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Some of the sites recommended in and around Hohhot (Biqeq and Baita) absolutely require car transportation.
The trouble is that taxi drivers, especially it seems in Hohhot, are very fickle and the concept of hiring them by the hour combined with maximum number of kilometres works fine in principle, but invariably the drivers become unhappy: they simply do not want to be cosntantly turning off the road onto smaller lanes in unknown places. They prefer to be barrelling along tarmac roads at breakneck speed.
I really recommend trying out a few taxi-drivers first, around the city, to get an understanding of their mentality and disposure to your 'odd' behaviour, before booking someone for the whole day.
An easier option is to find someone with a car who wants to earn a few hundred kuai.
Clarify at the beginning exactly what you want to do, and make it explicitly clear that you ate not interested in just going to the usual tourist sites, you want to go where YOU want to go. This will not stop the regular "You want to go to Zhajun's tomb now?", but at least it makes it clear what you want.
However, do be sensitive to the needs of the driver. They will invariably not bring water so bring some for them, and tell them how long you will be.
Do not pay any money until you return to where you started, or where you want to go, especially if you are going off hiking in the hills.
Finally, do take note of the car registration (and the taxi-drivers number) if you feel any unease with anything and SMS it to someone (or yourself) and make a point of communicating that to the driver if you run into any problems (which is extremely unlikely).
Written Aug 30, 2004
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