A lot of first time visitors aren't quite sure what to expect when first arriving in the capital of exotic Thailand, and some may be disappointed by their first impressions on the way into town - endless high rise buildings, busy expressway flyovers and billboards of western companies advertising in English. Yet while Bangkok has undoubtedly embraced westernization and modernization, you only need to look a little under the surface to see that it remains undeniably a Thai place at heart. In between the skyscrapers and sophisticated shopping centers there's still the remarkable Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace (pictured), the Temple of the Dawn and many more. Traditions live on too: don't be surprised, for example, to find a large dedicated spirit house built for good luck alongside almost every major building, or to see files of Buddhist monks making their early morning alms round - and it's surely one of the only major cities in the world where seeing an elephant paraded round the streets hardly even ranks as being unusual.
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