Laya : a “ethnically distinct traditional way of life”
The inhabitants of Laya village under Gasa Dzongkhag are ethnically distinct and have been continuing their traditional way of life so far. The village situated at an altitude of about 3800m above the sea level.
The village is accessible only by eight hours day trek from the nearest road point. However, the scenic beauty of journey will have good memories while walking through some of the most pristine natural environments in the country and the village will see with its unique culture.
Tenzin Phuntsho, 58 years old from Laya village said that the village had distinct culture where women wear a long black ankle-length skirt called the zoom and they wear their long black hair topped with conical-shaped hats which are made up of bamboo knitted while men wear the Bhutanese costume (gho).
He added that in olden days even the men used to wear different dress however he said that it’s very difficult for them to remember the type of dress that their forefather used to wear.
He said that their clothes are made out of yak wool and the women wear jewelry made of items such as silver and turquoise.
Merry from United States of America who visited Laya for the first time said that though trekking uphill from the nearest road point find her with tough time but she said that she cannot describe her happiness as she enjoyed lot.
She added that the environment along the way seem very enjoyable with chirping of different birds.
She said that she found peculiar way of living and moreover the way of dressing for women seem peculiar compared to the Bhutanese women she ever encountered.
She added that the most distinctive feature of the Layap women’s dress is their conical hat sharp pointed to the sky.
Jeff Elliott 56 years old shared the same feelings and said that it’s very difficult to explain his happiness for visiting Laya. He said that if you have time, everyone should visit Laya as one will find with unique culture with local dialect (Layakha) that are spoken by seminomadic communities in the north of the district. He said that the Layaps are the only inhabitant on this small part of the country.
“Most of the people still live as semi-nomadic yak herders, spending their time between the villages and the high altitude yak herding camps,” said Jeff.
Traditionally, the Layap lived a seminomadic lifestyle, which depend their life on yaks and horses.
Owing to the cold weather in Laya, few crops can be planted that includes wheat and few vegetables. Layaps also traditionally pick cordyceps which is the main source of income for the highlander.
Meanwhile, most villagers migrate to Pu- nakha valley in the winter with their pony and returned back to their village in the springtime.
Agata Poniatowski, from New York, a student of Royal Thimphu College (RTC) said that the culture of Laya is really great where we can see the life and culture of nomadic people.
She said that though she had done some trek in the country, however she said that “The trek to Laya from Koina just few kilometers away from Gasa Dzongkhag headquarter, I would definitely take this memories.”
Another student of RTC, Kollja said that the environment of the Laya is very amazing. He said that the atmosphere of Laya is better compare to other places and he even wished that he would loved to study there if there is colleges in that place as there won’t be any disturbances.
Meanwhile, the Laya village lies entirely within Jigme Dorji National Park and houses about 260 households with a population of about 800. It’s has modern facilities like school, health facilities, telecommunication and renewable natural resources (RNR) extension center.