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Photos: Portland's urban oasis

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PORTLAND, Ore. - Amid the high rises, bustling activity on the streets and cars whisking from one destination to another in downtown Portland is an oasis of peace, calm and beauty.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden might be one of the last places you'd think of visiting in the winter months but even without blue skies, sunshine and warmth, it still holds a certain amount of charm.

"I like the garden just as well in the rain as when it's sunny," said Steve Goodrich, a volunteer at Lan Su Chinese Garden who was giving guided tours on Friday. "It's a different experience in the winter."

Goodrich said when it rains, for example, the water drops off the roofs in what the folks at the garden call a 'curtain of pearls.' He said it's rather gorgeous and the sound the droplets make when they hit the ground is kind of magical. And if you're worried about getting wet if it rains - don't. There are plenty of covered walkways to keep you dry and you can always have a warm cup of tea in the Tea Room.

If You Go

This weekend is your best bet because because admission is absolutely free through Sunday, Jan. 9. It's the tail-end of the garden's 'Eight Free Days' event to kick in the new year. Why eight days? Well in Chinese culture the number eight represents fortune and good luck. That's why the Beijing Olympics opened on 8-8-08 and why many new buildings in China have 88 floors.

  • The garden's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The garden expects to be busy this weekend so they will not be doing guided tours. However, they will have guides stationed throughout the garden to answer questions.
  • Parking meters are $1.60 per hour (Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Meters are free on Sundays before 1 p.m.).
  • There are private and city parking lots nearby. The closest lot is the Smart Park on the corner of Northwest First & Davis.
  • The garden is located at the Old Town Chinatown stop on MAX and accessible by buses 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 16, 33, 40, and 77.
  • The free admission is sponsored by Davis Street Tavern. Stop by for lunch while you're in the neighborhood, mention Lan Su and they'll donate 20 percent of your bill to the garden.

Coming Up Next Month

The garden will be celebrating the Chinese New Year from Feb. 3 through Feb. 17 and there will be a number of activities and events. You can learn how to make paper lanterns, play some Mahjong, watch a sword demonstration and much more.

All photos by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter

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