We were in Laya (Part – 8): Laya, 4200 meters, Day 1 – 3 (15th, 16th, 17th Oct)


Early in the morning a very familiar sound came, “Jaaa, ja.. Teaa, tea!” It was fatty, our head cook Jigme. More than the morning tea, I was waiting eagerly to hear him say about yesterday. And yes, he had thought of a story already, naughty fatty. He said he was possessed, “I got a severe cramp all of a sudden, couldn’t walk a step farther. I didn’t drink much, see?” He pointed to the quarter empty bottle, everyone laughed.

The beautiful Laya
Layaps bring wood from lower grounds to construct houses.
The carpenters and the painters are from eastern Bhutan
Mother and daughter modelling for BTO before
we start moving to our new campsite
She indeed hung over her neck, Menda couldnt believe it!
Coming out of the tent with a cup of tea in my hand to actually embrace beautiful Laya was quite emotional for me. I didn’t let my eyes reveal, but my heart won’t understand for it knows how I longed to come here. It was a long journey, but too worth it. It was just beautiful. And I have heard it from Dasho Dzongda that to get the whole view of Laya one should climb up to Tenderlthang. I must go up immediately.
After breakfast we moved a few meters up to our actual campsite. When it comes to pitching tents Aue Penjor is an expert. He can pitch any kind of tents in less than a few minutes, before I could even figure out which peg goes where. He took care of pitching and folding tents throughout the trek. And Jigme, Dorji, ata Singye and ata Dorji were the muscle men of our group.The team Sabah Bhutan and BTO climbed up another hundred meters above Laya village to Tenderlthang where the festival will take place. I was dying to go there since the time Dasho Dzongda showed us the pictures. But air was too thin, just to climb a hundred meters it took us so many stops to reach.    
He can really climb, Dorji
Passu and Dorji mesmerized by Bonsai tree
Tendrelthang was unexpectedly a huge flat land at the altitude of 4,200 meters above the sea level, almost the size of two football grounds with gigantic snow-covered-mountain-ranges as the backdrop, on both sides.  On one side is Laya, Mochu trickles far below and on the other side is another village Lungo. When Zhabdrung Rinpoche came to Bhutan from Tibet, he came via Laya, there still are those very houses where Zhabdrung stayed before heading to Gasa. Descendants still lives in those houses. It is one of the reasons why Laya is so important in the Bhutan history. Sky so blue and clouds puffy, with just a touch from the golden rays and the whole surrounding shines like a diamond. It feels like standing on the top of the world, whereby you can kiss the sky. So pristine, so natural and so beautiful. I can sit there for the whole day and enjoy the view 360 degree; it is such a visual treat. Serenity of the place can transcend one. 
Bja or the highlander’s traditional tent made out of Yak hair
The tendrelthang
The show is on
Enjoying the view for quite a long time, we began to work. Our mission was to set and manage public toilets. For public we dug seven 3-feet-deep pits on which we placed seven two-by-two meters plywood sheets with holes cut out in the shape of a foot (representing our logo). Those were the base of our seven pit toilets and roofing each of them were our foldable and portable tents procured by the Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office. Of seven tent-pit-toilets three were for female and four we made it male. To contain the odor we used saw dust as always. Occasionally lemon sprayed and other perfumes as a welcome gesture to the users.
Digging toilets holes
Tent toilets are ready with the help of some extra hands
Thorough out the festival six students of Laya School, three boys and three girls volunteered with us to keep toilets clean and odor less. Thanks to them BTO was able to offer the best of its services to all the spectators attending the Royal Highlander Festival, that we received appreciation from many including His Majesty himself. 
BTO team with Dasho (Dr.) Sonam Kinga and our volunteers
P.S Dasho after using our toilet for a short period and then gave us
Nu. 3000 as a token of appreciation, but as always joked before
handing us the money, “My most expensive pee!”
BTO team with our volunteers, students of Laya School,
CSOA Chairperson, Clean Bhutan ED, HAB
Our volunteers, are they pretty?
They did like our toilets
On the last day we left our footprint there with our volunteers who agreed to spread the knowledge on how to manage and keep pit toilet smell-less. 
Alike any other, Sabah Bhutan had a bja, stall made out of yak hair in a traditional highlander’s way; allotted to them to showcase and sell their products made by home based workers. Of all Yathra cap with long furry kind of straps on either sides was the best seller, besides they were the best seller of all the stalls in the entire festival. Sabah Bhutan made their presence felt in Laya, cent percent.
