On our way from Lisbon airport to the hotel, my thoughts drifted back to the days I lived in Kuala Lumpur. It was the time that I used to get anxious about taxi rides, especially when I go from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the city. The reason that contributed to my anxiety may be, having had to ride with tired and sleepy looking drivers, who stay quiet all through the journey. Back then I would look out of the window and keep my eyes on the road. I had the tendency, to press an imaginary brake pedal, if and when I feel the car is going fast and its out of control. But there were less apprehensive, few and rare occasions, which I rode with careful and chatty taxi drivers. They would assume that it’s my first time to the city, and I pretend likewise. On those occasions, the driver usually tries to fill me in with as much information about KL and Malaysia in general. Their conversations gave me a perspective of what the different ethnic Malaysians think of their country and heritage. Some taxi drivers were keen to share their grievances about the government’s discriminative policies and practices towards some ethnic groups within their multicultural society.
On the day of our arrival to Lisbon, it was a different experience, though. It was a short journey from the airport to the city. The taxi driver in Lisbon was friendlier, conversing all the time. The taxi driver tried to fill us in with information about Lisbon’s neighbourhoods as we head to the city. Some areas of the city looked rundown, while others looked vibrant and bright. One of the distinctive difference in Lisbon is its buildings with coloured and patterned tiled walls. Some of those buildings looked unique and beautiful. And other buildings looked unfinished, hideous and haunted. According to our driver, the unfinished and neglected look is a facade, a deliberate act by its owners to avoid building tax. Apparently if a building’s construction is incomplete, the owners of such buildings need not pay a particular tax. I’m not sure whether the taxi driver’s version of the story was true or false. The audio guide narration on Hop-onHop-off bus said that the tiled walls were an artistic expression that started back in the 18th century and still continuing in Lisbon. Another reason for the tiled walls is to help control the temperature inside the building.