The backdrop is Bangkok, Thailand -- where I'm spending a week meeting with colleagues before heading on to Myanmar.
What I saw was frankly incredible.
In 30 minutes of walking, I passed no fewer than six different Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) locations. That's about one store every two blocks. Below are some shots of this diverse array.
Not only does Starbucks have a major presence here -- the company has made itself a mainstay of street life, all in a short period of time.
This is just a taste of what's been going on around the world for the company.
Earlier this year, Starbucks hit a major milestone in its global growth, opening its 20,000th store worldwide. Today, the company operates in 64 countries.
And consumers aren't the only ones that have been happy with the company. Just look at the gains shareholders have enjoyed over the past five years...
That's a significant achievement. And it flies in the face of analysts, which questioned whether the giant firm could continue to expand its operations at a brisk clip.
The reasons for Starbucks' success became clear after I visited a number of these stores.
You see, the world's greatest businesses usually follow one main creed... Sell a simple, standardized product with universally high demand in every corner of the world.
This helps Starbucks internationally in a couple of ways.
It allows the company to provide a reliable experience. My grande medium roast on Asoke Road is pretty much the same as the one I get on Burrard Street back home in Vancouver.
But simplicity also means that the product can be tweaked to maximize local appeal. I always find it fascinating when visiting Starbucks abroad to see what custom items they have on order.
In Japan, for example, the hojicha tea latte is extremely popular (and delicious -- it's a shame it hasn't become widespread in North America).
Bangkok's stores also have a distinctly Asian flavor, with items like macha tea cakes and red bean Frappuccino.
Starbucks is thus able to create a perfect balance between global reliability and custom-tailored experience. And this is a big part of the reason the company has taken the world by storm.
Here's another example of what sets this well-managed firm apart from many of its would-be global competitors: Its currency foresight.
You see, many currencies globally have been falling against the dollar lately. That means firms that sell internationally in yuan or Thai baht are today receiving fewer dollars when they change these local profits back into the head-office currency.
In a recent issue of my premium newsletter, Top 10 Stocks, I told readers how fluctuating exchange rates have been hammering the financials of a number of high-profile firms lately.
But not Starbucks. The company turned in a record-setting quarter -- despite all of the currency risk it and other companies face when operating globally.
How? The firm plans ahead. By hedging currencies in its major countries of operations and locking in a guaranteed exchange rate, it removes day-to-day shifts from the profit equation.
That's a smart move. At the end of the most recent quarter, Starbucks had over $500 million in foreign currencies hedged. Meaning it can generate profits abroad and not see them evaporate when changed into dollars.
These are all signs of a company that's carefully planned its overseas expansion program. I expect the firm's stellar growth abroad (not to mention in North America) will continue.
Bottom line, there's a good reason Starbucks is a core holding in my Top 10 Stocks portfolio. You see, stocks like Starbucks belong to a special group of securities I call "Forever" stocks. These are world-dominating companies that pay investors a fat dividend, dig a deep moat around their business to fend off competitors and buy back massive amounts of stock, boosting the value for shareholders.
In my report, "10 Best Stocks to Hold Forever," I've identified the core holdings any serious investor should have in their portfolio. To get the names and ticker symbols of these world-dominating companies, click here.