Well this had to go down as one of the best experiences of my life. I've always loved these leviathans of the jungle. And even at $60 for a day, the chance to get up close to them was not to be missed. We chose a reputable company, or so we thought, to do it with. They allegedly take care of the creatures, and the money goes towards conservation.
After riding them early on (I felt a little bad doing this...it must be boring for them, and I need to lay off the cakes and pop, too) we took them down to the river for a bath. Feeding them later in the afternoon was the best bit, though. I wasn't interested in the trekking...I just wanted to be near them. They seemed more interested in eating The Jock's camera than the fruit, though. The mahouts were pretty pleased when I spotted a snake half out of the bushes later, and they leapt off the elephants to kill it. I was worried the elephants would panic if they saw it and we'd go charging off towards the Thai border. Kill it they did, and I asked our guide what it was, as a mahout had disappeared with his prize...for dinner or snake whisky. He asked the other mahout, who said "Cobra". "How big?" I asked. He touched his right shoulder with his right hand, and held his left arm out. I shuddered.
It's definitely the way to see elephants, as a zoo is no fun. Though after reading the linked article above, I'm not so sure it's much different. Seeing them shackled to trees by their legs wasn't too pleasant. I think a sanctuary would be the way to go in future.