Wild Thing, I think I love you

I am the last person in the world my husband, parents, siblings, or friends would choose to come face to face with a wild creature. I’ve always been a complete wuss around animals – I blame it on the fact that I grew up in a pet-free home with a courageous father who never faltered in his duty to keep my life as bug-free as possible. (What a saintly man!)

This being so, why did I find myself in such a predicament? I was in a cage, in a corner of said cage, with a very large and very agitated adult tiger prowling toward me, and nothing between us but two feet of air. Staring at me. Like I was the next meal.

“Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay calm. Just stay calm and nothing bad will happen. Don’t act afraid. Perhaps today isn’t your day. Please Jesus, let today not be my day! Okay. Breathe. Just remember to keep breathing.”

Surprisingly, with a few urgent taps of my guide’s bamboo stick (a sorry excuse for a tiger deterrent if ever there was one), the tiger allowed himself to be lead elsewhere. My mom (watching from behind the fence) took the following photo of me moments after I realized I wasn’t about to be lunch. Yeah. I felt pretty ecstatic. (Wouldn’t you?)

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Despite those few heart-stopping moments, it wasn’t all completely terrifying – And despite how imbecilic I may be for actually paying to enter an enclosure with four animals that would as soon kill me as look at me, I had an amazing and unforgettable time. Check out some photos from my morning!

Signing away my right to file a lawsuit should a tiger maim (or eat) me ↓

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The rules inside the tiger enclosure ↓

IMG_3447I was told repeatedly to lay on top of the tiger. This was all I could manage. ↓

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At 2.5 years old, this male tiger was the largest (and thankfully laziest) of the bunch. ↓

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I’m convinced this guy wanted to eat me. This was taken just before he turned around and cornered me. ↓

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Yeah, I totally do this every day. ↓

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So. Big. ↓

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Yes. I am actually holding a tiger’s tail. ↓

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In 17 days spent exploring Thailand, my tiger encounter was definitely a high-point. Despite the danger of getting close and personal to fully grown tigers and despite the fact that I’m no great animal lover, my morning at Tiger Kingdom is something I won’t readily forget. (Not least of all because that one tiger freaked me out!) It was crazy, incredible, heart-stopping, and surreal. If I didn’t have these photos I probably wouldn’t believe I had the guts to do this.

Next time you’re in Chiang Mai, do this. You won’t regret it – I certainly don’t.

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