The one exception may have come during a visit to Tiananmen Square, the sight of pro-democracy protests in 1989. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square massacre, tanks and troops of the People's Liberation Army moved into the streets of Beijing, using live fire to clear the area of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, although estimates range into the thousands. After the demonstrations the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, banned the foreign press from the country and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press.
Ti travels found no reference to the Tiananmen Square uprising during their visit.
"We asked Sunny (the tour guide) about it, but she didn't really answer," Herbst said. "The only monument is one to Chairman Mao."
China is a nation of stark contrast, Andrushko noted.
"There were a lot of modern, high-rise buildings and nearby were old, poor houses," she said. "There were places that were beautiful, but at the same time there were places that weren't."
A visit to a Chinese school opened eyes for the local travelers. Chinese students go to school 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round. They get three one-week breaks a year.
"They were very serious," Bagneschi said of the Chinese students. "They couldn't believe American students don't have to wear uniforms."
The Chinese people were welcoming, the Ti travelers agreed, but communication was sometimes difficult.
"There was a huge language barrier," Bagneschi said. "When you visit countries in Europe a lot of people speak English. No one spoke English in China. Our tour guide was a key person."
A week wasn't long enough to visit the world's largest nation.
"We definitely need to go back," Andrushko said. "There is so much to see."
The Ti Travel Group probably won't be going back to China soon. The group plans a trip every other year. Previous trips have been to England, Ireland, Scotland and France.
"When we started planning this trip we were shocked to find that China was the least expensive trip," Bagneschi said. "We decided it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience so we went for it. It turned out to be a wonderful experience."
The trip was organized with the assistance of EFTours, an educational travel group based in Boston.