A little Time Out in Shandong province... / by Thomas O'Malley

Me and guide at the solar panel factory museum

Me and guide at the solar panel factory museum

These are seven days I'll never forget. A research trip for a 30-page travel guide to Shandong Province on behalf of Time Out. The Shandong Tourism Bureau were footing the bill (and dictating the content), which meant seven days of government banquets, swilling glasses of baijiu with red-faced cadres over lunch and then staggering tipsily around tourist sights so bizarre (the Dezhou Braised Chicken Museum) that I was often grateful for the alcohol in my system.

Shandong isn't the most beguiling province for tourists in China - it's urbanised, wealthy, more than a little corrupt, with neither the cuisine or ethnic culture that makes provinces like Sichuan, Yunnan and Guangdong shine. But I wasn't drunk all the time, so here are three well-deserved highlights of Shandong province:

Qingdao: 'Little Switzerland' by the sea. Colonial German architecture, lovely clear air and climate, some nice hotels and good fresh seafood. And beer, of course.

Climbing Mount Tai: A treasure trove of Chinese culture, this sacred peak has been conquered by everyone from Confucius to Chairman Mao. Choose a clear day and the views are heavenly.

Qufu: A sedate, walled town that's largely escaped the enthusiastic redevelopment that has transformed everywhere else in Shandong beyond recognition. The Confucius Family Mansion is a really sweet crib; the family cemetery a haunting forest to get lost in.