Out of the 5 of us, four of us voted this as our favorite Thailand experience. Mick said this was his 2nd favorite after the elephant adventure. Kung, our guide (from Tour with Tong) picked us up at our hotel at 5am. Surprisingly we were all pretty awake as we piled into the comfy white van. About 2.5 hours later we pulled up for our VIP Tiger Temple experience. Our first job was to feed the monks (of the temple) breakfast. We stood behind a table and placed in front of us were bowls filled with various items such as bread, rice, baggies of meat in Thai sauce, yogurt and other things. We would bow as the monks came through in a line with a bowl of their own and place of of the items in their bowl. We had first done this on our Buddhism tour with Jerry (Tour with Tong) on the day after arriving in Bangkok.
Next, we were paired up with a worker and taken into an open air enclosure where we sat on the floor next to a baby tiger and were given a bottle filled with warm milk too feed them. Kung took my big camera and ran around taking photos of us. My tiger cub was one of the youngest and she fell asleep and fell off the edge of the step as I as feeding her. I could see her getting drowsy but wasn't fast enough to catch her. I picked her up and put her back on the step where she slept soundly for the rest of the time. We could walk around and play with the other babies too. One of them loved walking across Spencer's lap and did that about 4-5 times.
Next on the agenda was breakfast for us. We were served buffet style the same breakfast we had served the monks. The workers all ate with us then paired us up and gave us one of the older cubs to walk across the compound. Mike and Mick took the friskiest of the bunch. Spencer and Ski had the most social who would rather lay and wait for the rest of the group than walk alone so the temple worker who was assigned to us would run in front with a stick that had leaves on it and rustle it on the ground so their tiger would chase it.
Bathing these little guys was next on our list. We all got a chance to get down and dirty and scrub them til they were clean. After bathtime was snack time. We hand fed them cooked chicken. They had already had a bottle of warm milk so they weren't ravenous.
We had read about playing with the teenager tigers but none of us were prepared for what that really was. We were taken into an enclosure that had rocks, trees and was surround by a moat filled with water and a concrete wall. We were given sticks that had plastic shopping bags on the end that were inflated and ribbons tied to them. Then came the tigers. Five BIG tigers. We would hit the sticks on the ground and then lift them into the air and the tigers would jump up and try to get them. Each of us had a temple worker next to us. They divided us up and some stayed up in the tree/rock area and our family went down by the water. Several times when we were playing with two or three tigers, the workers would start yelling and the other two would bound through brushing our legs and jump on the tigers we were playing with or launch themselves at our sticks.
Was it scary...for me, a little bit. These tigers were big and frisky. Mick and Spencer said they never felt concerned. Looking back, the tigers never showed any interest in any of the people. They were solely focused on the poles or the other tigers. If they got too close to you the workers would swat them with their hands and they would walk away. It definitely was exhilarating.
Here is a video of us playing with the teenage tigers. I chose to video everything rather than hold a pole. I had given my camera to one of the workers who actually stood in the water and took these photos which are amazing! I stood between and sometimes behind Ski & Mike and held my little Flip up in the air and tried to capture the action. You can see my hand in the photo below right by Mike's head.
We played with them for quite awhile then were led out to meet the adult tigers. There were two of these huge tigers that were reclining in the shade. This was mostly a photo op where we got to pet them then walk them down a tree lined dirt road. Really, it was more them walking us.
Our last activity was to stand inside a wire enclosure while some male workers played with about 8 of the adult tigers much in the same way we had played with the teenagers. They used the poles and put them over a small pond that had rocks all around it and the tigers would leap on the rocks and launch themselves way into the air trying to grab the poles before the landed in the water. It was far less exciting than actually being the ones holding the poles but it still gave us an appreciation for the power of these beautiful animals.
Kung also took a lot of the fabulous photos we have of this day.