‘Twas a misty June morning when we landed in Portland, OR. First thing’s first – may I recommend, when in Portland, do download the free TriMet Tickets app and purchase the one-day pass. For just $5.00 a day, you are granted all-day access to the bus, streetcar, and metro services in Portland – this is easily the best bang-for-your-buck as a 2.5 hours ticket is already $2.50 and the minimum purchase amount on the app is $5.00 anyway. Public transportation is super convenient in Portland.
We took two metro trains into the Pearl district from PDX airport, which took all of about 45 minutes or so. With about a 5 minutes walk, my friend and I quickly made our way to the Hampton by Hilton. Is it just me, or are all people in Portland just extremely friendly? The front desk agent was super courteous and helpful – our check-in process was completely painless and quick. This is a lovely hotel – cleanliness alone deserves five stars. We scored a room on the top floor with easy access to the rooftop patio, a great amenity to have.
After resting for a little bit, we ventured out to the nearby Chinatown to have lunch. This Chinatown was quite underwhelming, but then again, I’ve been spoiled by the one here at home and other places with a greater Chinese population. This Chinatown is just basically decorated to cater to the curiosity of tourists and the non-Chinese in my opinion, it’s pretty much a ghost town. We settled at Good Taste for lunch, as always, my Yelp reviews are accessible by clicking the links! After our meal, we walked over to the dock where the Portland Saturday Market is held. Fortunately for us, it was a Sunday that we landed here, and the Saturday Market happens to be open both Saturdays and Sundays. This is a large collection of vendors that sell everything from homemade soaps to woodcraft, handmade jewelry to art by local artists, and locally grown produce to local delicacies – by far one of the largest street markets I’ve ever visited in the United States. The Portland Fire Historic Museum also happened to have been open when we were there so we took a quick look around inside. Great displays of a historic firetruck and other antiquities flood the small space, definitely drop in if you find it open. After about 30 minutes at the market, we walked over to the Pine Street Market to take a look around. It was a highly recommended establishment to visit so we decided to go check it out. This is a gigantic food hall that has quite a variety of options. Unfortunately, we were still quite full from lunch so we didn’t actually get to try any of the eateries inside. By the time we were done walking around, I needed my afternoon pick-me-up. My friend brought me over to the nearest Stumptown Coffee Roasters where I enjoyed a nice cold shot and my legs got to take a break.
As it was still pretty early in the day, we went back to Chinatown and decided to check out the Lan Su Garden (蘭蘇園) and we were not disappointed. For a $10.00 admission fee, you get to roam around this beautiful garden that is meant to resemble the scenery in Suzhou, China. They did a phenomenal job as everything here made all of my Ancient Chinese Drama dreams come true. It was like walking through the real deal. They also offer tours but we opted to explore on our own. Our next stop was Powell’s City of Books. The. Largest. Bookstore. I’ve. Ever. Seen. One can easily get lost in here for days! Definitely check this place out if you are a bookworm like myself, and even if you’re not, they have lots of knick knacks and souvenirs for you to shop. A bit more walking around landed us at Ruby Jewel, who can say “no” to ice cream? Our first day in Portland was far from lacking – we were so beat from our early morning flight and all the walking throughout the day, we decided to sit down and enjoy a viewing of Ocean’s 8 at Pioneer Place after dropping by the Alder Street Food Cart Pod in Downtown. It was like window-shopping for the stomach because we regretfully didn’t try any of these carts. There were lots of options but I found it a tad overwhelming. We concluded the night with a late dinner at Tanner Creek Tavern in the hotel, bad idea – read my review to see why.
The next morning, we got an early start and went across the water to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This is a pretty small museum in my opinion and not really worth going out of your way to visit, but it is a great way to pass some time especially if you don’t have anything better in mind. We spent about two hours here and then hopped on a bus all the way to Washington Square mall in Southwest Portland. This is a big mall with plenty of mainstream anchor brands but I didn’t notice any luxury brand stores so that was a bummer. We did, however, spend a great deal of time at Sephora, which is practically my happy place of choice. Dinner calls at Pambiche in Kerns, where I had a heavenly plate of camarones al ajillo. Nothing ends a night better than ice cream, so we decided to head over to Salt & Straw before going back to the hotel.
We had a later start on our third day and ended up at the Oregon Zoo at about noon. I mean, it’s a zoo, I don’t really have a whole lot to say but it was a lot of fun. I can’t recall the last time I went to a zoo but it must have been at least 15 years ago. After about two hours, we took the shuttle over to the Portland Japanese Garden – this was by far my favorite part of our entire trip. It was so nice to evade the busyness of the large city to just spend some quiet time in this massive garden. There are multiple gardens in this area which include a quaint bonsai garden by the gift shop, a sand and stone garden, and a koi pond, just to name a few. Definitely do visit if you get a chance, it won’t disappoint and I highly recommend it! I would just hide in here forever if they’d allow me to. The Umami Cafe located at the top of the entry steps also offer a light menu with traditional Japanese tea, great place to rest and fuel up.
After a relaxing afternoon at the garden, we hopped on a bus out to the Industrial District to have dinner at Nong’s Khao Man Gai – allegedly famous and recommended by the Mr. They offer a very simple menu that’s oddly satisfying. Simplicity at its finest. My friend was feeling adventurous and decided that we explore the area after dinner. Though this area may appear to be very slummy due to it being in the works of gentrification, it is actually relatively safe. I still wouldn’t walk this area alone however, and I’ll never let my friend live down the fact that he dragged me through here with no warning whatsoever. I was emotionally unprepared at best. We boarded a bus back to Pearl and walked along the waterfront for a bit before heading over to VooDoo Doughnuts to pick up something for dessert to end our last night in Portland.
Even though we didn’t get to eat at as many different places as I would’ve liked, this was overall still a pretty amazing trip. I will definitely be back. Until next time, PDX.