Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Tiger Kingdom at Mae Rim near Chiang Mai is one of those places people seem to either love or despise. Although we loved our visit to the Tiger Temple near Kanchanaburi, we found the Tiger Kingdom at Mae Rim, outside Chiang Mai, to be a bit dreary and contrived by comparison. We went there hoping to play with the tiger cubs, which we did not get to do at the Tiger Temple, but they’d all grown up and were vigorous teenagers that looked like they could take half your face off by accident. So we didn’t bother to stay.
Still, others have said some very nice things about the Tiger Kingdom, and if this is the only chance you have to interact with tigers in Thailand you should take it, as it’s an experience not to be missed. Some people say the tigers are drugged, but we saw no indication of this. They appeared playful and active – in fact, a little too much so for our liking at times.
It’s really almost a full-day outing as there’s plenty to do. It takes about an hour to get there from downtown Chiang Mai, even though it’s only half an hour out of town. Once in, you can either join the free queue or pay for the VIP queue. In the free queue, you wait for an hour or two and get to pat a tiger, but you can’t take any photos. In the VIP queue, you get into the enclosure in about 10-15 minutes (small groups or singles). You give your camera to an attendant and they will take lots of photos of you with the tigers in various poses. You get to spend about half an hour inside the enclosure and interact with several tigers. It’s great!
After that, there’s a whole animal park to explore within the Tiger Kingdom including more tigers in an enclosure with a swamp pit and the feeding of the baby tigers which is very up close and personal. If you stay around long enough, you’ll see the big tigers get walked back to their nighttime enclosures, which is quite an event in itself as you get to see how frisky they can be with their handlers.
Take a look at this video of the Tiger Kingdom to see what you can expect.
Accommodation near the Tiger Kingdom, Mae Rim
Although Mae Rim is within easy reach of Chiang Mai for day trips, you might decide you’d like to stay in this area and spend a few days exploring places like the Tiger Kingdom, the Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens, Siam Insect Zoo, and the Mae Rim Monkey School. There are not too many options in this area, but here are some suggestions:
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is a 5-star resort property located in Mae Rim and is the best local hotel option. Located among the rice paddies and overlooking the mountains and fields of the Mae Rim Valley, the bungalow-style rooms set in lush tropical gardens are really quite stunning. The resort is self-contained with its own restaurants, spa, swimming pool, fitness center, tennis courts, and massage rooms. There’s even a shuttle service to Chiang Mai. But as you might imagine, all this does not come cheap and rooms range from 40,000-55,000 Bt per night.
The Spa Resort Chiang Mai is a 4-star hotel also located in Mae Rim with rooms arranged around a central swimming pool and furnished in the dark wood of the Thai Lanna style? The rooms are huge and comfortable with balconies, satellite TV, and wi-fi. The resort has its own restaurant serving food grown organically in the resort and specializes in vegetarian dishes. There’s a spa, steam room, massage room, yoga classes, cooking classes, and meditation classes. Rooms range from 4000-8000 Bt per night.
Or you could stay in a Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, built among the ricefields in the foothills of the Mae Rim Valley. This has to be the most luxurious minority lodge accommodation we’ve ever seen, with 10 individual houses that have their own fireplaces (it gets cold up here in the winter), private bathrooms, balconies, and timber furniture. There’s even an in-ground swimming pool, and barbeque and you can eat dinner under the stars in an open-air restaurant with authentic entertainment. Rooms here are around 3,000 Bt per night, which is very reasonable.