The group fo 46 spent from Oct. 15-24 touring sites in and around Beijing, Shanghai and other cities.

COURTESY OF LANA PAINTER - Chamber and community members stand in front of the Great Wall of China during a trip to that country from Oct. 15-24Members of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, along with community members and the Sherwood City Council, recently returnedfrom an eye-opening, nine-day trip to China.

From Oct. 15 through 24, 46 people toured the ancient country, exploring sites in and around Beijing and Shanghai, according to Lana Painter, executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. Those included Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays and Sherwood City Councilor Tim Rosner.

"I think it was interesting to see a different culture because China is so different from the U.S.," she said. "The Chinese people, the pride in their history and their country, is really amazing to see."

During the trip, about half of the tour group went to Xi'an to visit the Terracotta Army, a collection of what is believed to number 8,000 warriors, chariots and horses that dates back to the first emperor of China. Many of the life-sized warriors have been excavated over the years. The other half of the group visited the cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou.

"I think the highlight of the trip was seeing the Great Wall," said Painter. "It's just incredible ... it goes all the way to Mongolia."

She said the Chinese treated the tour group really well.

COURTESY OF LANA PAINTER - Chamber Director Lana Painter and Dax Schlabs of Mason Restaurant see the sights of the Hutong District in Beijing aboard a rigshaw.Painter said the food there wasn't all that different from the Chinese cuisine in the United States.

"There was one day we had a big Peking duck and that was fun," she said.

One exotic alcoholic drink she passed on was an offer to drink a shot from a dispenser that contained an entire fermenting rattlesnake.

The group also went to Tiananmen Square, the site of the 1989 protests that killed either hundreds or thousands of students/civilians, according to estimates. The topic is still a touchy subject for all those involved and the group was told not to ask too many questions while at the location.

"You can definitely tell they were being careful with what they said," Painter said of those leading the tour.

The next stop was the Forbidden City, the former Chinese Imperial Palace.

"It's an open structure and inside they have all of these rooms," she said of the structure that holds 980 buildings. The visit to the Forbidden City proved impressive, said Painter, because the tour group also got a chance to watch Chinese soldiers engaging in military exercises.

COURTESY OF LANA PAINTER - The China tour group from Sherwood shares a meal with a Chinese family in the Hutong District of China, one of the highlights of the trip.Painter said she was impressed with how clean China appeared to be, noting that everywhere they went they saw people carrying bamboo brooms in a city where she said she felt lucky to be on a bus as people in cars, bikes and scooters zipped by.

In addition to going through the Olympic Village from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the group also toured a silk factory, a jade factory and a green tea plantation.

"One of the neatest things we did, we went to the Hutong District and we were guests of a Chinese family and they made us lunch," said Painter. "We were so honored."

What made the experience so neat was mingling with an entire multi-generational family where the father was a retired engineer.

COURTESY OF LANA PAINTER - One of the most impressive sights in China was seeing the Great Wall, said Lana Painter, executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.The Hutong district was a curiosity too because most of the homes had bathrooms and showers outside the home in centralized locations.

"That was interesting to us because it puts our life in perspective," she said.

Now the group is looking at future tours such as Tuscany, Scotland or Ireland, said Painter.

Painter said the China experience is one she won't soon forget.

"It was an incredible trip," she said.

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