By Tan Mae Lynn
WETLANDS, dolphins and Noah's Ark.
Where in Asia would you find all these in one place? Bet you didn't think of Hong Kong.
The territory has much more to offer than food, shopping and Disneyland, for which it is justly famous.
It's still not too late to book a National Day long-weekend trip, or start planning for the September school holidays.
Here are some off-the-beaten track attractions in Hong Kong:
Mai Po Wetlands
Beyond the bright lights of the city, there are nature parks teeming with wildlife.
More than 70 per cent of Hong Kong is made up of forests, rural mountains and outlying islands.
Nature lovers can head out to the Mai Po Wetlands in the north-western part of the New Territories.
In spring and autumn in particular, there are some 300 species of migratory birds that make the marshes a resting and feeding place.
During the winter months, about 20,000 to 30,000 migratory birds make these wetlands home.
Even if you're not a bird watcher, the sights and sounds can make a visit worthwhile.
The Mai Po Wetlands is about 1,500ha, more than 50 times the size of the Singapore zoo.
To get there, from MTRs Sheung Shui Station, take bus 76K to Mai Po Village.
Then it's a 20-minute walk to the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Sheung Shui station.
There are several marine parks around Hong Kong.
Depending on the one you choose, you can swim, sail, canoe, snorkel or even scuba dive.
One of the highlights is the pink dolphins at the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park.
They are supposedly the "world's pinkest dolphins" and can be found around the mouth of the Pearl River.
You can take a guided tour on a luxury cruiser to see these Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins up close in their natural habitat.
If the dolphins don't come out on the day of the tour, you can join the tour on another scheduled trip for free.
Tours are approximately four hours and cost HK$360 ($60) for adults and HK$180 for children aged 3-11.
You can book through your hotel or through the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Noah's Ark, Ma Wan island
Families with young children will enjoy Ma Wan Park, which has a full-sized replica of Noah's Ark. It is by the waterfront overlooking the Rambler Channel and Tsing Ma Bridge.
The park has a garden and features close to 70 pairs of life-sized animal sculptures and the Noah's Adventureland for those seeking thrills and games.
Families that want to get the most out of this park can also stay a night or two at the Noah's Resort there.
To get there, you can take a ferry from Central Pier 2, or from the Tsuen Wan Ferry Pier.
Jumpin Gym USA
There are about 50 of these indoor amusement parks in Hong Kong.
The chain offers a variety of games from basketball to bowling to bumper car rides.
A good place for the kids to entertain themselves for hours while adults shop.
Another fun attraction for families with young children.
It has more than 60 Peanuts figures that kids can squeeze and hug.
A trip to Snoopy's World can be a short respite from the hustle and bustle of the city during your holiday. To get there, take the MTR to Sha Tin Station, exit A. Then, walk to New Town Plaza.
This article was first published in The New Paper.
Great HK sale to lure S'poreans
THIS year, Singaporeans have cut back on travel. But that is set to change once we put the battle against the flu and the recession behind us.
To whet your travel appetite, the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular is on until 31 Aug. Besides a range of events such as concerts showcasing pop groups and artistes such as Grasshopper, Leon Lai and Joey Tang (to name a few), there are numerous participating retailers, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions offering discounts.
Think of it as the great Hong Kong sale. For more details and for discount coupons, visit www.discoverhongkong.com/hkss.