Ask the expert: From lessons in kung fu to martial arts displays at Shaolin Temple, these China trips pack a punch.
Kick off a kung fu tour in China
We're thinking of taking our three boys, who are mad about martial arts and, er, Jackie Chan, on a kung fu tour in China. Can you recommend a travel operator that offers sightseeing coupled with lessons at martial arts schools and other similar interactive experiences?
Many tour companies offer kung fu-themed holidays in Beijing and Shanghai with itineraries of varying lengths and attractions - depending on how action-packed you want your holiday to be.
China Expedition Tours (www.chinaexpeditiontours.com) has a two-week "Chinese kung fu panorama tour" that packs a punch: on the list are lessons in kung fu as well as t'ai chi (hand-to-hand combat, not the serene exercise grandma enjoys in the park), visits to three different kung fu schools - Shaolin, Wudang and Emei, martial arts shows and dance performances, and an overnight stay on the scenic Wudang Mountain, the birthplace of Wudang kung fu. If you still have energy left after all the kicking and yelling, catch sunrise on Mount Emei, one of China's four "Buddhist mountains"; visit the 1,700-year-old Yellow Crane "peace" Tower on the banks of the mighty Yangtze; and tour the vibrant markets of Chengdu city.
The four-day "Shaolin kung fu experience" is short and not as rigorous. Beginning with a casual tour of Shanghai/Zhengzhou, you'll depart the following morning for the famous Shaolin Temple in Denfeng, which resounds with the shouts of hundreds of young children, clad in the colours of their respective schools, enjoying their daily drills with much fervour. The next day will find your boys being put through their moves by highly skilled teachers at a local martial arts school. A "first class" tour costs US$818 (Dh3,000) per person, with a kung fu performance at Shaolin Temple, most meals, accommodation and all local transport. Prices exclude international flights.
If all this sounds like more action than you can handle, book Exodus's (www.exodus.co.uk) 16-day "Panda and Warriors" family tour of Beijing. It promises something for everyone - lessons in cooking, calligraphy and t'ai chi (bring grandma, too), shopping expeditions in the city, a trek on the Great Wall, a visit to the Giant Panda Research Centre and, of course, kung fu lessons at Shaolin Temple for die-hard Jackie Chan fans. The trip costs £1,349 (Dh8,090) per adult and £1,199 (Dh7,190) per child below the age of 12, with most meals, transport and accommodation, excluding flights.