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The City on Yaanga

You've never heard of Yaanga? Neither had I until two days ago. It is an ancient village upon which a grand city was built.

The history of Yaanga dates back centuries. A great sycamore tree once graced the center of town and traders from far measured distance from this tree. The people of Yaanga, called Tongva, flourished on the banks of a river and the village grew to be the largest in the region. It was an important trading center for the native people. Then came the occupiers. By 1781, the town resembled a refugee camp as the Tongva were used as slave labor to build the successor city.

By 1813, the last of the indigenous inhabitants were baptized bringing an end to historic Yaanga and ushering in a pueblo that grew into the city we now know as Los Angeles.

This week we explored parts of LA with a humble nod to the ancients. As we drove on the ruins of Yaanga, I shuddered at the thought of being uprooted with vengeance after welcoming the would-be occupiers with baskets of food as recorded by Spanish missionaries.

With grateful prayers for the Tongva, we meandered through town and processed whiplash-inducing contrasts.

We marveled at the expanse of the beaches. We cursed as the freeways nearly swallowed us and the surface roads smothered us. We were awed by the athleticism of the surfers in an endless ocean. We frowned at the parched and brown hills seemingly in search of a spark. We exhaled as we traveled the Pacific Coast Highway dotted with eclectic beach towns. We held our breath on the hairpin turns in the hills of Malibu. We were astonished at the grandeur and astronomical price tags of the high-end homes west of downtown. We were utterly frustrated at the scale of homelessness and the city's failure to bring relief. We drove along Sunset Strip basking in the history of Hollywood and Vine and we steeped in the diversity of Little Armenia, Thai town and Korea town. Shortly after, we were caught in the aftermath of a random stabbing nearby.

In the course of exploring what became of Yaanga, my camera caught landmark and one-off sights, some of which need little by way of introduction.

Santa Monica pier came alive from memory as we looked down from the cliffs of Ocean Blvd.

The precariously winding roads of Malibu offered anxiety along with stunning vistas.

A sculpture at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard honors a Tongva kneeling in prayer.

The luxury stores on Rodeo Drive teaming with shoppers offered a vastly different experience from 25 years ago when the gawkers outnumbered the shoppers.

On our morning walk, we encountered the mother of all hedges protecting a mansion from our prying eyes.

MÍRAME, a modern Mexican restaurant highlighted in the LA Eater's list of 38 must-do hotspots, included fried squash blossoms and brought back vivid memories of Bengal.

Our adventure in LA ended with the best flan yours truly has ever had. Ever. I know Yaanga will continue to beckon us. Until we return, I will imagine sitting with the Tongva under El Aliso - the grand sycamore tree (which survived till 1891) - learning about their precious ways.

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