How Wechat Is Gradually Changing Lives In The Remote Yak Herding Village Of Soe In Bhutan


Far removed from the towns characterised by concrete cubicles, Soe is among the last villages yet to catch up with a modernising country.

(Source: Panoramic Journey)


By Needrup Zangpo | Bhutan Media Foundation 

On a clear morning, the sharp tip of Mount Jichu Drakay resembles a crystal dagger piercing the sky while the ancient ruins of Jangothang Dzong (Monastery) look dark and crumbling against the shiny face of the rugged Mount Jomolhari.

An imposing rocky structure rising sharply from the banks of the Pachu River is the citadel of Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of Haa.

Down in the valley bestrewn with colourful flowers, the Pachu is a noisy band of silver stretching across the length of the valley. At a cursory glance, nothing seems to stir amongst these giant monuments of nature. 

But by the Pachu lies the small, ancient hamlets of Soe which are populated by a group of sturdy nomadic people.


Dangojang hamlet in Soe, Bhutan.

Photo: Kuensel


It is also home to Ap Chonyi Dorji, the composer and singer of many celebrated songs in Bhutan - one of which is a haunting song dedicated to a handsome yak that was identified for slaughter. This particular song touches a special chord to the folks living in the mountains of Soe.

About Soe, untouched by modernisation before but things are changing now

Far removed from the towns characterised by concrete cubicles and noisy arguments, Soe is among the last villages yet to catch up with a modernising country.   

Two days’ of hard trek from Shana in the district of Paro, Soe is among the villages farthest from a roadhead. It is home to just 200 people living in 28 households, and is the smallest gewog (village) in Bhutan.


Map: Druk Asia


For a long time, Soe had no access to television, radio, and newspapers. In fact, most people have not even seen any form of traditional media. Village leaders and horsemen who occasionally travel to Paro and Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, bring home some news from the rest of the country.  

Yet, things are changing, albeit slowly. Electricity reached the gewog in 2016 and just three months ago, Soe was connected to B-Mobile’s 3G network. TashiCell is transporting cellular equipment to Soe for installation while some of the 14 rickety log bridges between Shana and Soe have been replaced by Bailey bridges.

Every year in October, Soe attracts around 400 people, including some 60 government officials to its Mountain Festival which has been running for six years.


Source: Youtube/SluggerKostya


Bhutan’s most popular trekking routes – the Snowman Trek, Laya-Lingzhi Trek, Jomolhari Trek, and Soe-Yaksa Trek, also pass through the gewog. 

Among the new developments in Soe, the 3G cellular service is the one which has caught the imagination of the villagers the most. In fact, most of them are already using WeChat, touching base and forming groups to discuss community issues.

43-year-old Gup (Head of the gewog) Kencho Dorji, who has been Soe’s Gup for 20 years said that WeChat has brought the community together. For example, the yak herders use the voice messaging app to bring missing yaks home collaboratively.

As for 32-year-old Wangmo from Dangojang hamlet, WeChat has definitely made yak herding much easier. The whole community of herders is now on WeChat, sharing real time information on the whereabouts of the gewog’s 1,461 yaks. 

School Among Snow Leopards – the only school in Soe

Perhaps the most endearing feature of Soe’s changing landscape is its only school, aptly named ‘School Among Snow Leopards’. The region of Soe is home to eight elusive snow leopards and many other endangered animals such as the tiger, musk deer, takin, Asiatic wild dog, Asiatic black bear, and sambar.


Photo: Kuensel


Established in 2009 by the Bhutan Foundation, the school which some people call the ‘cutest’ school, has eight students - six girls and two boys studying in classes ranging from PP to IV. Getting to school is a challenge and for six-year-old Tandin Lham, one of the two class PP children, who walks two hours between home and school every day.

Along with two teachers, Principal Tshering Dorji, 38, an affectionate figure to the children, volunteered to teach at the school three years ago. He also earned the nickname ‘Bear Grylls’ of Soe for his dogged endurance to swim in a glacial lake at an altitude of 4,300 metres at least once every weekend.

Due to its humble size, the school mostly goes unnoticed to most visiting officials but gewog officials more than make up for this with the attention they shower on the children.

For instance, Gewog Administrative Officer Galay Phuntsho, 48, a jovial man with a receding hairline, regularly goes to the school to exchange high fives and high tens with the children. His friendly gestures kept them feeling loved and uplifted. 

While the children of remote schools in Bhutan would typically want to become teachers, the only profession they can relate to, the students of tiny Soe have much loftier ambitions.  


