Established at the end of the 19th century, Chinatown was once a refuge for sailors and loggers who spent long hours at local saloons. This historic neighborhood was also notorious for the kidnapping of workers through a labyrinth of trapdoors and Shanghai tunnels. The unsuspecting victims were held captive until the ships that they were forced to work on were ready to set sail. Today, tours are available of many of these underground tunnels, now referred to as the "Portland Underground," (tours offered through Portland Walking Tours).
Even without a guide, the neighborhood holds many charms. Oldtown/Chinatown begins at the cross-section of N.W. Fourth Avenue and Burnside Street, where an ornate red gate (a gift from Portland's sister city, Kaohsiung, Taiwan) marks the entrance. First on any itinerary should be the magical Lan Su Chinese Garden. This lush and calming garden occupies an entire block and provides a nice respite from the bustle of the city's streets. Inside this walled oasis you'll discover an 8,000-square-foot lake; hundreds of rare plants, including species of bamboo, jasmine and orchids; the Tao of Tea, a teahouse which promotes the art and culture of tea; and nine pavilions connected by twisting, mosaic stone paths.
The neighborhood also includes a number of traditional chinese eateries. Try the red pepper tofu at the Republic Cafe & Ming Lounge (222 NW 4th Ave.), reportedly the oldest Chinese restaurant in Portland.
A huge draw to Old Town is the Portland Saturday Market, America's largest ongoing open-air arts and crafts market. Hundreds of vendors set up shop under and around the Burnside Bridge, Skidmore Fountain (built in 1888) and at the north end of Waterfront Park to sell handcrafted jewelry, artwork, pottery and more every Saturday and Sunday from March through December 24.
Oh, and those big pink boxes you see everywhere? Head over to Voodoo Doughnuts, a sugary local sensation that has folks lining up around the block on S.W. 3rd and Ankeney.