Best Thing to Find Waiting after a 15-Hour Cab Ride
Inner Mongolia, China
Hailaer is not a particularly welcoming place. When I told a Chinese colleague that I was headed to the Inner Mongolian city on assignment, she pondered the name for a second and said, "It sounds foreign." But while it's definitely part of China, Hailaer founded as a military outpost in the early 18th century retains a frontier feel. When I took a cab from the airport to the train station, the driver demanded nearly $15 for a 10-minute ride extortionate by Chinese standards. When I demurred, he floored the gas, leaving me hanging out of the car. I contemplated kicking him in the head. Then I contemplated what a local jail cell might look like and paid up.
Over the next day and a half I spent 15 hours in the cramped backseat of a second cab, headed to an even more remote outpost on the Russian border. That cab's owner-driver, a man named Li, had a scar that ran from his left cheekbone to his mouth, and spoke almost entirely in phrases based around the word "f___." Despite his gruff exterior he was a decent guy, and as we careered along a frozen highway, he gave me this invaluable advice: Hailaer is home to China's best beer. Given the watery nature of China's beers, that seemed like faint praise. But, a day later, back to the airport, I bought a can. "It's the best beer in China," the cashier said. I took a sip. She was right. After 15 hours in a cab on a frozen highway in Inner Mongolia, it wasn't as though I needed any further convincing.
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