Crafting dreams in Laya: The carpenter settlers of the highlands


Laya, nestled in the Bhutanese highlands, is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural heritage.

(Source: Kuensel)

Nine years ago, Minjur Dorji accompanied his uncle to Laya, and since then, this father of two from Trashigang has spent nine months annually in the scenic valley, which has grown to feel like a second home to him.

He was among the pioneering carpenters from Radhi who discovered a source of income in the highlands, where the indigenous population dedicates their time to venturing into the remote mountains to collect the highly valued cordyceps and herbs.

Over time, 21 of Minjur Dorji’s friends from Radhi have also settled in Laya, with some even forming marital unions with families from the highlands. They work in teams of three, comprising a combination of carpenters and construction workers. Their earnings surpass Nu 500,000 for constructing a two-story house.

One of them humorously likened Laya to their own "Australia." Satisfied with their income, they appreciate the direct financial gain. Despite the harsh cold, they find joy in their lives there. The homeowners provide them with sustenance and lodging for several months.

Assuming construction materials are readily available, they can complete around five houses within nine months. Minjur reveals that the earnings from house construction financed his children's education. With pride, he shares that they are now studying in colleges, which offers relief from the challenging cold of the mountain air, increasingly taxing on his aging body.

Carpenters like Minjur are in high demand. “Before we finish one project, we are already booked for the next," Minjur notes. Due to significant revenue from cordyceps sales, residents of the mountains manage to construct new houses in just a few years.

These traditional houses prominently feature the use of stone in their construction. During the paddy cultivation season, the men hurriedly return to their villages. Radhi is renowned as the “Rice Bowl of the East," famous for its Sorbang rice variety. Some of the locals point out that agriculture is equally vital for supporting their families back home.

On average, farmers yield 40 kilograms of rice per acre of cultivated land. With a combined rice cultivation area of 1,239 acres, completing the transplantation process takes them 90 days.

Increasing incidents of human-wildlife conflict have compelled numerous residents to explore alternative income sources outside of farming. While some have engaged in community contract work, the earnings are minimal, and the endeavors involve significant risks.

As the availability of cordyceps diminishes annually, some Layaps might face challenges in maintaining the financial capability to construct houses frequently. Namgay from Lungo suggests they might need to build their own houses. However, Minjur Dorji disagrees, stating that the local residents lack the necessary expertise.

“The craft takes time to perfect," he concludes with a grin.

Article first appeared on Kuensel.

Related Posts

Journey to the Fascinating Royal Highland Festival in Laya

Chimi Wangmo, based in Thimphu, traversed through beautiful landscapes to witness the fascinating Royal Highland...

Dec 07, 2017 09:18

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

What are those singing bowls that you see in Bhutan

The vibrations from the bowl affect your body and mind.

May 22, 2022 12:06

The hot springs of Bhutan are believed to have miraculous healing...

The Bhutanese believe that hot springs are a blessing from the Buddha.

Apr 08, 2022 21:52

What are the five main fruits in a Bhutanese fruit bowl 'thokay'?

There are usually five fruits that make it to the 'thokay' (fruit bowl) placed on the altars or in front of the King,...

Mar 08, 2022 15:54



King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck's Unofficial Trip to Singapore

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck visits Singapore in September 2023.

Sep 18, 2023 10:11

King Jigme and Queen Jetsun welcomed their first royal princess

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema had welcomed their first daughter on the 9th September 2023.

Sep 12, 2023 20:48


Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition Now Open to Public

'Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition was unveiled by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck

Sep 19, 2023 18:56

Bhutanese Students Get Ready to Compete In First Global Robotic Competition

Five students from Bhutan will compete in the First Global Robotic Competition in Singapore, which is themed Hydrogen Horizons, next month.

Sep 14, 2023 13:51


Thimphu's Centenary Farmers Market Back in Business After Year-Long Revamp

The newly renovated market was inaugurated on 18 September 2023.

Sep 22, 2023 08:03

Payment gateway is a hurdle for digital freelancers in Bhutan

As the concept of digital freelancing gains traction in Bhutan, those engaged in this field are encountering challenges related to payment...

Sep 13, 2023 15:52


Historic hybrid chess tournament pits Bhutanese against American players

In the inaugural Bhutan and US Friendship Bridge Tournament on September 2, ten local chess players engaged in competition against...

Sep 12, 2023 11:05

Paro FC wins the 2022 BOB Bhutan Premier League

Paro FC wins third Premier League title in nail biting fashion in final match of the season.

Jan 09, 2023 15:45


Bhutan's aviation pioneer: The story of Jamair and the early days of air travel

In 1952, Bhutan initially proposed the establishment of a fully equipped aerodrome in Punakha and the acquisition of a Dakota airplane.

Sep 13, 2023 11:15

A tale of two airports in Bhutan

As the slow pace towards a pre-pandemic world begins, two of the country’s domestic airports are going through their own challenges and...

Nov 03, 2022 16:30


Crafting dreams in Laya: The carpenter settlers of the highlands

Laya, nestled in the Bhutanese highlands, is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural heritage.

Sep 12, 2023 11:28

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!