Sherab Lhamo

In the picturesque village of Laya, in Gasa, where the air is crisp and the landscapes breathtaking, there lies a treasure trove for locals and visitors alike.

Contrary to the perception of expensive shops, the Laya Mart offers a diverse range of products, from Samyang noodles to national attires and fresh vegetables.

The improved road connectivity to Tongchudra has been a game-changer, enabling shopkeepers like Kinley Zam, 52, and her daughter Phento, 23, to expand their offerings and introduce the latest products to the market.

Housed in a bungalow where one room doubles as a shop and the rest as a home, the Laya Mart is a hub of activity.

As you step into the store, a stack of egg trays near the counter catches your eye. Inquiries reveal that eggs are priced at Nu 25 per egg and Nu 700 per tray.

The shop caters to various needs, evident when a customer like Leki Tshewang walks in, effortlessly picking up a variety of items, from chips and coke to ready-made noodles, mouth fresheners, and a phone voucher, totaling Nu 380.

Phento, sharing the shop’s story, reveals that her mother started this venture in the 90s while herding yaks. Later, facing the challenges of her husband’s alcoholism, Phento’s mother transitioned to running the shop, sourcing products from Punakha and Thimphu through family connections.

Despite challenges, the yearly highland festival proves to be a boon for the Laya mart, boosting daily earnings to around Nu 5,000, with an additional Nu 2,000 during the festival period.

Concerns about cleanliness are put to rest, as the locals participate in coordinated zero-waste hours, ensuring the village remains pristine.

Reflecting on the evolution of shops in Laya, Pema Jamtsho, Laya’s magmi, reminisces about a time when there were only three shops near Laya Central School. Now, with around 20 shops scattered across the village’s chiwogs, the Laya mart stands as a testament to resilience and adaptation.

Phento’s entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond traditional products, as the mart also serves as a samuh agent, selling vouchers to locals. The addition of Vivo phones, offered at discounted prices without profit, has found popularity among the Layaps.

As the road to Laya continues to develop, the future holds the promise of more shops. Yet, amidst change, the Laya mart remains a constant, welcoming visitors with a smile and offering a glimpse into the vibrant life of this mountainous village.