Pic says it all
Yathra Bag
Sabah Bhutan team setting up in their bja
That evening when I returned acho Karma T., Penjor and Sangay Khandu were digging hole for the camp toilet. Soil was much harder comparing to Tendrelthang and it was all filled with stones. Not to forget the thin air we could hardly dig. Ran late into evening before we could complete just one camp tent-toilet. Everything was set under the torch light. Our team leader wanted to surprise aue Passu and let him do the honour of relieving first. Everyone agreed and waited. He never showed up, ashim Ching Ching had an urgent call, she had to visit it asap. Acho Karma cant stop this, so we had to let ashim Ching Ching do the honour. Thirty minutes later aue arrives he missed the chance, sad him; happy ashim. 
Pretty Layaps
There Menda found her double
And I met my school mate, he dug 3 toilet holes
Snowman Run runners arrived on the first day of the Royal Highland Festival 16thOctober. They ran for two days and covered arduous fifty three kilometers run within five hours. Our folks neither came first nor fifth, but for the fact they completed the run, for us they were the “Winners!” Dr. Tenzin came around Tendrelthang to cool down his muscles and met us by the tent-toilets. He was happy for successfully completing the run but, he was quite emotional when he did not see any of his friends waiting at the finish line. BTO folks knew what to do exactly, so without wasting much time we took several pictures making him the centre of the attraction. So kiddish we were, but altitude does make one. Not so sure if it helped him or not however, he appeared happy. We did not see the other runners until late that evening. Congratulations ashim Lhamo, Dr. Tenzin, Tashi and her sister.
Yea, Dr. Tenzin , he is the man,
at Tendrelthang after completing the Snowman Run
He came first to laya in the Snowman Run, but after calculating the time
he took in the previous day and finding the average of the two,
he was declared second
His Majesty the King arrived on 17th the second day of the festival. Folks of Laya performed an “Auelley”. It is kind of highlander “Loley” or the New Year jingle. I have heard and saw them doing it for the first time in my life, so ignorant of me. Performing an auelley wearing typical Laya’s unique attire made it special but, singing it in presence of the King made auelley more special. Horse and yak Chipdrel, Nagoes of Laya competition, horse race, and then yak and Bhutanese mastiff shows were main events of the festival. Displaying of live bjobs in the bja cooking or churning yak milk was so stunning.
Yaks readying for the Chibdrel
Chibdrel in practice
Trying out Yak sha and philu
In the cold and this is how he poses
The bond of friendship… wait a minute or James bond?
Look out, acho Penjor is watching.. lol
The bond part – 2
A candid shot of acho Penjor and ashim Lhamo
My friend Dr. Wangchuk
Whos is the cameraman?
A small Layap girl with her huge pet
Beauty and the beast
And he says “hi” to me
Dorji had to run and stop the |Layap boy from hanging from the banner
Dolma and Parasite our would be highlander guide cum good friend cum host
With a beautiful Layap family
Running down with their pets
A family
Untying his pet
In the bja with a Layap ama serving us tea
Tashi Namgay of Kidney Foundation
A Layap junior playing with crows
Dasho Sangay Khandu (NCof Gasa Constituency) taking a pic
with BTO team and our volunteers
Dr. Tenzin and Ashim Chimi running when
The King had summoned for her to play four-legged-run
So many astonishing exhibitions and performances, it was so easy for the time to slip away. Days would go just like that and nights at the camp site, we would relive the day talking of anything and everything and nothing late into the night: the loud laughter, lung raking jokes, cheers and jeers, the Lhasa beer and the loud farts. In those nights Menda, youngest of all had learnt how to fart loudly but concealed. Guess who is the master? You are right, aue Passu, haha… Dolma, Gem and I would normally hop over to asha bjob’s home, our highlander host, to sit by the heater and try out some Lhasa beers. Later our whole crew would join us too. We ate our second last dinner in Laya there………….. 
Ashim Lhamo
I forgot his name, drinking Lhasa beer, behind the Bjob host
and his family having dinner. They dont mid to have guests.
Later they whole gang joined us at asha bjob’s house
Ashim Lhamo and Acho Penjor
Yes, acho Penjor
The fatty and acho Karma T.


I knew we were making memories.


  1. Very enjoyable post, Che, and good work. The first mountain I climbed (in Kashmir) was about 4,000 metres, so I have some idea of the air there. My highest point in Nepal was about 11,500 feet, around 3,500 metres.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here