Meet Hiker on Heels- Phub Zam fascinated me trailing to Rukha Village


Here is this bubbly rural head who wishes to live in capital because for her city is the life and here I am crying to settle somewhere far from hassle and bustle. 

The Headline

It was sometime in early 2000 I stumble across BBS News about the local dialect that was on the verge of extinction because not many could speak the local dialect. With the quizzical look, I continued to watch the news only to learn that it was a tribal language known as ‘Olepkha’ spoken by Olep tribe.


Oleps have a distinct culture, language and way of life. The Oleps are a sub-ethnic group of Monpas which are believed to be the first inhabitants of Bhutan. These people have been hunters and food gatherers since time unknown. They lived and moved around the Black mountains area practising shifting cultivation until the tribe was given land kidu by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan. Today the tribes are settled under Athang Gewog.

The Call 

Although I planned to travel to Rukha, somehow I couldn’t fulfil my bucket list until recently. Few weeks ago I received an invitation message from sir Dorji Wangchuck if I am interested to visit Rukha village with him along with two other girls. 

Sir Dorji Wangchuck is a philanthropist, seasoned blogger and he is the star of Rukha Village. Mr Dorji Wangchuck has seen village evolve into present days when he worked for Tarayana Foundation projects. Even after the completion of the project, he discovered his higher calling to help villager uplift their living standard.

He is a man who helped build two temples in Rukha and Gawa village. Mr Dorji Wangchuck has devoted to help villagers in need and he continues to do so.  This time he was visiting Rukha Village, which he calls his favourite getaway destination to attend monthly ritual performed at one of the temples he built. 

Mr Dorji Wangchuk standing in front of Temple he build.

Filled with much anticipation and excitement yet little nervous with the repercussion of cyclone Amphan, I agreed to travel. After a few days, we gathered to take the ride to the unheard village. 


Out of many road trips and hikes I have taken, the trip to Rukha village was one of the most memorable one filled with laughter and amazement. The girls who were joining sir Dorji and I were heading to the village over for the weekend. As I slipped in the car, I got introduced to two ladies. Both in the early 20s with the morning sleepy innocent face. They were both working in Kalapingka Drayang as a dancer. Just in 20 minutes of travel, Phub Zam (who hailed from Rukha) started to get car sickness and later on she would ask sir to pull over the car so that she could vomit.  

Phub Zam and her friend

Every time she asked to stop the car, she would apologies Sir for being the baggage. Just in less than 1 hour of riding together, I realized how innocent Phub Zam and her friend was. Phub Zam shared that she is not used to travelling in the car and continued to tell us that it feels like a nightmare.  I understood her stand because she was coming from a remote village where the feeder road touched the village only recently. Today, Phub Zam is the only person from her village who works outside to earn her living and also sends money back home. 

Since it was monsoon season, we received the message from the village that the feeder road was blocked and that we have to hike to the village. Instantly I asked sir how long we would take on foot, sir calmly responds approximately 3 hours. That shouldn’t be hard, I cheered up to Phubs Friend. Strangely, Phub cried that she might want to return to Thimphu if she had to walk. 

The Roadblock

After much speculation, I found out that she was wearing almost 6-inch heels and the Phubs hiccup for denial to hike was obvious. I mean who hikes in monsoon for hours in 6-inch heels.  Somehow we persuaded her to continue her journey she was going to be our host for a night. She agreed!

Hikes in Heels 

Being a traveller,  I have come across all kind of commuters, hikers in sneakers, trekkers with fancy hiking shoes, dancers with high heels, some beggars with and without shoes but no where have I seen individual wearing 6-inch heels and hiking for arduous 5 hours. 

Phub had a choice to change her heels and wear brand new gumboots which she was taking for her mother as ‘Chom from Gyalsa Tewa’ (gift) but she detested our suggestion. She said she can walk on heels. 

Well, she proved us wrong. She could actually walk in Heels! I remained flabbergasted and amazed at this young lady drenched in rain yet hiking elegantly like she was on the stage dancing to the song request from customers. I was truly impressed!

The Lost Identity- why she is what she is now

Phub Zam serving Bangchang

As we continued to hike, I was getting to know Phub better. She started to share with me everything about her work and why she is what she is now. Since the villagers in her village practices subsidence farming, she shared there is nothing much to do to earn income money. Therefore to earn money, she decided to go to the capital and work as a dancer in one of the Drayang. 

Initally villagers had a hard time accepting Phub as a dancer in Drayang, eventually seeing her do well changed the cynical perception of the villagers. The villagers are proud of Phub since she hosts almost all the villagers who travel to Thimphu for medical treatment in her one-room rental room in Norzin Lam. 

Phub Zam is Home

She jokingly shared that she is not in a hurry to marry because she raised so many godchildren’s. A local shared that Phub Zam must have fed all the newborns of her village when in JDNRH. To me, I felt like she was the GODMOTHER figure to her folks. 

Coming back to the heels,  now that she has become an urbanite, Phub had to present best of herself. She shared ‘like a modern girl I ought to present myself with long silky hair, good clothes, wear lipsticks and high heel to compliment the look’.

On the contrary, except for the distractive 6-inch heels, her hair and makeup were not even close to social expectation. Of course, she was worried about the messy look but she was happy that after almost 4 hours of hike, it was becoming dusk.

Phub Zam is home

Grumbling about the road and weather, after 5 hours of arduous hike, we reached to the unheard village, the village I always anticipated to travel to. Phub Zam was finally happy to be home but she was already looking forward to returning to Thimphu. 

It was an eyebrow-raising moment. I was in shock! 

 People like sir Dorji and I look forward to delving into the local community, away from the urban area but here is this bubbly head who wishes to stroll around capital because for her city is the life. 

  Phub Zam was the highlight of the journey to Rukha Village .  

Rukha Days


  1. Mrs. Denkar, Thank you very much for the information and knowledge that you shared wherever you travel. It really provides us inspiration and motivation to know more about Bhutan culture, life style and so on. Since i am regular follower and reader of your article, it gives me sense of achievement and pleasure even if i had not been to those places and therefore, always thank you and can’t wait to see other exiting places and stories across Bhutan.
    Best regards.

    • Hello Mr Wang Tshering

      Thank you so much for the positive comments. The feedbacks only leaves me more inspired and encouraged to travel more and blog for reader like you.
      Regarding our own country there is so so much to see and experience but many Bhutanese do not realized the importance of delving into our own community. I wish sir also get to travel far and wide besides reading my blogs .

      cheers la

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