Chiang Mai is the largest city of Northern Thailand and capital of the province with the same name. More than 140.000 people call Chiang Mai their home and despite it being a big city with it's traffic problems, it feels serene and almost village-like in certain parts of the city. One of the first inputs I got when I arrived in Chiang Mai was, that it is very difficult to get across the major streets and intersections and while this is true, it is more a western perspective. Thai's walk across a 6 lane street thru the flowing traffic. Europeans will stand at the marked pedestrian crossing and wait for a gap in the flow, which might take a while. I also found some pedestrian crossings with a traffic light and pressed it several times to cross, though the fast moving 11 seconds I had, were barely enough to make it to the middle of it, while the oncoming traffic did not really stop (despite the red light).
However I found some really nice and quiet backstreets with almost no traffic and enjoyed the old wooden houses and beautiful temples. Life there reminded me of being outside of the big city in the small villages. In the old historic part of the town the amount of guesthouses and coffee shops is overwhelming. Outside the city moat, with the exception of the area around the Night Market, I found the small streets to be mostly living areas with friendly people, local food stalls and very much a representation of present-day Chiang Mai local life.