Malaysia lies in the tropics. Any foreigner that comes here for a visit invariably suffers from the incessant heat. Even the locals suffer, in varying degrees. My country is one that enjoys a perpetual summer, punctuated by periods of monsoon rains and thunderstorms. I, for one, do not like the scorching sun. The rain is always welcome except when it is excessive to the point of floods.
Thus, life in Malaysia revolves around hot days and wet days, with an occasional overcast day. Most people do not like to work under the sun. If they cannot help it, like the road-workers, they normally wear large hats and thin clothes so as to minimize the effects of the sun. Strangely though, the darker skin workers, like the Indians, seem less affected by the sun. So, it is no surprise to see mainly Indian workers along the roads, working long hours under the sun without apparent harm.
The people of Chinese origin, who have whiter skin, are the ones most afraid of the sun. This is evident by the fact that the Chinese, girls in particular, who work in rubber estates, wear huge scarves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants so as to cover their bodies completely. They do not like their skin browned for it is considered unfeminine. The huge scarves that they wear like hoods, cause them a lot of inconveniences, but they bear it, for the sake of beauty.
Away from the sun and in the shades of offices and shoos, fans turn unceasingly. Those who can afford it have air-conditioners to maintain a more pleasant atmosphere. Even cars and buses now have air-conditioners fitted. The difference between traveling in an air-conditioned car and a car without an air-conditioner is very great. Anyone who has done both will agree with me.
On hot days, the ice-water and fruit stalls are a blessing. They provide thirsty people with the refreshment that are so necessary to keep them going. These stalls have many varieties of drinks and fruits to cater for the equally varied taste of their customers. Business is generally good except when the rain comes. Then it is a time of woe for the hawkers.
The sun thus drives most people to look for jobs in the cool comfort of air-conditioned offices. Furthermore, offices shield their occupants from rain and thunderstorms. Few people and only those who have no choice would expose themselves to the mercy of the two elements of nature, the burning sun, and the driving rain.
The recreational and social activities of the people are also determined by the sun and rain. Sports and dames are held early in the morning or in the evening. Most people cannot last very long under the sun, so it is not a good idea to play hockey at noon. The possibility of collapsing is very real indeed. Only mad cricketers stand under the sun trying to bowl one another out. No wonder cricket is a dying game in Malaysia. Most people prefer to remain sane and play outdoor games only when the sun is less hot in the morning or evening in the evening after work, one can see the playing fields crowded with football players, joggers, hockey players, and spectators. it is the most pleasant time of the day. Less outdoor-types play badminton, squash, and billiards in weather-proof rooms.
The beaches are filled to capacity on weekends and holidays but sunbathers ace rare sights and almost invariably are foreigners from colder countries. The locals do not sunbathe unless they 2re asking for burned skin and sore backs. Most visitors to the beach prefer to rest under the cool shades of trees or man-made structures. The more outgoing ones may frolic in the sea. The sun can be so hot that after a session or two of intense sunbathing, the foreign participants would be most careful in venturing out for more.
We have air-conditioned restaurants and shopping complexes to ease the strain of the sun. During the day most shoppers gather at the pool complexes. When the sun sets, we can see “pacar malam’s” springing up. As the day is hot, the nights are cool in contrast. This is one of the benefits of living in the tropics. At night we can venture out in ordinary clothes without fear of getting frozen. In fact, it is very pleasant to browse around the night stalls. The people are also in a better mood at night so the stalls are patronized till as late as midnight after which silence reigns and only a handful of nightclubs carry on.
In general, then, life here in the tropics is a constant avoidance of extreme heat and extreme wetness. Cold is not a problem here. We keep cool and dry as much we can.