Trying to find Happiness on the Highlander Pageant of Bhutan

The Royal Highlander Pageant is the most recent Bhutan competition. Referred to as the happiest nation on earth, Bhutan is aware of learn how to rejoice life. Festivals dominate the land and it is easy to see why the Bhutanese measure life with a happiness index over the western world’s GDP. The Highlander competition was a day stuffed with goodwill and celebration.  If solely all international locations labored on high quality of life over the issues you will have.


Began by the King of Bhutan to advertise highland tradition, enhance the economic system and to carry vacationers to the area it’s a hearty show of what life is like within the Himalayas. The king himself attends the competition to say howdy to guests and if you’re a foreigner, chances are high it is possible for you to to talk on to royalty.

Grey Langur Excursions

We had been invited on the very first journey of the brand new journey firm Grey Langur Excursions to expertise this distinctive Bhutan competition first hand.

Founder Gabriel Cubbage visited Bhutan final 12 months and fell in love with it. As former CEO of Adblock, he was feeling empty in his profession and walked away from excessive paying life and annoying lifetime of Silicon Valley to start out Grey Langur with native companion Tshering Tashi.

He informed us that he is among the few operators that attends this competition and has massive plans to broaden his operation all through Bhutan and to different off the overwhelmed path locations.


Up to now only a few vacationers go to the Gasa area. Attending the Royal Highlander Pageant actually seems like a neighborhood expertise relatively than a canned vacationer show.

There have been just a few foreigners within the crowd of hundreds of locals that walked for days to attend. It was thrilling to know that we had been one of many first outsiders to expertise this latest of Bhutan festivals. One thing tells me it would catch on quickly within the coming years, so now’s the time to e-book your journey!


Our Camp on the Royal Highlander Pageant in Laya, Bhutan

To get to the competition it’s a two day trek from Gasa to Laya. We arrange tents in Laya some 4000 metres (12,000 toes) excessive within the Himalayas of Bhutan.

This picturesque village makes for a ravishing backdrop with extraordinary views of the encompassing peaks.

Throughout our trek, the  Snowman Run was going down to kick off the competition. As Dave and I slowly huffed and puffed our approach up the slender path, native women and men raced previous us working 25km up and throughout the Himalayas of Bhutan.

What took us two days, took the racers a mere three hours and 46 minutes for the successful girl and a pair of hours and 41 minutes for the lads’s winner! Outcomes might be discovered right here. Now that is one thing to make you’re feeling a bit of out of practice!

Mountain climbing to Laya for the Royal Highlander Pageant

Once we approached Laya a welcome committee was ready on the gate to greet the runners however additionally they gave trekkers a heat welcome too.

Kids sang and inspired everybody passing by and performed coy once we approached guffawing as they hid behind a bush. It was a tiring climb for us and to have smiling faces say howdy gave us the power to maneuver on one other hour to our camp.

Part of the welcoming comittee on our way up to Laya

A part of the welcoming comittee on our approach as much as Laya

Reaching Laya

By the point we reached Laya in early afternoon it felt a bit like a ghost city. The streets had been empty and the retailers had been closed so we had the place to ourselves.

The competition takes place one other 500 meters up the mountains and every little thing was shut down because the celebration was all going down an hour’s trek additional up.

We arrived at our camp and fortuitously there have been a number of locals round so a pleasant man allow us to keep inside his cozy home whereas we waited for the horses to carry up the remainder of our tents and equipment.

Resting at a locals house while waiting for camping gear to arrive

Resting at a locals home whereas ready for tenting gear to reach

Being the primary tour ever for Grey Langur, there have been a number of kinks to determine like timing for the arrival of drugs. However figuring out Gabriel, he’ll have all of it sorted by subsequent 12 months as he has very massive plans.

It is attention-grabbing to speak to a Silicon Valley CEO, they do not let something section them they usually assume massive! I would not be stunned to see a helicopter taking all their gear as much as the highest of the trek by this time subsequent 12 months!


The climate rolled in for the primary day of the Royal Highlander Pageant

The climate had are available by early afternoon and we weren’t positive if we must always trek one other hour or so as much as the competition. Would something be occurring or did we miss it already? After a dialogue all of us determined to remain put.

As an alternative our group drank candy milk tea and Dave and I finally ventured off to discover Laya.

