KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — As the final bell of SK Sultan Alam Shah 2 bell rang, children could be seen rushing out through the primary school’s main gate — most of them with water bottles that were already empty.
With the heat more unbearable than usual, some were seen with bigger bottles than others. Some even carried more than one.
“My mum would make sure I carry a 1.5-litre water bottle to school every day. Even though it's quite heavy to carry around, sometimes it won't be enough for me. I have to refill again in the canteen,” said Standard Four student Muhammad Khairul Amin told Malay Mail.
Illustrating his point, Malay Mail saw some parents giving out just-bought cold drinks to their children as soon as they get into their respective cars.
A student is seen carrying a two-litre water bottle while waiting for the Rapid KL bus in Taman Jaya LRT Station. May 18, 2023. — Picture by Shathana Kasinathan
Twenty-five-year-old Dineshwary Murugan felt the same. She admitted to drinking a lot of cold drinks to beat the heat — sheepishly saying that this is despite her knowing that it is not very healthy to consume so much sugar.
“Even just now also, we bought two cold fruit juices from Boost,” she said, referring to the juice and smoothie chain from Australia.
Over in a construction site in Tunjong, just a few minutes drive south of Kota Baru, Kelantan, quantity surveyor Abdu Al Razak Ramli, 24, said he could only tolerate the heat as the site provides staff with a dispensable water station in the office.
“It is hot out here and all of us here have been making trips to the washroom every now and then because we drink lots and lots of water. Every time we step out of the office for work. We make sure we bring our bottle with us,” said Razak.
Cold treats to beat the heat
The country is currently experiencing a period of heatwave — checks with Meteorology Department by Malay Mail this week showed that several in Peninsular Malaysia have recorded temperatures above 35°C: Kuala Lumpur, Jempol in Negeri Sembilan, Rompin and Kuala Krai in Pahang, and Jeli and Pasir Mas in Kelantan.
Three others are in East Malaysia: Marudi, Sibu and Betong in Sarawak.
All were categorised in Level One of heatwave, where the maximum daily temperatures were between 35 and 37°C for three days straight, and cautionary measures are advised.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahidi Hamidi said Putrajaya does not see a need to declare an emergency yet, but may reconsider if temperatures exceed 40°C.
A construction site worker in Tunjong near Kota Baru, Kelantan drinks water during his shift. May 19, 2023. — Picture by Muhammad Yusry
With the situation not yet considered dire, many Malaysians polled by Malay Mail said they were coping by consuming cold desserts — such as the local treat of “cendol”: Crushed ice topped with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, and green noodles made of a pandan-flavoured mixture of rice and corn flours.
Just metres away from SK Sultan Alam Shah 2 in Petaling Jaya, Ramakrishnan, 38, said he had only been operating the My Cendol Station stall for two months but customers had been frequenting it more recently.
When met there, housewife Nur Ariana Othman, 35, together with her husband, said they bought cendol for their children to make sure they stay hydrated and cool.
“My husband just picked up the kids from school and on the way back they were complaining about the weather. So, I decided to get them cendol,” she said.
“Nowadays, after school, we will come here to buy cendol, it’s just very refreshing to drink in this hot weather,” said a trio of school children met by Malay Mail while enjoying their bowls.
In Rawang, Selangor, an employee at a dessert shop called Love Life Dessert in Taman Setia there named June said there have been more customers ordering shaved ice in the last three weeks.
“I never drink cold drinks or eat shaved ice, but I can’t help it now that the weather is so hot. We came here just to treat ourselves to some cold dessert,” said one of them, Kristy Moo, who was sharing a bowl of shaved ice with fruits with her partner.
In Petaling Jaya, locals have been seeking cold treats like cendol from Ramakrishnan's My Cendol Station. May 18, 2023. — Picture by Shathana Kasinathan
Seeking cooler climate-controlled spaces
Over 4km away from the Love Life Dessert Shop in Rawang town, staff at electrical appliance shop Kien Fatt Electric Shop, Paul Ong, said its sales of air-conditioners and fans have soared by 20 to 30 per cent amid the heatwave.
“The other electrical appliances are not selling at all,” he said in apparent jest.
Meanwhile, HLK Electrical Appliance in the Rawang Mutiara Business Centre nearby told Malay Mail that it is a common occurrence for the spike in sales as it is always hotter around this time of the year.
Electrical shops in SS2, Petaling Jaya, also have seen a rise in the sales of air-conditioners and portable air coolers and fans.
“There's been an increase in the sales of air-conditioners, portable air coolers and fans.
"However, a lot of people prefer portable air coolers compared to portable air-conditioners. Some families even buy two or three air coolers for their home as one will not be enough for a big space area. Those who are staying in small space areas usually get one air cooler,” said ESH Electrical manager, Mary Chung.
In the same area, Lam Loong Electrical Sales & Services production assistant who wished to be called Wong said recently he had been getting a lot of calls from customers to repair air-conditioners and fans. He said this month alone he received about 20 to 30 calls to do so.
For those who can’t afford air-conditioning in their homes, some would make a trip to the mall to withstand the heatwaves and grab something to quench their thirst.
Roslina Farhan, 32 and her colleagues are seen eating "ice kacang" in KL Gateway Mall to cope with the heat wave. May 18, 2023. — Picture by Shathana Kasinathan
During Malay Mail's recent visit, KL Gateway Mall was crowded even on a weekday, with some conceding that they visited just to escape the hot weather. There, Roslina Farhan, 32, and her colleagues said they prefer going to eateries in malls nowadays.
"We are all working in a software company in Kerinchi, we always go to nearby ‘mamak’ shops for lunch but for the past few days, we have been having our lunch in eateries inside malls.
"We will take the LRT and go to malls that are connected to LRT stations so that we don’t have to walk under the sun so much and at the same time we can constantly be in places with air-conditioning,” she said, referring to the light rail transit public transport system.
The Suria Mall in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre also saw a similar crowd, with a mother-and-daughter duo seen buying an ice-cream cake from a Baskin Robbins outlet.
"I usually don’t spend a lot on birthday cakes, and we only buy the normal cakes for birthday celebrations but with this weather, I don't mind spending at all. Even though it’s expensive, it really helps with this weather,” said the mother, Nurul Atikah Affin, 43.
Her five-year-old daughter commented sharply while eating an ice cream her mother just bought: “I just hope the cake doesn’t melt fast”.
Universiti Malaysia Pahang students seen cooling off at the Sg Pandan waterfall near Kuantan, Pahang. May 18, 2023. — Picture by Muhammad Yusry
In Pahang, several students from Universiti Malaysia Pahang were among those who could afford to visit cooler spots. One of them, Adam Shah Mansor Shah, 25, said he and 11 of his classmates took a detour to the Sg Pandan Waterfall in Kuantan half an hour away after their morning class was rescheduled.
“Our Thursday morning class was basically off. It was hot in the morning, so my classmate and I decided to go to the waterfall ... instead of just sitting around in our house doing nothing and sweating.
"When our bodies hit the water, it was one the best experiences from these past few days, I tell you. It’s that hot here,” Adam said, reliving the chilly waters.