The Lan Su is considered the most authentic Suzhou-style Chinese garden outside of China. Without any prior knowledge, the garden certainly felt like a window into Chinese culture and history.
Not being much of a scholar, I explored on my own without taking a tour or paying too much attention to the guide book. This gave me the opportunity to take in the details and absorb the atmosphere.
The rock mosaic pathways drew your eyes downward and the architecture drew your eyes upward. Every doorway and window framed a beautiful view and drew your eyes forward.
The garden takes up just one city block, but it had the illusion of a grander almost infinite space. Glimpsing city buildings above the walls and treetops was an interesting juxtaposition of history and culture within an urban space.
I skipped lunch so I could visit the Tea House and managed to snag a fabulous seat at a window on the second floor overlooking the garden. The traditional decor made you feel like you had stepped into a different country and culture.
I enjoyed a refreshing tea made from flowers, fruit and green tea. I also ordered a Chinese Steamed Bun plate without knowing what it was. When my Steamed Bun arrived it did not come with chopsticks, so I had to google the proper etiquette of eating it. Turns out that it is completely acceptable to pick them up and eat with your fingers. A snack of candied mango slices was the perfect sweet to finish the light lunch.
The garden seemed to be a place for casual meet-ups. People were standing in the pavilions chatting about art. People were catching up over tea with friends that they hadn’t seen in a while. Couples were strolling around hand-in-hand oblivious to people around them. No one was hurried and everyone was encouraged to take as long as they wanted to explore the space.
I left feeling mentally rejuvenated as if I had just been on a vacation instead of a quick reprieve from a business trip.
Portland has many hidden and unexpected surprises that are a delight to explore and uncover and the Lan Su Garden was no exception.