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.
10) Infrastructure Matters
Over the last decade, Bangkok has dumped cash into public transport, building <a href="http://www.bts.co.th/index_coverPage.html">the excellent elevated SkyRail</a>, which makes it possible to travel across the massive and chaotic city quickly and cleanly. Roads are well maintained and the railroad station is conveniently central. Despite the passions of travelers -- the locals do a decent impression of Italians -- the trains run on time.
9) Respect Your Elders
Bangkok is a hotbed of political insurgencies, but there is one simple rule that everyone obeys: Never say anything bad about King Bhumibol Adulyadej. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/23/thailand-jails-magazine-editor-somyot-prueksakasemsuk">Slandering the beloved ruler is a crime</a>, as is <a href="http://goseasia.about.com/od/thaipeopleculture/a/lesemajeste.htm">defacing the royal image</a>, which is ubiquitous. Stand before your movie starts, royalty demands it.
8) Democracy Is A Verb
The Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts, representative of the People's Alliance for Democracy and United Front For Democracy Against Dictatorship, have <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13294268">periodically swarmed the streets of the Thai capital</a> over the last few years. Despite a smattering of violence, the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful and courteous toward foreigners. Disrespect doesn't inevitably bleed into disagreements.
6) Statues Deserve A Little Rest
The reclining Buddha in Wat Pho is Bangkok's recumbent answer to the Statue of Liberty. The Buddha is massive and gold, but seems anything but formal. Bangkok is a come as you are place and its monuments are monumentally chill about the crowds they attract.
7) International Is A State Of Mind
There is a reason that <a href="http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/">Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport</a> is one of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/the-most-instagrammed-places-2012_n_2375308.html">the most Instagrammed places on Earth</a>; it is a temple to international travel packed with people for whom globalization is a watch word. The educated Thai populace in Bangkok has recently developed a tech scene, all but adopted English as a common language and set about the project of making their country compete internationally.
5) Street Fashion Is The Future
Major fashion houses are well represented in Bangkok's massive malls, but unknown designers have no trouble finding space in street style haven like <a href="http://www.bangkok.com/shopping-mall/platinum.htm">Platinum Fashion Mall</a>, which boasts endless small boutiques packed with of-the-moment clothes by local designers made in nearby factories. There is a shop for literally every look and, more often than not, the designer is around to talk about it.
4) Rivers Are Streets, Too
The most prominent thoroughfare in Bangkok is the Chao Phraya River, which is plied by <a href="http://www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/home/">a number of public and private boats</a>. The views from the deck are beautiful and cottage industries grow like mushrooms near the dank docks.
3) Honesty Leads To Better Policies
Bangkok is famous for its sex industry and there it is irrefutable that the city is packed with strip clubs that serve, more or less, as take-out brothels. That said, the red light districts are -- unlike those in many other Asian countries -- <a href="http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/life/25-years-thailands-sex-industry-233135">well regulated</a> by police officers and <a href="http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/life/swing-teaching-english-bangkoks-sex-workers-478321">social workers</a>. Trafficking is a reality, but Bangkok has proved that addressing the issues surrounding sex rather than playing the prude works best for all concerned.
2) The Customer Is Absolutely Always Right
If you can think of it, you can buy it in Bangkok. At the Chaktochak Market, customers can find <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_slideshows/ipad_slideshow.php?id=262775&entry=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheapflights/top-10-shopping-experienc_b_2117910.html?utm_hp_ref=canada&ir=Canada">everything from faux antique Buddhas to endangered species</a>. Vendors don't pass judgment, they simply cater to their diverse clienteles apparently bizarre needs.
1) Fuss Over Food Not About It
Bangkok's food culture may be the city's defining characteristic. Fresh food is made on every street corner with a sort of attentiveness westerners won't be use to seeing at, say, a hot dog stand. <a href="http://www.fodors.com/world/asia/thailand/bangkok/review-143680.html">There are fancy restaurant to be sure</a>, but pretention is not a major part of foodie culture in Thailand, where big tastes are valued over delicate platings.