Set on the historic River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is the perfect place to base yourself to visit some of the impressive attractions nearby, and spend a few days relaxing on a floating guest house. The bridge over the river that claimed the lives of thousands during its construction in WWII, is easily accessible from the town by either bus or taxi. Besides the historical element, there are several floating restaurants on the river that make for a great spot for lunch.
One of the main draws of the area is the impressive Tiger Temple 30km north of the town. It is a place like no other, where for a 500 baht entrance fee (around $27 CA) you can have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal and have your photos taken with the tigers in the park. The tigers have been rescued from poachers and then raised in the park by Buddhist monks. The park acts as both a breeding ground for the tigers as well as a means to raise money and awareness about their extinction in the wild. The grounds are also home a number of other free roaming animals including yaks, ostriches, wild pigs and goats – perhaps dinner for the tigers?
Appropriate dress is required for entry into the temple compound. Shoulders and knees covered for both men and women, and no bright coloured clothing that is red, pink or orange in colour. Apparently the bright colours excite the tigers, similar to the red flags used to attract bulls. The temple grounds are only open between 1pm-4pm as this is when the tigers are resting and you can safely have your photo taken with them.
The first place you visit inside the temple grounds is the main tiger attraction where at no extra cost you can be lead around by hand by one of the workers to have your photo taken with several of the dozing tigers. There is nothing quite like getting up close and personal with a tiger, hearing it breathe and petting the fur along it’s back as the employees snap photos of you. You have the chance to walk around to several of the giant beasts to pose alongside them. Only in a place like Thailand where there are no worries about the liability of such a place could such an experience take place.
After getting photo happy with the adults, it’s time to visit the cubs. Workers and tourists (for a fee) have the opportunity to play ball with the young tigers. The game is keep away as the employees and other visitors kick and throw the ball around as the cubs try their best to jump up and get it every time. When they do get it, the workers rush into to steal the ball back – they’ve only got a few seconds before the cubs rip the ball to shreds and it’s time to find a new game.
There are a few more tigers sleeping out in the shade, accompanied by workers of course, where you can grab a few more individual photos and group photos. Even though it’s a bit expensive in comparison to what else you can do with 500 baht, there is no where else in the world where you can have an experience quite like this.