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Frappucccinos in the Forbidden City?

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Seems to me, there's no place Corporate America is afraid to go anymore. McDonald's is building a couple of hotels in Switzerland, and Starbucks is opening a store in the middle of Beijing's Forbidden City. Now, there still are some places you can visit in the world to avoid Western chains. But you're going to have to go to regressive countries such as North Korea, Myanmar, and Libya. These are places where dictators thrive, and phrases like, "You want to Super-Size that?" just don't translate.

One of the most oft-heard complaints by travelers of a certain age is, "This place isn't like it used to be." And I've always argued that NO place is like it used to be. Well, maybe Bulgaria back until the last decade. But the place where you were born probably hasn't stayed the same, so why should the south of France be unchanged since the last time you, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, visited? It is possible to keep some places from changing, more or less. In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, for example, tourism is strictly regulated. Only about 5,300 visitors were allowed in last year, which is a good thing considering that its national airline, Druk Air, only has two planes, each seating 72 passengers.

Now, everyone has a right to a mocha-double latte or a Big Mac, I suppose. So neither Switzerland nor Beijing will perish as a result. But I have to say in the case of the Forbidden City, it'll be unsettling to see the familiar green lettering of the Seattle-based coffee chain among the historical buildings. But I'll hold my fire until I hear reports of a 7-11 on the Space Shuttle or a Cineplex Odeon theater in the Roman Coliseum.

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