CHIANG MAI, July 5 -- Some cities fade away, their glory days long past. Others find a new golden age, relinquishing history in favour of rapid modernisation.

And then there are those who manage to straddle the two: preserving its heritage while embracing gentrification without losing its soul.

In Chiang Mai, the old is new again when seen with fresh eyes.

The buildings are much lower than those in Bangkok, so there is a sense of a more relaxed pace. You wouldn't have guessed this from the speeding vehicles buzzing by though.

Statues of elephants stand guard over the canals of the Old City moat.

The most distinct are the songtaews, red open-sided pick-up trucks that are Chiang Mai's version of taxis.

The word songtaew means "two row...