Visited this place after a 10 year absence, early February 2013.
Nothing much has changed.
Good time to visit would be getting there around 10am in the morning.First go on the elephant forest ride
You will complete it with about 30 minutes to spare to see the elephant show.
It starts with elephants being washed down for the show in an adjacent stream whose water supply comes from the mountains around.The elphants are then walked into the performance arena.
Its adequate enough to sit 200 people. If you see large tour goups (ie Buses) when you first arrived in the morning then don't spend too much time watching the wash down. Head for the performance area-showtime 1pm. Try to sit in the lower part of the terraces so that your cameras get a good vantage view when the elephants start their painting repertoire. YES...the elephants do paint for you and you can purchase the paintings after the show.
Downside..there is no commentary during the show.
Little is done to promote elephant conservation through AV shows and briefings or dare I hope for a sound and light show to come???
Do apply sunblock as the UV effect even in normally cool ChingMai can be punishing
When you buy bananas or sugar cane to feed them, they are tied up in bunches. Feed them bunch by bunch and not nana by nana!! They know how to spit out the string that tie the bunches up. They are about 20 Baht a bunch. 5 to 6 bunches will suffice.
You will be asked by the mahouts to take pictures with the elephants at close proximity. Move slowly and gently and do not make startlingly loud piercing shrieks of delight.Elephants are gentle "people" by and large. They'll reach out their trunks for a tip (mahout guided of course!!)
Get some 20 BAHT NOTES Handy... its the accepted amount per elephant photographed with you. If you start unpreparedly dish out 100Baht notes....the whole elephant and mahout community will descend on you..Be warned!!
Do romp around the surroundings before or after the show. Go to the nursery and watch Mama looking after her precious "little" giant.A sight to behold.Again, speak softly and tread softly. Do not startle them. Lots of elephant souvenier bric a brac available.