For my Portland trip, I continually planned and researched like crazy to get ready for the trip. I had so many tabs open on my computer trying to find the best places to eat and the best places to visit. I had an elaborate schedule of where I was going to go each day. But for my first day, man, I didn’t know it was going to be so tiring. Oh my goodness… On my first day of Portland, I was running on 4 hours of sleep. I felt like dying the whole day. I was constantly walking and at some point, I felt like a zombie. HOWEVER that didn’t stop me from enjoying my first day at Portland. There was a lot of walking and eating involved but I am able to say confidently that my first day was a success.
GOING TO LAX
So I made the mistake of booking my flight for early morning and I faced the consequences. My flight was going to leave at 6:05am and I usually come two hours earlier before my flight takes off. But I became paranoid and felt uncomfortable riding a Lyft or Uber at 4am in the morning. I thought I was going to get kidnapped and get my kidneys stolen. I know it sounds stupid but just at that moment, my paranoia was too strong. So I decided to leave at 7pm and got a Lyft ride to the airport. Oh man… Coming 10 hours early was a BIG FAT mistake.
I wasn’t able to fall asleep because the chairs were too uncomfortable so I just wandered around the airport. The airport was virtually empty with the occasional janitors cleaning and vacuuming the ground. There were some people who were sleeping and waiting for their flight but they were sound asleep. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe they come to the airport often and got a lot of practice sleeping there. After much wandering, I settled down on a seat and forced myself to stay awake. My dark circles were drooping closer to the ground every hour that passed by. FINALLY, after 10 hours it was time to get into the plane. Luckily for me, my whole row was empty so during the flight, I was able to lie down and knock out for 2 hours.
ARRIVING TO PORTLAND
I arrived at Portland around 9am and took the red line MAX train to my hostel. As I was riding in the train, I noticed so many lush green trees. Excitement started to fill my whole body and I was looking forward to being in a new environment. I got off at Providence Park and after struggling to find my hostel for 30 minutes, I was finally able to find it and I stored my luggage down at the basement. And I immediately set off to go eat breakfast at Kingsland Kitchen.
I was set on ordering their Full English Breakfast and the owner warned me that it was huge and it was for those who were really hungry. Well, I was STARVING so I ignored his warning because I had full confidence that I was able to finish it. And I did. It gave me the fuel to survive the rest of the day.
LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN
After inhaling the huge English breakfast, I walked my way to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. On the way, I visited Tom McCall Waterfront Park which was located right next to the Willamette River. As I was strolling my way along, I noticed that there was a lot of runners and cyclists in the area. And it made me remember the time when I used to run at the Hangang River in South Korea. Honestly, I would enjoy running more if there was a river next to me. For some reason, I really love rivers and I always gravitate towards water whether it’d be the ocean or lake. Maybe I was a mermaid in my past life. Who knows?
I made my way into Old Town Chinatown and I’m not going to lie but that place was ghetto. A lot of homeless people were chilling around the area and it smelled like piss everywhere. Old Town Chinatown seemed dirtier compared to the other areas nearby. The Lan Su Chinese Garden was located right in the heart of Chinatown and it was a clear contrast from the city environment.
I learned that the Lan Su Chinese Garden was born between the relationship between Portland and Suzhou in China’s Jiangsu province that is famous for their beautiful gardens. The word Lan Su was derived and combined from the sounds from Portland and Suzhou. In Chinese, “Lan” means “orchid” while “su” is the word for “awaken.” So Lan Su Chinese Garden could also be interpreted as “Garden of Awakening Orchids.”
Everything was so peaceful and beautiful inside the garden. The water lilies were lined up as if they were creating a path to the pavilions. There were tiny koi fishes swimming away and going about doing their own thing. There were exhibitions that showcased delicate flower paintings from different artists.
FUN FACTS ABOUT LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN: I got the facts from the brochure that they handed out at the entrance.
- Completed in 2000, Lan Su is considered the most authentic Suzhou-style Chinese garden outside of China.
- Most of the building materials, including more than 500 tons of rock, came from China.
- Sixty-five artisans from Suzhou lived in Portland for 10 months while they assembled and completed the structures that were crafted in China.
- The garden features more than 300 plant species and cultivars around in traditional Chinese gardens.
GOING BACK TO THE HOSTEL
I started heading my way back to the hostel since it was almost 3pm and I wanted to check in to claim my bed. However, on my way back, I came across Afuri Ramen + Dumplings. My friend Sunday Dahlias recommended Afuri to me saying that it only had one US location which is in Portland. I mean since it only has one US location I knew I had to go. I was skeptical at first to go since I’m not really a huge of Japanese ramen and it’s yuzu based broth but I decided to give it a try. Thankfully, it was delicious and I really REALLY liked it a lot. Too bad they’re not planning on opening up a shop in LA though…
Right next to Afuri was Voodoo Donuts and I was debating if I should get a donut or not. I know Voodoo has a cult following and it’s one of the “Must Eat” places when you’re in Portland but they recently opened up a shop back in SoCal. I was tempted to go but I realized that they were cash only so I decided to pass.
After a lot of walking, I finally arrived at the hostel to check in. When I went into my room, there was already a girl sleeping on the lower bunk bed. I tried to get the other lower bunk bed but there was already a name tag on the bed which means it was claimed. But it looked like the bed wasn’t used at all. I assumed someone checked in way before me and claimed the bed so I took the upper bunk bed away from the window. After I washed up, I knocked out for 2 to 3 hours until I was woken up by the sounds of people coming into the room. I realized the other lower bunk bed wasn’t claimed because the two people who came in claimed the beds… Sigh. I tried to go back to sleep but I’m the type who can’t fall asleep right after being woken up. By this time, it was dinnertime so I got ready to go out to eat at one of my most favorite restaurants in Portland, Nong’s Khao Man Gai.
I remember trying the Hainan chicken plate from Nong’s Khao Man Gai and I was instantly hooked. Their sauce is the star of the show. It had everything that I liked in the sauce, it was savory, sweet but also salty at the same time, sour… It was perfection. Like Afuri, I really wish Nong’s Khao Man Gai opened up a store in Los Angeles. I really think they would succeed in California and if not, I would be their number one fan actively promoting their shop. It’s just so DAMN good. And in fact, I bought a bottle of their magic crack sauce.
Nearby to Nong’s Khao Man Gai was Ruby Jewel Ice Cream which has over 1,000 reviews on Yelp so I had to check out what the buzz was about. They’re not a crazy artisan ice cream shop like Salt and Straw. They had the classic flavors with a little twist such as hazelnut chocolate crunch, malted pecan toffee, strawberry basil ice, etc. I got two scoops of the hazelnut chocolate crunch and malted pecan toffee which was delicious. The ice cream had a lot of crunchy textures which I love in my ice cream. While licking my ice cream, I walked back to my hostel and called it a day.
Even though I was running on 4 hours of sleep, I had a great first day at Portland and everything went smoothly. As I laid in bed, I was excited for the next day since I was finally going to Multnomah Falls which was going to be the highlight of my Portland trip.