Photo of the Day (8.17.10)

Anyone know how to order a half-caf venti soy no foam latte in Arabic?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, today’s Photo of the Day comes from the city of immense scale, renowned elegance, & other worldly air conditioning bills; Dubai. Flickr user JonRawlinson snapped the shot in Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall, where the iconic coffee kiosk has become somewhat of an attraction in and of itself.

Your move, Texas.

Do you have photos of something familiar to you in an unfamiliar setting? We’d love to see them! Upload them to our Gadling Flickr Pool and it could be tomorrow’s Photo of the Day.

Winter travel time: East Coast gets buried, disrupts travel

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A monstrous storm ran up the East Coast yesterday, burying parts of the country in more than a foot of snow and making life a living hell for road-trippers and airline passengers. As of last night, five deaths were reportedly caused by the storm. Fourteen inches fell on Reagan National Airport, setting a single-day record for December. Several hundred thousand homes in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina lost power. Airports in New York and Washington, D.C. canceled flights and had to cope with long delays.

It’s winter travel season again, in case you didn’t know.

The first major storm of the year was nothing short of severe. Some drivers ditched their cars on the side of the road, giving up any attempt to compete with the snowstorm. Meanwhile, malls were empty, as many didn’t bother trying to compete with the weather.

South by Southeast: In Bangkok? Head to the mall!

Bangkok means many things to travelers. The backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road. The sublime temples of Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. The seedy go-go bars of Patpong. But after visiting this crazy Southeast Asian capital for the first time, I’d like to suggest a new highlight in Bangkok: the malls.

You’re probably going to tell me I’m a spoiled Westerner, too acclimated to the comforts of home to get my hands dirty with some authentic Thai culture. But, perhaps it’s time we all take a closer look at what Bangkok is really like these days. The famed “anything goes” destination of old is still there, hiding down back alleyways and puttering along on Bangkok’s diesel spewing tuk tuks. But there’s also an entirely new Bangkok under construction. An emerging city of modern mass transportation and shiny new temples of capitalism.

So what is it about Bangkok’s malls that makes them so special? Like many malls back home, they’ve got all the usual amenities – the department stores, the food courts and the electronics boutiques. But there’s also plenty that makes Bangkok malls entirely unique: outstanding and inexpensive food courts filled with authentic Thai cuisine, special events and top-notch cultural institutions. Sound interesting? Here’s three reasons why you should head to the mall during your next visit to Bangkok. Click below.

The food courts are amazing
When I think of a mall food court back in the U.S., my stomach starts to churn. Greasy Sbarro pizza, unappetizing McDonald’s and gluttonous portions of Cold Stone Creamery. Bangkok food courts are a completely different animal. In fact, one of the best places to experience affordable, delicious Thai cuisine is at the mall.

Whether you want egg noodles with pork and dried shrimp, a big glass of Lemongrass juice or some Thai sticky rice dessert, the food court is where it’s at. Average price for your meal? About $3 U.S. per person. In addition to all the Thai favorites you’ll find plenty of great Japanese, Korean and Vegetarian cuisine, along with a few good old American favorites.

Air conditioning is your friend
Spend more than five minutes outside in Bangkok, and you will be attacked. Your fresh clothes will be drenched in sweat. Motor scooters, tuk-tuks and huge buses belch smoke from all directions. Monsoon rains deluge down from the heavens. Angry and persistent mosquitoes buzz and itch in your ear. It’s enough to make even the most hardened travelers beg for mercy. Bangkok malls will become your oasis from this chaos. The cool chilled air feels like a gift from above. Even if you have no intention of buying anything at the store, Bangkok’s malls offer an easy, cheap way to chill out.

Surprising attractions
Bangkok malls aren’t just for shopping. They boast top-notch culture, special events and surprising creativity. A great example is the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC), located in The Emporium Shopping Complex in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area. The center boasts rotating modern art exhibits from Thai artists, typography exhibits, film screenings and a huge library of design books and magazines. On a recent Sunday, I found myself hanging out in TCDC’s slick coffeeshop, enjoying the stellar Bangkok city views while a live jazz band jammed out onstage. Cheesy mall this is not.

The next time you find yourself in Bangkok, take a closer look at what this amazing city has to offer. In addition to awe-inspiring temples and cheap backpacker street food, you’re likely to find a city that has “come of age” on the world stage.

Gadling writer Jeremy Kressmann is spending the next few months in Southeast Asia. You can read other posts on his adventures “South by Southeast” HERE.

China mall opens fake Starbucks, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut

In addition to being a complex, beautiful and rapidly changing country, we’ve all heard that China is a copyright lawyer’s worst nightmare. A place rife with pirated DVD’s, software and all manner of luxury clothing and handbag knockoffs. It seems that pirated goods have become such a lucrative industry that the country is now dedicating an entire mall to the concept.

According to recent news reports, a mall in Nanjing, China is set to open with all manner of “copycat” stores, sporting awnings with none-too-subtle reinterpretations of well-known Western brands. If you’re looking for your morning pick-me-up, go no further than “Bucksstar” coffee, the place for all your $5 latte needs in Nanjing. When you get hungry, mall visitors can patronize the local “OMC McDnoald’s” or even grab some “Pizza Huh.” Perhaps the pizza chain name is in reference to the quality of the ingredients?

When I first stumbled upon this article, I actually did a half-spit take. Could this be legit, I thought? Yet in a country with a rapidly emerging consumer class and growing lust for fancy French wine and gated communities, it starts to make more sense. For many individuals, owning and consuming brands legitimizes their place in the world, announcing their ascension to the modern global economy. The creators of this mall in Nanjing seem to have come to a similar conclusion – even a knockoff of the real thing, no matter how awkward and blatant to Western eyes, is better than no brands at all.

[Via Buzzfeed]

Sharks Get Violent at Dubai Mall Aquarium

Come shop in the mall recently built in the shadow of the Dubai Burj, the world’s tallest building. You will enjoy over 1,200 of the world’s finest shops and a huge, glittery gold market…and see a 10-million liter aquarium in which divers and small fish are ravaged by gigantic sharks.

The aggressive sharks are part of a 33,000 specimen tank at the 12-million-square-foot Dubai Burj Mall. The tank includes an acrylic tunnel that people can walk through and gaze up at the aquatic life. The mall’s grand opening was marred when the large sand sharks attacked and killed nearly 40 smaller sharks. I doubt that the mall’s goal was to remind people of the casual brutality of nature before they began browsing through the world’s largest gold market. I’m sure the goal was spectacle, but naturally aggressive sand sharks do not mix well with other sharks in a closed environment. Divers performing maintenance on the interior of the tank have also been attacked, though no fatalities have been reported.