The views had been phenomenal and it’s a place that I might see myself spending a number of extra days if the competition weren’t on. Nothing was open on the time, however we might inform it might make for a fantastic cease on the finish of a difficult trek.

The Pageant

We woke up to a beautiful snow dusting on the mountains

We woke as much as a ravishing snow dusting on the mountains

Feeling nicely rested from a complete afternoon of chilling out, we awoke early the subsequent day to start our trek as much as the competition.

A dusting of snow fell over the Himalayas in a single day and the clouds opened up for us within the morning revealing probably the most spectacular scene of snowcapped mountains.

We knew we needed to get to the competition, however Dave and I could not stroll greater than 100 metres with out stopping for one more picture alternative.

locals on the way up to the Royal Highlander Festival.

We met so many locals on the best way as much as the Royal Highlander Pageant.

We shared the path with native tribes strolling up to participate within the competition and everybody was so pleasant.

Folks laughed and smiled as all of us shared a deep breath joking about how exhausting it was at 4400 metres (15,200 toes).

Arriving on the Pageant

We lastly made it to the highest and walked beside the crimson carpet got down to welcome the king and dignitaries.

Our information Rensin informed us that we’d in all probability meet the king so he gave us a fast lesson on learn how to reply ought to he discuss to us.

Proper in the course of him telling us what to do, the king approached and we did a mad sprint to get again in line and say howdy.


The Crimson carpet was rolled out for the King of Bhutan

Seeing my scraggly blonde hair (from three days of no showers) should have caught the king’s consideration as a result of he got here proper as much as Dave and I and requested the place we had been from, how lengthy we have now been in Bhutan and the way we’re having fun with the competition?

We each spewed out a bunch of phrases telling him how great and welcoming the individuals are of his nation are and the way stunning his nation is.

No images or video are allowed if you find yourself close to the king, so we have now no proof of our interplay save for our response to his arrival on our video.

Watch our video of the Royal Highlander Pageant

The remainder of the day was spent working round at altitude making an attempt to soak up all of the superb occasions.

Occasions on the Pageant


There was a wrestling competitors that was undoubtedly the spotlight for us.

Two of Bhutan’s most well-known actors hosted the occasion and although we could not perceive a phrase they stated, we caught on to their humour and laughed at their each transfer. They had been wonderful showmen.


Now that could be a stunning backdrop for a wrestling ring.

After the opponents fought it out on the sector the 2 hosts took over placing on a comical show of wrestling and dancing mixed.

Animals of the Pageant

The winner of the Yak competition.

The winner of the Yak competitors.

When trekking in Nepal, Dave and I noticed numerous Yaks on the path, however our trek to Laya in Bhutan wasn’t excessive sufficient to for the yaks, so donkeys, horses and mules had been used to move our gear.

However the competition attracts communities from throughout Bhutan and plenty of tribes got here down from the Excessive Himalayas to compete in races and showings of their animals.

We lastly had our likelihood to see yaks up right here at 4400 metres and they’re probably the most stunning animals.

We missed the races the day earlier than, however we did get to see the winner’s circle as one of the best of one of the best walked round a hoop to indicate off their prized animals.


Even the canines get awards on the Royal Highlander Pageant

There have been occasions for yaks, horses, cows and the Himalayan mountain canine.

Just like the yaks, mountain canines can’t survive at low altitudes so you could trek up to have the ability to see them. These canines have probably the most relaxed demeanor and we discovered ourselves giving many a pat on the top or a scratch on their bellies all through the day.

Different Celebrations


The day began off with the strongman competitors, and as I struggled to catch my breath simply making an attempt to carry my digicam upright, they went by way of an impediment course the place ladies carried their mates upon their backs throughout the sector.

The couple then pulled heavy sandbags throughout the course stacking them one atop one other earlier than loading them onto the male’s again the place he ran again to the beginning line to complete the race.

The whole lot gave the impression to be in excellent enjoyable and other people laughed as they fell down and gave hearty slaps on the again to the winners. That is undoubtedly a competition of celebration and happiness greater than competitors.

Meals on the Highlander Pageant


One thing that was very spectacular was how the competition supplied free meals, water and tea to spectators.

