The mule skids on the damp ice and slides forward on the steep track. The gentleman springs forward and grabs it by the muzzle. They both equally pressure from the slope, breaking skids on the edge of the sheer precipice. The mule is lying on its belly, its forelegs dangling more than the cliff. Braced precariously, inches from edge, the gentleman strains to keep the animal on the narrow track. Inside seconds, the man’s teenage son operates back again and deftly unloads the mule, handing more than the significant packs to the lady standing driving the animal, keeping it by its tail. Together they haul the mule back again on the route. Far underneath them the mist swirls more than the jagged rocks which line the base of the deep gorge.

A handful of meters driving, a seventy three calendar year outdated lady is sitting down on an icy route, inching forward on her buttocks, utilizing both equally her hand and toes to preserve her stability. She sits still and watches calmly as her son, daughter-in-legislation, and grandson help save the relatives mule and a calendar year provide of foods grain.

An hour later, along with other households, they attain a swift stream. Without the need of a believed the guys, gals, young children hitch up their Ghos and Kiras (Bhutanese dress) to the waist and wade across, oblivious of the h2o which is at about freezing point. Youthful guys move lewd remarks at the gals who are pressured to expose their higher thighs to stay away from acquiring their kiras damp. The gals reply with swift witty remarks.

By evening, households are camped along the way in caves or underneath leafy trees. They treatment for the horses initially and then sit down to a very simple hot food. By dim, right after a handful of bottles of Ara and Sinchang (Regional brewed alcohol and wine) they share their knowledge of the earlier months. This calendar year, the highlight was the conference in Gasa (District Head Quarters), wherever they achieved their King and Queens. They marvel that their king walked just as they did, all the way.


The four working day journey from Punakha, generally stretched more than several months as they relay a year’s foods provide, brings the Layaps household to one of the most stunning area in the Kingdom of Bhutan, the uncooked all-natural beauty of the significant alpine assortment.

Spreading upwards from 12000 toes earlier mentioned sea amount, Laya sits on the Lap of the 7100 meters Masagang, A single of Bhutan’s 20 virgin peaks which are earlier mentioned 7000 meters. The blended conifer forest earlier mentioned Gasa Dzong, dotted with maple and rhododendron in full bloom, merge into groves of birch, juniper, maple and mountain cane. The entire slopes are richly coloured by wild bouquets.

Throughout Bari-la and Kohi lapcha, two rugged passes, the terrain leaves driving the tree- line and the wide alpine grassland undulate in the direction of the great northern glaciers. Superior earlier mentioned the crystal waterfalls which frequently slice via the ice formations on the cliff side, and the crystal clear swift streams, are their sources, the turquoise clean h2o lakes several of which the neighborhood populace keep in sacred awe.

This is the world wherever the snow leopards roam, wherever the blue sheep, Sambar, and Musk deer graze in solitude. Reduce down, this is the household of Takin, the Himalayan black bear, quite a few deer and the wild dog. The winged inhabitants of the area include things like the raven, wild pheasants, snow pigeons, the purple billed cough, the alpine swift, the snow partridge, and the black necked crane.


The Layaps named their household Bayu, the hidden land, with superior causes. The cluster of villages is wholly hidden by ridges and seems out of the blue when the travelers reaches the initially homes. The persons think that they are shielded by an historic gate foremost to the principal village. It was right here that their guardian deities kept a Tibetan invasion at bay. In an crucial once-a-year ceremony, the Layaps fork out homage to the protecting forces which turned all the stones and trees all-around the gate into soldiers to repel the invaders.

But if these kinds of legend is background in Laya, background is also Legend. This was the location wherever Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal entered Bhutan. In a journey which resounds with conquest of human and supernatural proportions the Shabdrung crossed a chain of Mighty Himalayan ridges and entered Laya from Tibet. In a smaller meadow underneath the villages, named Taje-kha a chorten shelters the footprints of the shabdrung and his horse.

Background and legend are still the realities of these days. The pristine mountain ranges have not succumbed to variations more than the centuries. Neither have its persons, like in several other parts of Bhutan, the land nor have the persons existed in a harmony which the modern day world does not adequately take pleasure in. And it is in this context that the Layaps need to be seen. It is from this rugged backdrop that they need to be understood.

