Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland OR


Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. In June my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is is the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland.


After being chased out of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden by a downpour we headed back towards town.  I’d been told that the rain was pretty much a constant, but the downpours were short-lived.  Since Lan Su Chinese Garden was next on my agenda I put the address into the GPS and headed that way.  By the time we arrived in Chinatown the rain was over.

As I hopped out of the car just outside Chinatown to snap a picture of the Gateway,Chinatown Gate, Portland OR I was only partially aware of the tent city to the left of the gate, but as I lined up the picture it became quite obvious.  Strolling back to the car I paid more attention and realized it was some sort of campground for homeless people.  There’s a big sign which shows an artist’s rendering of how they hope to transform the empty lot – but even after it is transformed, it’s supposed to be a sanctuary for the homeless.  For now, there is a makeshift fence around the area and a gatekeeper.  His sign warns you that the area is restricted to “Dreamers,” but his look told me I didn’t qualify, dreams or no dreams.

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland ORIn my Oregonian Overview I mentioned that you had to differentiate between homeless people and office professionals by smell, because everyone dressed the same on the street.  I have to tell you that one of the reasons I made this observation is because there are a lot of homeless people in Portland – at least downtown.  Arriving late at night and walking around, trying to find food after we parked the car, we encountered what seemed to be a large number of vagrants – at least it was a much larger contingency of the population than I’m used to seeing in Dallas.

Chinatown is a rough area, but not scary.  The homeless people are everywhere, but they aren’t aggressive.  No one even Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland ORapproached us for a handout.  Still, I was glad I had come in the middle of the day.  A lot of the buildings are empty and everything is run down.  It’s sad, because there are hints that this was once a vibrant community, but it’s definitely in decline.

The park is just a block or so from the gate.  We found parking on the street without any trouble.  I loved the Portland parking meters.  Instead of having to jam coins in the meter and hope the maximum time will be enough, you can charge it on your credit card.  In every block, there’s a centralized terminal allowing you to walk up, put in your credit card and tell the machine how much time you want.

The Chinese Garden
Lan Su is a relaxing oasis in an urban setting.  I don’t feel as if I have to rave about it as I did with Crystal Springs, because every guidebook in the world

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland OR

tells you that Lan Su is a must.  I agree, but if I could only see one garden, I’d choose Crystal Springs, just to be a contrarian.  Lan Su is not very big, so it won’t take up much of your time.  Admission is $9.50, something else in Crystal Springs favor.  My husband has been to water gardens in China and he tells me that Lan Su is very authentic to his experience in Shanghai’s Yuyuan Garden, which corroborates the guidebooks claim that Lan Su is the most authentic Chinese Garden outside China.

I hope you enjoy our pictures of the garden and want to go yourself someday.  Next Monday we’ll leave the gardens for a while and I’ll tell you about Pittock Mansion.
Yuyuan Garden, Shaghai, China
For the sake of comparison, this is a shot Bill took in the Yuyuan Gardens