Children from the 'School Among Snow Leopards' performed a dance for festival goers at the 2014 Jomolhari Mountain Festival.

Source: Youtube/Snow Leopard Conservancy


Four of the students at ‘School Among Snow Leopards’ want to become teachers, three of them doctors while the six-year-old classmate of Tandin Lham, Jigme Tenzin, wants to be a pilot because he has seen a helicopter land near his school. He wishes to fly beyond Soe as his grandfather thinks that it is better than beautiful Soe. 

Tackling waste issues in Soe

In recent years, Jigme has seen hundreds of tourists and their Bhutanese guides pass through his village. They brought with them horse-loads of foodstuff, including packaged food. These tourists came to appreciate the mountains but unfortunately, some unscrupulous ones left waste along the pristine trails.

Echoing the same view, Gup Kencho Dorji agreed that regulations against waste are unequivocal. However, tackling the waste issue remains a mounting challenge as more PET bottles and other plastic waste can be seen along these trails.

Now that the villagers have heard that the media can be a tool of empowerment, they hope that by using WeChat, it will not only bring home their missing yaks but also drive home the message against wanton waste disposal in their village.  


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


Related Posts

Austria-Bhutan Society Helps Build Schools In Remote Villages Of...

The ABS also provides scholarships, sports coaches and exchange of medical doctors.

Jun 10, 2019 19:38

How Radio Has Informed And Entertained The Remote District Of...

Since the KYD community radio went on air in 2016, it has brought about immense benefits to the remote community of...

May 14, 2019 20:28

UNICEF Set Up First Ever Early Childhood Care and Development...

UNICEF and Bhutan’s Education Ministry inaugurated the Early Childhood Care and Development Centre on April 10 this...

Apr 27, 2019 19:38

Students From Remote Lunana Learned Skills Such As Aikido,...

The winter camp included educational programs, arts and crafts, games and sports events.

Jan 20, 2019 07:44

Global Warming And Its Adverse Impact On Yak Herders In Bhutan

The study seeks to evaluate the vulnerabilities of yak herding in Bhutan due to climate change.

Apr 01, 2019 15:38

Yak Farming In Haa, Bhutan Is Becoming A Vanishing Trade

Once an important source of livelihood for the people in Uesu Gewog, yak farming has seen its popularity wane over the...

Nov 12, 2018 16:19



Foothills Festival- The Southerners Cultural Carnival

The festival showcases Sarpangs unique culture, natural resources and local products while offering some fun and rewarding challenges...

Jan 27, 2020 13:27

USD 25.3m Green Climate Fund To Address Climate Change Adaption In Bhutan

The project can help address climate change adaptation challenges facing Bhutan, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Jan 15, 2020 16:28


Bhutan Embarks On Green Financing Roadmap, To Mitigate Climate Change Impact

A Joint Learning Program on ‘Inclusive green finance’ was held in the capital, Thimphu from 20-22 January 2020.

Jan 27, 2020 20:28

Losar Tashi Delek - How The Bhutanese Celebrate The Year Of The Male Iron Rat

According to the Bhutanese calendar, Losar falls on 25-26 January this year.

Jan 26, 2020 18:28


Karma – Female Archer From Bhutan Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Quota

Karma has been specialising in Olympics-style archery since 2009.

Nov 30, 2019 13:18

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08


Economic Roadmap Needed To Steer Bhutan Towards Higher GDP Growth

The Lyonchhen said that the economic figures will improve in 2020 as 70 percent of the capital investments still lie unused.

Jan 17, 2020 23:38

Celebrating Bhutan’s entrepreneurs: Tashi Wangdi of iHub

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Jan 12, 2020 23:38


Forging the Unbeaten Trail Towards Wangdue Nye

When you dedicate year 2020 to hike on unbeaten trails in Bhutan.

Jan 21, 2020 10:58

Make Your Own Personalised Stamps And Discover Bhutan’s Postal History At The Postal Museum

The Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu is also a major tourist attraction.

Jan 18, 2020 21:08


Bhutan- The Wedding Destination in Asia

Bhutan, a Himalayan kingdom, is a landlocked country located between China and India. With its reputation for mystery and magic, stunning...

Jan 23, 2020 09:07

Relish Your Taste Buds With 8 Delectable Bhutanese Staple Food

One of the best places to try authentic Bhutanese cuisine is through a homestay, where you will get to sample what most locals eat at home.

Jan 19, 2020 21:08

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!