Chiang Mai City
Chiang Mai City is quite small and compact. The first thing you notice is the moat which surrounds the old city - a 2.5 square kilometer stretch of mostly low-rise buildings. The moat is the remnant of the Lanna Kingdom of which Chiang Mai was the capital for a few hundred years from the early 12th Century. While the moat is very well preserved, the old city walls along the moat are mostly gone except a few short sections which you can see when driving around. The East and West City Gates have been restored and are prominent landmarks, helping to keep your bearings about town.
The moat and remnants of the old city wall.
Chiang Mai Old City is great to explore on foot. The main street Rachadamnoen Road runs from the East Gate (Tha Phae Gate) to the West Gate (Suan Dok Gate). Just follow the main street and you won't get lost. For a city that is visited by so many each year, Chiang Mai is surprisingly un-touristy. Sure there are the usual B&Bs, pubs, cafes, souvenir shops, etc, but there is mostly an air of authenticity about them. Things have not been tarted up for the tourists. This is what makes Chiang Mai such a charming place to visit.
The East Gate - Tha Phae Gate.
Rachadamnoen Road - the main raod running from Tha Phae Gate to Suan Dok Gate. For such a popular tourist destination, it is surprisingly low-key and charming.
The West Gate - Suan Dok Gate at sunset.
The best time to explore Chiang Mai Old City is just before sunset, when the warm setting sun light up the buildings and temples like golden jewels. It is truly magical.