The Chao Phraya River winds through the heart of Bangkok, passing the ancient golden temples and brand news skyscrapers jostle together along the city's confounding streets. Elsewhere, an elevated rail swooshes over alleys devoted to decadence and sin. The city conjures "Blade Runner" in the friendliest way possible.
But despite its efforts to modernize, Bangkok is deeply dissimilar to most western cities. The floating cafes in the canals wouldn't pass a cursory inspection and the late night crowds move in disconcerting concert. This is a city that has much to teach travelers about the importance of triage: Bangkok accepts what it can't change and changes everything else as quickly as possible.
Far from a simple den of iniquity, Bangkok is the fertile field from which increasingly prominent Thai businesses and world leaders have risen. If you can make it here, you'll have a leg up anywhere else.