Friday, January 13, 2006
"Ferocity you can touch"
The idea of walking into an enclosure with 9 or 10 fully grown tigers, with only a couple of unarmed buddhist monks to protect you may not be on everyone's travel itinerary in Thailand. But Kate, is fast becoming wild animal girl, talking me into doing all sorts of crazy things that usually inviolve wild animals with sharp teeth. After a month at the animal park in Bolivia walking pumas (I still have the bite marks to match) she has conned me into getting up close and personal with some extremely large felines. So what is this strange buddhist connection between the monks, the tourists and these unchained 170 kilogram top of the food chain beasts? The tiger temple was started in the late nineties when one of the monks came across a couple of baby cubs called storm and lightning and hand reared these cute little blighters into the cuddly teddy bears they are now. From then on the tourists and the tigers have been increasing and they are now raising money to build a huge enclosure for the tigers. So are the Tigers drugged? I hear you ask. Apparently not and towards the end of the day with their pacing back and forth, they looked very awake to me. We arrived with Kates sister and nephews and after signing our lives away, were greeted by a sign proudly proclaiming Dangerous but kindly. Before we knew it, a Tiger minder ( perhaps the strangest job in Asia) grabbed our hand and led us over to a wide variety of very large, well Tigers actually. So there we are patting the most dangerous of all the cat species with these tiger minders taking our photos. There definitely appears to be something very zen going on here, either that or the tigers are pounded into submission when they return to their cages at night. The tigers are the more submissive, and the Monks use both hands to pat them down and let them know whats going on. If a particular tiger gets too unruly he is sprayed with water or maybe even chained up... heaven forbid. A smiling Monk encourages us tourists to enter the enclosure as many times as we want. In the next breath though he does shout...they attack you they not chained up to one tourist who tried to get a better photo op by climbing a hill. Most of the time we spent behind a red cord at least 10 metres away from the tigers but for some reason that flimsy red cord made us feel a lot more safer. When we decided to venture the other side of the cord the minders would grab our hand and lead us over to the tigers where we could pat their backs, put their huge heads in our laps or even sit on them should we have wished. ( the latter option was usually only for children of which quite a few accepted) All in all we spent a wonderful couple of hours doing something we could only dream of doing back in Australia. check out www.tigertemple.org