Anyone who has ever visited Portland on the West Coast of America would surely have seen signs at every corner, asking to “Keep Portland Weird”! It is a mantra that the locals follow very seriously.
Beware of tampering with those signboards, lest you want an angry set of bikers with tattoos all over their body, pierced noses, and different hair colours to come charging at you. Intere-stingly, almost everyone in the city has a painted bike, and moves around like that.
But quirkiness goes well beyond the people of Portland. It’s in their desserts as well. If you want to see (and eat) doughnuts that look like they have blood oozing out of them, like straight out of a horror film, you will find them at Voodoo Do(ugh)nuts, which has a ton of creativity and colours in their marketing and flavours. From voodoo doll shaped donuts, flavours like maple and bacon to a donut coffin, which has three dozen donuts in it, this place has them all.
For dinner, one can go to the famous Vietnamese restaurant Luc Lac, which sometimes has a wait time of hours before you get to your meal. But I don’t regret waiting 90 minutes for a table. As one enters the restaurant, you feel like a community eating together, and everyone raises a toast to you when your drink arrives. Not to mention the food, cocktails and Vietnamese coffee tastes delicious, apart from the great vegetarian pho.
Portland is also fantastic for its shopping, especially as the state of Oregon is tax free. I discovered this when I visited the Saturday weekend market that operates at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It is one of the oldest and continuously operating markets in the USA since 1974, and every weekend, 350 vendors sell their original pieces of art and local handicrafts there. Along with this, there is also some amazing entertainment in the form of music and dance, and a plethora of mouthwatering food trucks too. Looking at all the local stuff, I picked up some very funky home decor pieces, handmade soaps and hand painted magnets as gifts for family and friends.
Another great place to shop is the world's largest independent bookstore — Powell’s City of Books. Even if you are not a book lover, I recommend you see this place and tick it off your bucket list. If you’ve never seen the sale of merchandise happening in the washrooms, it happens at Powell’s!
Portland also offers a great deal for the nature lover as well. Just about a 30 minute drive on the outskirts of the city lies a 620 feet gushing force of water, the largest waterfall in the state — Multnomah Falls. These are two tier falls, set in a dramatic background of greenery, and is a great spot for hiking.
After all the food and donuts, one might need a good walk, so make sure you bring along a good pair of walking shoes, especially as Portland is a city best explored by foot. The other place worth visiting is the Japanese gardens. The rocks, flowers and bonsai all have a hint of Tokyo. This place is well inspired from Japan, and the souvenir shop has great Japanese pieces of art as well.
And if you can, don’t pass up the chance to visit Portland during April for the Woodburn Tulip Festival, when tulips of myriad colours — pink, red, peach, white, yellow and lilac paint a breathtaking scene. It's simply stunning and one has to be among the rows of flowers to truly experience it.