I read the city abolished its 148 rmb rntrance fee. is this still true in 2018, can you walk around the city for free?
You have mix up something. Visiting the old town itself is totally free of charge. You pay for entrance fee for certain sites in that area, and RMB 148 is the bundle price of those 9 sites.
When I visited about five years ago there were barriers around the old town and you needed to buy the ticket to get in. After that you got the visits, boat ride, etc, for no extra cost.
When my daughter visited 18 months ago it was as Hiro says. I do not know of anyone who has been there more recently.
I am here now in the old town and there's no entrance fee.