Malaysians who can’t tahan the heat

cover pic
Image adapted from: and Pinterest

The puteri lilin starter pack includes: an umbrella, arm sleeves for driving in the day, tiny battery-run fans, and a cold drink in hand – tambah ais. You can easily spot us from a mile away – we’re the ones always kicking up a fuss about how hot it is, or scrambling to grab the aircon remote because 25°C just isn’t cold enough. 

But I have a pretty solid excuse for being a puteri lilinI grew up in Genting Highlands. So you can imagine just how terribly I fare in KL weather. Here are the struggles us puteri lilins have to go through in Malaysia, where it’s panas gila and uncomfortably sunny all year round: 

1. We’re grumpy AF as long as the sun is out

It’s like being hangry, but so much worse. At least when you’re hungry, you just have to deal with the loud growling from your tummy. But being hot induces a full body reaction – you feel like you’re burning from the inside, your clothes stick to your skin from all the sweat, and you get that “heaty” migrane 100% of the time.

girl under umbrella
9 out of 10 times, our umbrellas are used as shields against the heat instead of rain.
Image credit: The Independent

2. We kena nag for always drinking ice water

Har?! You’re eating chilli pan mee and drinking ice water when you’re on your period? Later your eggs fall off.” 

If you’re a girl, you’ve confirm heard these words before. There’s already a long list of “don’ts” that we have to follow when dai yi ma comes for her monthly visit, and drinking cold beverages is a big one. 

girl drinking cold beverage
We’re ice-blended frappe addicts not by choice
Image credit: @thesmartlocalsg

But it’s not just during our periods that we hear this. Our Chinese elders are always telling us to drink hot water for general health’s sake. Whether you’re having a cough, tummy ache, headache, or having a piping hot bowl of soup, they’ll always direct you to the kettle of boiling water. So whenever they spot me ordering ice to go with my hot tea, that’s when the nagging begins.

Also, I’d like to note that my eggs have never fallen off nor have I suffered from any cramps from drinking ice cold water. 

3. Our faces are always as red as tomatoes

We just need to spend 5 minutes out in the sun before we come back in with our faces looking like grilled tomatoes on a big breakfast plate. Our faces get red even indoors, when the aircon isn’t doing too well of a job.

asian flush
Accurate representation of what our faces look like after sports…and drinking
Image credit: IMDB

When we’re dragged out for outdoor activities and have to be out in the sun for more than an hour, that’s when things get serious. The redness on our cheeks start to look like patchy rashes, as if we’ve just caught an allergic reaction. So when we tell you that we’re allergic to the sun, we’re not making it up.

4. We have a constant dilemma on whether to cover up or bare it all

There are two ways puteri lilins deal with Malaysia’s heat: those who cover every inch of their body to avoid getting exposed to direct sunlight and those whose wardrobe essentials only consist of tank tops and shorts. 

cover up vs bare it all
Cover up or bare it all, your comfort is what matters.
Image adapted from: @thesmartlocalsg

I’m on team bare it all, simply because I’ll feel like I’m in a sauna if I were to cover up. It also helps that I’m already tanned, so I’m not too worried about going a couple shades darker. 

5. We have less vacation destinations

When family or friends tell us they want to go to other Southeast Asian countries for vacation, we’re often less than thrilled. KL is already so sweltering hot that we’d rather not spend our money to go to an equally hot country where being outdoors is required. Because if we do, we’ll come back with a nasty sunburn, no doubt about it. 

Others get sunburnt after a whole afternoon of lazing around on the beach, but we get sunburnt just by crossing the streets in KL
Image credit: MD Anderson

Even when friends suggest a road trip to Melaka or Ipoh, a puteri lilin’s first reaction will always be “eh, it’s damn hot there though”. So if you’re friends with a fellow puteri lilin, try suggesting cooler alternatives like Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, and Genting Highlands. 

6. We can only function in air conditioned-rooms 

What we wish Malaysia’s weather was like all-year-round

Even if there comes a day when flying cars are a thing, air conditioning will still be ranked first on my personal list of greatest inventions. Puteri lilins are completely reliant on A/C, to the point that we’d get withdrawal symptoms if we go too long without those gusts of 16°C wind. 

Air-conditioning bills are through the roof

I’m sure I’m on the more extreme side of things when it comes to aircon consumption, but only because my body heats up way too easily and I’m always left burning in room temperature. 

We didn’t have an A/C in our family home back in Genting, not even a fan, so getting my own when I moved into my university’s accommodation halls was a whole new experience. This mountain gal didn’t know just how much electricity these machines consumed, so I was paying an extra RM100-200 on top of the quota each room was given. 

It was only months after when I realised that none of my friends ever had to pay extra for exceeding the monthly quota. 

aircon home
The first thing I do when I come back to my room is turn the aircon on

But then again, I did have the aircon on full blast whenever I was in the room, so I guess the fees were justified. Fun fact: My room was so cold that when I would head out with my glasses on, they would fog up. 

Peers who turn up the A/C

Here’s my argument: if you already know the lecture hall or office is cold, so you can take preemptive measures by bringing along a jacket. But it’s not like we can take off our clothes whenever it gets too warm or we’ll probably get expelled or fired. 

The worst is when those with the aircon app on their phones sneakily turn up the temperature thinking we won’t notice. The beads of sweat already forming on our foreheads are a telltale sign. Please stahp

aircon app
The remote app works on different types of aircons, even centralised units.
Image adapted from: Gadget Hacks

7. We take 5 showers a day

Going back to an earlier point on my excessive consumption of aircon – well, it was so bad that my A/C unit actually broke down after I discovered a thick layer of ice inside it. It took a little longer than expected for it to be repaired, so I had to go a whole month without an A/C. 

aircon filters
There was a 1-2cm layer of ice on the filters, which serves as a good reminder to regularly check and wash your own filters.

I regularly took about 5 showers a day just to keep myself cool, and would actually wake up in the middle of the night just to head out for yet another shower before jumping back into bed. For a quicker fix, I’d just splash cold water on my neck, arms, and legs before splaying out under the fan. 

8. We are mall rats

Malls are our go-to lepak place. Not only are we indoors and well-shielded from the sun, there’s also a powerful air conditioning system to keep us cool. And if it’s a particularly warm day out, we have easy access ice-cream or ice cold drinks.

A plus side to this is that our partners have it easy when it comes to planning date nights – they just have to bring us to the mall. And because we spend all our free time in local malls, we become everybody’s walking directory. 

one utama mall
Image credit: GoWhere Malaysia

9. We “accidentally” become night owls

For us, warm weather is perfect for staying in and leaving our A/C on full blast while we tuck ourselves in for a nap. The only catch is that every day in Malaysia is a warm day, so daytime naps become a part of our daily routine.

The frequent naps and interrupted sleep combo turns us into unwilling night owls who are only out and about in the wee hours, which is great for us because the weather is usually nice and breezy then. But the only thing to do at night is clubbing and hanging out at mamaks. So if you’re not a party animal, people will just think you’re an insomniac or a vampire. 

Malaysian puteri lilin problems

The odds are not in your favour if you’re a puteri lilin living in an-year-round tropical country, but there are ways to make it work. And it’s not too bad if you have other puteri lilin friends to keep you company through all your night escapades and have someone to share the umbrella with on a hot day out. 

For the rest of y’all who can easily tahan KL’s weather and can sleep with just the fan, well, here’s a look at our daily struggles. Maybe next time you can kesian us a little more when you want to turn up the aircon instead of bringing along a jacket. 

If you too are a puteri lilin and are looking for some indoor activities to do, check out these articles:

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