In New York, Boston, and San Francisco, there is much angst about older neighborhoods loosing their original charm to urban development. Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown does not suffer from that investor inclination to buy, spiff, and flip. Visitors on route to the Lan Su Chinese Garden pass by urban campers, empty retail shops, and gritty bars: the area could use a little gentrification. After exiting the bus, I expected a bustling environment, dim sum opportunities, and street vendors, but it was difficult to see anything that defined a “Chinatown.” I missed the ornate entrance gate down the block and saw only empty streets, abandoned storefronts, and concentrated social services.
I did, however, notice walkers carrying pink boxes stamped with the “Voodoo Doughnuts” logo and thought, “The garden can wait, I need a famous bacon/maple/chocolate breakfast snack.” I followed my nose, walked on by the Lan Su entrance, continued up Third Avenue, and stopped ubruptly at the back of a long line. As I’m not much of a line dweller, I passed on the Voodoos and had a fine taco from a nearby food truck instead.
As there was not much to do in Chinatown, I headed back to the garden. Walking through the entrance was like changing the station from Metallica to Enya: noise, grit, and desperation replaced by peaceful green balance.
Thanks to my friend Beth for suggesting the Lan Su.