When it’s cloudy and rainy outside, everyone is usually complaining about how yucky the weather is. Not me. Because I’m one of those crazy people who absolutely adore the rain! To me, the soft pitter patter of the rain is the most peaceful sound in the world. And watching each raindrop is genuinely one of my favorite entertainments. It’s also the most perfect opportunity to curl up and read a book. (Or Netflix binge lol). But when the rain stops, and the sun begins to show up, I always have this strange feeling of disorientated chaos, as if the sun had obliterated my zen.

However, when you’re on vacation, it’s a totally different story. The rain becomes your nemesis, especially in a city where most of the activities are done outdoors. Perhaps Spring isn’t the best time to visit Portland, but I was thinking of the trees, the hiking, the mountains, the food, but not the weather.

Day 1

When my plane landed, I was relieved to see it wasn’t raining and that the sun was partially out. I was also excited to meet my older son at the airport. It’s been three months since I last saw him. But thanks to technology— FaceTime and text messaging—it made communication easier and less lonely without his presence at home.

It was his idea to go to the Pacific Northwest on his spring break. I suggested we’d visit Portland (instead of Seattle). I’ve only been on short overnight layovers in Portland when I was still a flight attendant thus I wasn’t able to explore much of the city.

From the airport, we took the Max (light rail service) to the city center and transferred to the Portland streetcar, which luckily had a stop in front of our hotel. We immediately went out after checking in, worried that the rain will show up soon. We had lunch at Bamboo Sushi, popular for their sustainable fish. Sadly, the hype was bigger than the food.

After lunch, we asked the hostess if there was a Max stop nearby that goes to Washington Park. People go to Washington Park to visit the zoo or the International Rose Garden, but I was more interested in the Japanese Garden. The hostess told us she’s never been to Washington Park. I was surprised to hear she’s never been, assuming all Portlanders were the outdoorsy type 😉

When we arrived at the park, we searched for the shuttle bus but didn’t see any. We decided to walk following the signs to the Japanese Garden. But after walking for 20 minutes (the road was not very pedestrian friendly), we had a feeling we were heading the wrong way. We turned around, back to where we started.

We went to the information desk and the person there told us that the free park shuttles were not in service until May!


Epic travel fail #1: not doing your research! Oh wait, I did my research! But I didn’t read that the shuttles were not in service in early Spring! In fact, no mention at all about this on their website. (Wanna hear something awful? A few days later, we found out that the Japanese Garden had been closed for renovation and won’t reopen until a week after we leave Portland—another thing they conveniently failed to mention in the website? Gosh, even the man at the info center didn’t know it was closed or perhaps didn’t bother to inform us. Wow!).

I felt a complete failure and it was only our first day.

My son told me he was really exhausted. And that could only mean one thing: go back to the hotel. We haven’t even done anything yet. All we did was eat mediocre sushi! We hopped on the Max back to the city center and another mishap occurred—we got on the wrong train! We only realized our mistake when it took us to the end of the line.


Epic travel fail #2: not paying attention to where you’re going! This time I was guilty. How on earth was I making so many mistakes! I’m a seasoned traveler goddammit—or so I thought! Determined not to give up so easily, I persuaded my son we should go to the Chinese garden. He wasn’t too thrilled (probably assuming it can’t be that good if it’s located right in Chinatown).

“It’s one of the top 10 things to do in Portland according to Time,” I said to convince him. He reluctantly agreed and we got off the Max at Chinatown. As we were walking looking for the garden’s location, it lead us to a row of beautiful cherry blossom trees along the Willamette river.

It reminded me of the time when we lived in Japan. For just a few weeks every Spring, Japan celebrates hanami by gathering and sitting under the trees, bringing food and drinks with them. Cherry blossoms symbolize spring and the hanami was for welcoming the new season.

“Imagine yourself in the 16th century China, standing in the courtyard of the home and garden of a wealthy family. The peaceful and soothing garden is their spiritual utopia, designed to escape the problems of everyday life,” according to the brochure’s description of the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

I can see why this garden is a spiritual utopia for anybody. If I had a garden this beautiful, I would be inspired to meditate daily.

From the earlier fiasco, I needed to de-stress and sought solace from the garden’s tranquility.

In spite of the location, with all the buzzing noise from cars and people, Lan Su Chinese Garden is a perfect place to get away yet you’re still within the city limits.

At this point, I would’ve been fine if we went back to the hotel after visiting the garden. The row of cherry blossoms trees and Lan Su Chinese Garden were the redemption I needed from a terrible start. But my son, looking at the map on his phone, told me Voodoo Doughnut was nearby.

The famous Voodoo Doughnut is located in a seedy area, but nothing to worry about, with the crowd and long lines, you’ll hardly feel unsafe. It’s crazy to be waiting in line just to get donuts. And heck, for that matter, I don’t even like donuts! But if it’s a must-thing to do in Portland, I needed to suck it up so we waited in line for at least 45 minutes. However, there’s plenty of entertainment while waiting. We were serenaded by a man playing the violin, a very animated homeless guy talking to himself, a midget asking for spare change, a homeless gal with a cat for attraction, and listening to conversations among tourists. Before you know it, you’re in the shop.

Known for their quirky donuts, we chose the Voodoo doll, which is by the way the shop’s icon. My son also wanted to try two other flavors (Tang and Bacon Maple).

I posted the picture above on my Facebook with the caption, “voodoo doll,” and my friend asked who I had in mind. I replied by saying she should know who. “Trump, I hope,” she said. No comment. 😊

So you’re probably wondering—was it good? Was it worth waiting in line for? It’s one of those things you can check off your list in your itinerary and if it wasn’t one of the must-things to see, do, or eat in Portland, I wouldn’t wait 45 minutes for it.

We dodged the rain all day, but tomorrow was going to be a different story.