THE Persons

“The Layap smell”, is one effectively identified remark. “You are not able to depend on the Layaps, is yet another, frequently from civil servants. “The Layaps are backward”, say persons dwelling in the reduced valleys. “The Layaps are alcoholics,” say several who know them, most persons cease to search when a layap lady passes by in her distinct, most likely ‘quaint’ kira. Some would point her out to mates.

The Layaps is all of these, if you do not search outside of the surface area or if you do not fully grasp him in the right context. A discerning observer would likely obtain, however, that the Layap has far additional substantial traits to be admired than those passing these derogatory remarks.

If the Layaps are climate overwhelmed as the alpine rangelands they are as untamed and unpredictable as the forces of character which are in some cases harsh That is why, most likely, the annoyance of a civil servants who finds that the Layap are not able to be certain to a deadline or even to a obligation. When you connect with them they normally say sure but never switch up, explains one District formal.

The Layaps are also as open up as their atmosphere, typically absolutely free of social inhibition. Men and gals are open up and relaxed on issues like the boundaries sexual actions. This, in fact is, frequently exploited by occasional site visitors like tourist guides, military services patrolmen, and civil servants.

Survival has also sharpened the wiles of the Layap. Now, it is a nightmare for District officials to pin a Layap herder down on a number of yaks in his herd because he wants to stay away from tax. Phone a Layap relatives for formal obligation throughout the occupied season and the very best wager is an outdated lady who is not wanted at household.

But inside of the tough Layap exterior is a tenderness which is invisible to the informal observer. Each and every Layap, for example, identifies with a 46 calendar year outdated horse proprietor who risked his lifetime to scale and icy cliff to his horse which experienced fallen. The gentleman was oblivious to the bitter chilly as he sat with his dying horse for two times, feeding the animal h2o from his cupped palm, the h2o blended with his tears.

The Layaps are most tender in their feelings for the Yaks which are the mainstay of their semi-nomadic existence. They formally have about 2000 of Bhutan’s 30000 yak populace, both equally believed to be lowered figures. The 300 to 400 KG beast of stress is a resource of foods, shelter, draught electricity, transportation and aspect of the layap Id.

THE Existence

The carefree lifetime-design arrives with the alcohol use by the layap guys. Nearly just about every guys beverages greatly, frequently losing time, work and difficult attained dollars in drunken stupors and converting all the difficult toiled foods grain into alcohol. sixty three yrs outdated Ap Tshering statements to be a standard example of the Layap gentleman. “I have lived a difficult lifetime,” he states with a proud smile. “Now I have two crucial goals in lifetime. I brew sinchang (neighborhood wine) throughout the working day and I consume it at night.”

In this patriarchal culture wherever women are married early and go to the husband’s household, polyandry is on the drop. With crystal clear slice gender roles the lady bears a severe domestic obligation, looking right after the Yak herds, digging the fields, weaving the regular apparel, and generally maintaining the household and relatives collectively. The guys are accountable for trade and the transportation of merchandise, their have and for the Federal government.

THE Local community

With about 60,000 semi nomadic pastoralists unfold across the kingdom’s northern area, the 800 or so layaps share a sturdy group spirit. They are fiercely protecting about the image of their group. Inside squabbles are typically settled in the group and even a boy or girl will not disclose the identify of a Layap who is responsible of some improper undertaking.

As a group, the Layaps are also proud of their self sufficiency in the primary requirements of lifetime in spite of the working day to working day physical issues. Prosperity is calculated by the number of Yaks in a herd or the quantity of rice. The Layaps are also swift to tell the site visitors that they represent an crucial proportion of the Workforce in Gasa District.

THE Religious

There is a sturdy spiritual aspect in the cohesion of the Layap group. The guys fork out obeisance to their Pho-la, the neighborhood guardian deity. Each and every archery match, just about every company vacation, just about every journey, just about every progress challenge starts with a prayer at the Pho-la’s sacred shrine, a smaller chorten earlier mentioned the village.

Like the broader Bhutanese culture the guidance of the village astrologer is sought on most activities and the neighborhood medium is generally consulted throughout ailment. It is the legacy of the Shabdrung that the Layaps celebrate the Bumkar competition to plant barley and the Aulay competition throughout harvest.

