Hong Kong: Not just food and shopping

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HONG KONG -- While retail and culinary delights might be reason enough to pile into a wide-body for the long trek to this Chinese city, travel agents would be remiss if they neglected to steer clients to lesser known, unique or new attractions between bouts of eating and shopping.

Most are accessible via public transit systems.

Wishing Trees: At Lam Tsuen in the New Territories, located by the Tin Hau temple, visitors will find a pair of trees laden with dangling oranges tied to colorful papers.

For about 65 cents, clients can purchase an orange, scribble a wish or prayer, and join locals in trying to toss missiles/missives as high as possible.

The loftier the branch, the quicker a wish is granted; meanwhile, temple palm readers tell fortunes for about $20.

Tai Fu Tai Residence: Incongruous among ramshackle apartments, this exquisite home built in 1865 by a senior civil servant, or mandarin, boasts moon doors, wood carvings and stone figurines.

To visit, take the KCR train to Sheung Shui station, then bus No. 76K.

Edward Youde Aviary: This is a surprisingly large mid-city Eden set in Hong Kong Park. An elevated walkway winds through a tropical rain-forest canopy filled with 800 birds from 100 species found across Malaysia and Indonesia.

To visit, take the MTR train to Admiralty Station.

Heritage Museum: Families flock to this year-old, state-of-the-art storehouse of cultural history in Sha Tin. To stop by, take the KCR train to Sha Tin Station, then a taxi or 10-15 minute walk on Man Lam Road.

The museum features paintings, local natural and political history, archeological artifacts and -- most impressively -- a reconstructed Cantonese Opera hall.

Colorful collections of opera costumes, instruments and props dazzle, while interactive displays render visitors in full theatrical makeup.

Giant Buddha: Weighing in at 220 tons, the world's largest outdoor bronze Buddha statue sits atop Ngong Ping mountain on Lantau Island next to the Po Lin Monastery, which serves popular vegetarian meals.

The statue can be reached by taking the MTR train to Tung Chung, then the No. 23 bus to Town Center.

Mid-Levels Escalator: A wonder of modern engineering, the world's longest outdoor, covered escalator moves thousands of commuters up and down over a half-mile of Hong Kong's steepest streetscape.

It's a welcome find for bag-laden shoppers heading up to SoHo for dinner; catch it from 10 a.m. till midnight at the Central Market near Queen Victoria Street and Queen's Road.

For more information, contact the Hong Kong Tourism Board in Los Angeles at (310) 208-0233 or visit www.discoverhongkong.com.

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