Even though I was convinced I could cycle around China unsupported after my wonderful Beijing experience the previous year, I felt I needed a local connection to help get me started, I now do not need this local support, but in 2014 before my first solo ride, I did.
First I chose Hangzhou as a destination, I had always wanted to see West Lake and I though it would be good to start with only the fourth largest city in China, over 20 million people, but with many ancient buildings, water towns and also being the southern terminus of the Grand Canal.
I searched the website/app warmshowers, a community of bicycle tourists and those who support them, to see if I could locate a local in Hangzhou who might give me tips or even accommodation. I contacted a few locals and quickly received a reply from the lovely Maggie who would be happy to let me stay with her (and her parents) at the beginning and end of my bicycle tour. She also mentioned she was backpacking in Tasmania with two friends and could they all stay with me in a weeks time…. (my wife and) I of course said yes. This was a great decision and I benefitted greatly from this over the next few years.
Maggie and her friends stayed for a week, resting up and planning a drive around Australia once they bought a second hand car. My wife and I passed on the highlights from our own road trips, we cooked each other our faviourite dishes and I took them all out for bicycle rides. It was a lovely experience and we had built up lots of brownie points or guanxi for my later trips to China.