple is located in the Saiyok district of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Myanmar, some 38 km (24 mi) northwest of Kanchanaburi along the 323 highway
Yours truly was there with her son sometime a couple of years back and being intrigued by the Tiger Temple, decided to head there. I love big cats. A lot!! So getting up close with one was definitely tempting and soooo on my bucket list.
To get there, you can get a tour from Bangkok. I booked a tour with the canary tours
canarytravelthailand and they pick me up early in the morning from my hotel in Sukhumvit . After that, we were taken to the meeting point in Khaosan Road where we all got into one van which headed off to Kanchanaburi.
As there were a few places in the itinerary, we went there first... (will blog about that in another blog) and finally arrived at the Tiger Temple. Naturally, I took note of all the dos and don'ts at the temple. It is very important.
Before entering to the Tiger Canyon, we passed many wild animals on the loose... wild horses, wild boars, buffalos and deers all made their home in the outer area of the temple.
The Tiger Temple's story is like a fairy tale. According to Abbot Pra-Acharn Phusit, a tiger cub orphaned by poachers was brought to the temple years ago.
The abbot cared for her and, as word spread, more people brought sickly and orphaned cubs to the temple's doorstep. Those cubs went on to have their own cubs, and nine years on there are now 34 tigers living here.
The Buddhists believe in reincarnation and the abbot feels that these tigers are his family. As he said, "I think they are my babies: my son, my daughter, my father, mother. If not in the present life, in the past life."
Buddhists also believe that animals, like humans, are sentient beings.
"When the tiger angry, when you angry, it's the same. When you hungry, when the tiger hungry, it's the same. When you tired, when the tiger tired, it's the same!" the abbot explains.
He has used this understanding to raise some of the tamest tigers in the world, catapulting this small forest monastery into the international limelight.
Every afternoon, almost a thousand tourists from across the world flock to the Tiger Temple for their very own personal tiger experience. Tiger Temple is hands-on, meaning visitors can pet the enormous cats and even hold their heads in their laps for photos.
Entry fee is however not cheap and cost anything from $15 just for entry, up to $50 for the very special photograph of a tiger with its head in your lap.
The temple says the money goes toward maintenance for the tigers (each animal eats 13 pounds of meat a day) and construction of "Tiger Island," where it is hoped the tigers will soon move to live in larger enclosures.
Yours truly here paid additional RM60 per person for the chance to touch the tiger, for me and my son. But it was a cross of my bucket list and I was contented. The tigers were oh just soooo adorable but never did I let myself forget they are fearsome predators and needed lots of respect. So I only touched them very gently as not to startle them, even though they are probably used to more...
Ok, the place is very controversial as well as many people think the tigers are being sedated. Maybe they are, but then again, you have to remember that in the wild, tigers are mostly nocturnal. They sleep a lot during the day. This could be why they are drowsy and lethargic in the middle of the day and may look " drugged".
The tigers are given adequate liquids before being brought down to the canyon and after photo sessions they are taken to the pond where they are allowed to play in the water for a while to cool down because tigers do not like mid afternoon heat. Extra buckets of water are also brought down in case any of the cubs overheat.
Visitors are escorted is to make sure they do not do something stupid and told to approach the tigers from the rear because tigers do not like to be approached head on when they are lethargic, tired, or thirsty.
All in all, it is just my opinion and I feel they are safe and well fed (though I guess many might not agree with me) and safer then in the wild as life for wild animals in the wild is a huge threat as well (poachers/ hunters etc) ....there is no right way to keep a tiger safe nowadays...
I had a great time however with my son who was really humbled by his experience.