Chiang Mai was for us mostly enjoyable.
It is much more manageable than Bangkok, of course, but still a busy city.
The local currency is the baht. It's roughly US 3 cents for a baht. I didn't bother to negotiate for the few things I've bought, though I did get reduced tuk-tuk fare once.
We are about to embark on a three day "trek." I felt the need for some extras to make the walking more comfortable. Therefore, I had to shop.
For stream crossings and giving my feet a break at night, I bought Thai made "walking sandals" on sale at an outlet store for TB 199: US$6.35. Several markets and a few towns later, I augmented my out-of-place black wool Greek fisherman's hat (€10 on sale in Delphi) with a more modest ball cap. My on-sale white cotton ball cap set me back TB50, about US$1.59. Both sandals and hat are essentially disposable, but for the moment more useful than a "jade" carving or other tourist trinket.
Meals can be very low cost, depending on the establishment and food. We rarely spend more than TB300 on dinner for two.
While there is poverty here, we see few beggars, and I have yet to see any slums. We stopped for lunch at an urban mall: four stories of fancy stuff for sale but especially cell phones and cell phone add-ons. Throw in lots of new construction, late model cars and scooters, and you sense reasonable prosperity.
Don't come here to find poor but noble peasants working in the fields. Thai are hard working, honest, helpful, and friendly, city and country. They deserve respect and their hard-earned prosperity.