Nice care was taken to maintain the meals secure as servers wore gloves, hairnets and uniforms as they scooped out massive parts of dhal, rice and potatoes.

They went round providing cups of water and tea and there have been a number of stations for recycling and trash.


As Gabriel said, Bhutan is main the world in accountable tourism considering of each little factor.

He feels that within the close to future, international locations will mannequin their tourism plans after Bhutan and as somebody who has paved the way in Web improvement, I believe he’s the surface the field thinker that has a powerful grasp on the longer term.

Throughout the complete trek as much as Laya, Dave and I observed pits dug for rubbish and stations put aside for water bottles.

garbage in the mountains.

Actually impressed with the best way they deal with rubbish within the mountains.

There’s loads of contemporary water working from the glaciers above, so we advocate taking a Steripen UV water air purifier  with you to replenish your personal water alongside the best way to cut back waste.

See our video of learn how to use the Steripen

We stupidly left ours at our resort when repacking earlier than our trek and remorse each second of not having it.

Again to the Pageant

There have been additionally meals tents arrange the place you possibly can sit inside and order noodle soup, momos, scorching tea or perhaps a beer.

It was a fantastic escape from being exterior all day and a brilliant approach to chat with the locals. We had a few of our greatest conversations with the folks taking a break from the festivities within the tents.


The Royal Highlander Pageant is simply in its second 12 months however it will broaden sooner or later.

We had been informed that it’ll rotate to different villages across the Himalayas.  As time goes by, it would solely achieve in recognition. Locals are thrilled with it. Once we informed folks in Thimphu and Paro that we attended the Laya Pageant, their eyes lit up.

Many stated that that they had by no means been to Laya and had been impressed that we had been there.

Most guests keep on the well-trodden vacationer path, so to see teams broaden exterior the standard spots is one thing that may be very welcome by the folks.


When attending a Bhutan competition, you should have the chance to really feel the happiness of the folks first hand. There’s something soothing in regards to the folks of Bhutan they usually instantly put you relaxed. The Royal Highlander Pageant was a spotlight of our journey to the nation, however I can assure that it doesn’t matter what competition you attend in Bhutan, you should have the expertise of a lifetime.

Ideas for trekking to Laya with Grey Langur Excursions

  • Grey Langur presents small and impartial excursions – Since we had been on their inaugural tour, we had been in a gaggle of 21 folks. For us, it was too massive as group, and for trekking and our guides had been fairly unfold out. When reserving ask for a small group and even impartial customized tour to maintain your Bhutan expertise intimate.
  • Refillable Water Bottle: Deliver alongside a Steripen to sterilize stream water. Horses have to hold so much, so you possibly can cut back the load (and waste) by refilling your water bottle.
  • Pack your personal sleeping bag: Be snug and clear through the use of your personal sleeping bag from dwelling. It will get very chilly at night time, so carry a sleeping bag that’s good to -10 Celcius. (In case you are trekking greater into the mountains, we recommend -20.
  • Pack Layers: The times might be fairly balmy and you’re employed up a sweat when strolling, so carry layers so as to add or take away when wanted. A hat and buff are nice to have as nicely.
  • Good mountain climbing boots: The path can get very muddy and slippery. Sturdy mountain climbing boots are a should. Dave and I additionally wished that we introduced gaiters to maintain our pant cuffs clear and dry.
  • Grey Langur takes care of all Visas, Transfers and lodging. You need not fear about reserving something when you arrive.
  • The trek is hard if you do not have numerous expertise or should not good at altitude it isn’t advisable. Remember to e-book inside your limits. The primary day is a 18 km hike with a excessive elevation achieve. A few of our group got here in nicely after darkish.
  • We don’t advocate taking horses if you’re too drained. Grey Langur recommend that you may take a horse must you really feel drained, however it may be very harmful strolling on uneven and rocky terrain, so don’t rely on that choice. Trails are slender, there are steep drops and horses don’t use saddles. They’re positive footed and good at carrying masses, nevertheless it’s a complete completely different ball recreation when driving. In the event you assume you possibly can’t make it, do not do it. Select a better trek as an alternative. 

Any enquiries might be made at Grey Langur Excursions

Learn Extra:

Prime 6 Cultural Experiences in Bhutan

Why I Selected to Journey to Bhutan for my First Journey out of India

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