A city within a city, Chiang Mai’s old town is walled within a perfect square of moats about two kilometres a side. The city without is busy, modern and bustling, while the old town is more tranquil, peppered with wats and winding back streets. Parts of the old city walls still survive. their baked red bricks piled up at the large gated entrances.
Although not small, the old town is on a local scale compared to the multinational feel of the rest of Chiang Mai. Businesses are largely single shops or cafes, with the ubiquitous Thai 7-Elevens almost the only chain present. Even the local version of Starbucks, Wa Wee, sells fantastic cappuccinos using coffee grown the mountains around the city.
Markets abound – night, walking, craft, food, textiles, take your pick. Allan was in food heaven when he discovered a stall that sold nothing but Thai pork scratchings (veggies look away now) which were huge satsuma-sized rolls of deep fried pig skin, plus a big bag of dried strawberries. Chloe picked up 6 metres of brightly printed cotton for about £6 and had them made into pyjama trousers by a local tailor. Chloe wearing bright colours? You may even catch sight of a picture of her wearing them, but don’t hold your breath.