The ritual also features a performance from traditional-style dancers, hill-tribe villagers in traditional costume and elephant spirit men, known as Khru Ba Yai.
Once the competition gets underway, players jump on to their elephants to compete for the coveted King's Cup trophy.
Holidaymakers staying in Chiang Mai hotels may like to make the journey to Chiang Rai for the tournament, which is always growing in size and last year featured 12 teams and players from 15 different countries.
It takes place on the banks of the Ruak River, which separates Thailand from Burma.
Sponsored by luxury Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet, the event is organised to raise money for Thailand's National Elephant Institute.
The animal is likely to be a familiar site for people staying in Thailand hotels, as it is estimated that the country has approximately 3,600 domesticated elephants and 1,500 in the wild.
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