Kanchanaburi, the place where we once had the Tiger Temple in Thailand, managed by the Buddhist monks.
When people think of Thailand, the first thing comes to mind is Bangkok and the beautiful Island like Phi Phi Island. Thailand is a destination every one dream, not just because they are cheaper but also the treasure of destinations.
But not many target the Tiger Temple in Thailand, atleast in the recent past.
I have been thinking a lot about whether to write about this place or not. Because, whenever I write a travel post, my intention will be to trigger your interest in the places I write about. And to help you plan a visit to this place.
But this post is a kind of exception. Why?
For two major reasons.
First and foremost, there have always been several controversies about this temple. But as a person who has visited personally, I do not remember noticing any mischiefs by those monks or any anomalies in those places.
Second, the Tiger Temple is closed ever since there has been this claim about the mishandling of tigers from 2016. Recently, I hear that the place is planned to be continued as a Zoo under the government.
So, please read this post with a caveat. I am sure you would have heard a lot of news about this in the media in past years. But it will not hurt to hear from someone who has actually visited and now sharing his or her views based on own experience.
Read more: Amazing Thailand, Land of Similes
Founded in 1994, the Tiger Temple in Thailand was a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals including tigers.
The first tiger cub arrived in the monastery in February 1999. It was a female cub of Indochinese tiger subspecies whose mother was killed by poachers. When she arrived at the monastery her condition was very poor. Under the loving care of the monks, the cub recovered, but in July 1999 she fell seriously ill and died.
Soon, several tiger cubs and other animals started to be given shelter in the temple. As of the beginning of 2016, the total number of tigers living at the temple has risen to 150.
I remember reading many articles about these tigers in the Tiger temple of Thailand being ill-treated and drugged to make it as a showpiece for the tourists to have fun.
There was also a lot of media attention about how these monks work hand in glove with the people who are into the trafficking of tigers. It was all about the illegal trade of tiger organs for money.
But when I visited, I could find nothing like that. Or maybe I am not an expert to find such anomalies in one day.
In general, Buddist monks are known to be so soft and not harming any living beings. So, this was too difficult for me to believe. But then, in this materialistic world, I can not rule it out too.
Maybe it all started with a good intention of saving the tigers from the poachers. But in a process to keep it running they need to make more money. The moment money takes precedence over the good intention it is quite obvious that mishandlings happened.
So, the organizers of the Tiger Temple in Thailand have made it more of a business in an attempt to run the show for long. Because feeding those 100s of tigers is not a joke. It does need money!
Love for the Wild Cat, Tiger
Who will not love to cuddle a wild cat? Or be proudly present next to a Tiger on those Instagram perfect pictures?
Moreover, these are not an everyday activity where you can have an encounter with Tigers. People camp for days to even have a great sight of these majestic animals. I think this is one of the few reasons why this place became so famous.
As a kid, I have always amused seeing the ringmaster in the circus inside the ring with the animals like the king of the forest and Tigers.
I always wanted to look at these creatures up close and feel like we do the regular pets. But the very moment I think of those wild cats encounters, shiver starts in the spine.
But these tigers are domesticated, so non-harmful for humans.
So, when I read about the Tiger Temple in Thailand, I was more than interested to visit the place. After all, who will deny the opportunity to be with the royal wild cat?
How to Reach Tiger Temple
I have visited this place back on Feb 15, 2008. It is still green in my memory – because it was my birthday!
Are you looking for an itinerary to Bangkok and Phi Phi Island? Make sure you read my Amazing Thailand – Land of smiles.
Kanchanaburi is around 150KM from Bangkok. As with any place, you can reach this by train, or bus or a private cab. I wish I had known these before my trip to Tiger Temple.
So, please make sure you learn from my mistakes. One more reason to keep reading my blog before making a visit to the place! Right?
We paid 2000 BHAT for the cab from the hotel where we stayed in Bangkok to this place and back. When I realized I was taken for a ride (literally) by the taxi driver, it was too late.
Next day when we went to the Golden Temple, heard from people that they just spent around 100 BHAT on the bus ride from Bangkok to the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi!
Close Encounter With the Tiger
The tigers are continuously kept cool – by splashing water on their bodies.
Since the encounter with these mammals could pose an inherent threat, tourists are required to sign a waiver relieving the Tiger Temple of responsibility before entering the grounds. As expected!
Tourists are also instructed not to wear bright clothes, sunglasses, hats or to kneel in front of the tigers.
The first attraction you will encounter is the feeding of milk to the cubs. Yes, for a fee, you can actually feed the cubs and get that excitement.
Most tigers are kept in a commonplace along with the monks running around. There are several volunteers who actually help tourists to get closer to the Tigers and also click some Insta-Perfect pictures for them with the Tiger.
We actually had a long queue that stood between us and the excitement!
Here you go!!! Finally, the wait was over.
I got the opportunity to be with each of the Tiger in there and pose with them for the picture. You are allowed to place your hand on the Tiger, touch and feel them.
You will see that even young kids show no fear of these wild cats. Here is my son, 6 years at that time, posing with one of the Tiger.
Do you see any fear in his eyes?
Once you are done with the Tiger encounter, there are also events where you can witness the Tiger roaming in its own habitat. It was sort of an exercise for the Tiger to enjoy even though they are domesticated here.
The huge forest land also houses some of the cool deers there.
Closure of Tiger Temple
Even though there has always been a controversy about this temple, around 2016, there was a big campaign against this. There was raid from the police and officially, they captured all the tigers from here.
Every media house from Peta to BBC to all the magazines covered this in a big way. There were big outcry and several people commenting against traveling or encouraging to such places with animal captivity.
I was really in a dilemma for several reasons. First and foremost, the credibility of the media. Since we have been hearing about a lot fo fake news and planted news, it was so difficult for me to believe.
Now a few months back, 50% of the Tigers died with the so-called saviors of these wild cats. News? protests? Nothing I could see in a way that was in back 2016. Monks claim that the tigers died due to the carelessness of the government in their inability to take care of them properly.
Should we reopen Tiger Temple?
So, does it mean they would have been hale and healthy under the monks? I do not know. But the reality is they died now. This after all the efforts and exercise in the name of saving them.
Anyway, God only knows what is true and what is portrayed.
Opinion differs, and here is my opinion. I can understand the concerns for the animals, but with the experience of visiting this place, I only have an unpopular opinion. Looking at the recent death of Tigers and what happened now, I am forced to believe that the Tigers were well off with the Buddhist monks than chained or being poached in the wild.
And if the government sees any irregularities, it should be rectified. Not kill the entire concept of the Tiger Temple in Thailand, which seems to be working for more than a decade.