A superstition is sturdy and is, in fact, one of the protecting forces of the Layap id. E.g., the exclusive Kira (women’s cloth) of Layap gals has been kept partly because of the belief in its requirement. A superstition also controls etiquette and other features of the neighborhood traditions.


The layaps are traders, bartering their animal items for foods grain and other edibles just about every winter season. Starting up in late Oct, when character features a respite concerning the rains and the snow, they go to Punakha, their horses and just about every particular person laden with Yak meat, butter cheese, incense plants from the wilderness and someday trans border merchandise like dried fish, footwear and brick tea. By March, when the path results in being obtainable, they go back again with rice, oil, salt, sugar, chillies, apparel and footwear.

The only reduction in this once-a-year enterprise is a go to to the popular Gasa Tshachhu (hot spring) wherever they join persons from all parts of the country in the baths which are believed to be of curative value and a strengthen to general health and fitness.

Yak items account for forty nine% of Layaps earning, 18% arrives from trade, fifteen% from animal transportation and four% from tourism, the very last benefiting only five or 6 horse owners who are in deal with tour operators in Thimphu.


It is mainly the publicity from these once-a-year journeys that have specified Layaps a watch of a swiftly switching world outside the house. A handful has ventured as far as Thimphu. And, in the latest yrs, they have viewed the widening hole in financial development with some dismay.

The urge to attain out and pluck the fruits of development which their fellow citizens are experiencing is starting to gnaw at the roots of Layap tradition. The objective of one gentleman was to establish a household like the one he observed in Punakha, a lady most well-liked a motor vehicle so she would be spared a significant masses, a young girl envied the Punakha School women, and an 8 calendar year outdated boy rolled his father’s hat all-around the campfire, his intellect on the plastic toy vehicles he experienced found in the shops.

Two gals who experienced been chosen to go to Thimphu in a cultural enjoyment workforce returned embarrassed about their Kiras because they ended up clumsy compared with the nylon kiras of the Thimphu gals. When explained to by a Thimphu formal that the wonderful and exclusive Laya kira should really be preserved she retorted. “So you can send tourists to consider pictures of us?”


It is an enlightened plan that the Royal Federal government of Bhutan has sensitively pursued in the mountains of Laya. The objective is to enhance the lifetime of the persons with no upsetting the sensitive stability in the distinct cultural id of the persons, the pristine all-natural ranges, and the loaded wildlife.

Finely tuned to the migratory pattern of the persons, the priorities reflect an emphasis on increasing the Yak herds and fodder, on the crops, on the highway, and on the transportation of merchandise.

But the principal added benefits of progress in Laya have occur from the establishment of Health device, a veterinary support, and the School. The Layaps however, location their long phrase hopes on a a hundred or so young children who represent the education and learning of the group.

The Layaps have not been mindful of the image of backwardness they undergo amid a portion of Bhutan’s populace. “When educated, our young children can facial area other persons with pleasure,” reported one weary mom. A fifty six calendar year outdated father summed up the general sentiments, “Past thirty day period, when I went to Thimphu, my son go through the bus ticket and showed me wherever to sit,” he reported glowing with pleasure, his right hand gripping the boys shoulder. “I did not have to facial area the shame of sitting down in the improper seat.”


Laya these days confronts an issue which Bhutan, as a country, has been grappling with for the earlier four decades. If improve is inevitable, will the knowledge be additional harsh than the bitter winds which blow more than the mountains?

It is a dilemma with a common ring to it. It is a dilemma experiencing Bhutan. The Layaps signifies the Bhutanese populace on a more compact scale, the harmony with their all-natural atmosphere, the deep pleasure in their exclusive cultural id, and the intense will to safeguard their household.

“We Layaps have our superior details and terrible details.” Clarifies one village elder. “But in the stop, our greatest pleasure is our land and our self. Of course we go out to trade, buy supplies, to consume, to flirt. We complain about our hardships, the significant workload, and the difficult highway. We are embarrassed about our backwardness. But we would never want to be just about anything but a Layap.”

Resource by Druk Tshering