It was our second day in Thimphu (Bhutan) and our guide Kinga had taken us to the Jungshi Paper Factory to see how the locals make paper from Daphne trees. As with all handicraft tours, there was a store at the end where tourists can purchase paper products such as journals, cards, and paintings, all made from this paper.
Upon entering the store, my eyes locked on a black framed painting hanging on the wall. I stared at it for awhile and then made my way around the rest of the store. Before leaving, I asked the young man working there how much the painting was and left empty handed promptly after.
That night, I had a dream about the painting. I was showing it to my boyfriend, but it wasn’t clear where we were. In the morning, I told Danica about my dream and we agreed it was a sign: either I had purchased it and taken it home with me, or Preston and I were visiting Thimphu together and it was still there, waiting for me.
I needed to see the painting again. However, that morning we were leaving for two nights in Punakha Valley, but I knew we had to drive back through Thimphu on our way to Paro a few days later. I relayed the story to Kinga, who graciously agreed to take us back to the Jungshi Paper Factory so I could have another look at the painting.
Fast forward two amazing days and I was back at the store, but when I walked in, the wall looked different. The painting was gone and another painting hung in its place. After much conversing between Kinga and the same young man working there, I was informed that the painting had recently been sold.
Before the disappointment could sink in, and the validation that this was another sign telling me it was too expensive and I didn’t need it, Kinga told me that the young man was in fact the artist, Tshering Wangdi, who had just offered to paint it again for me.
I could not believe my luck! We were leaving Bhutan in two days, which allowed just enough time for Tshering to recreate the painting, let it dry, package it for safe traveling, and drive the hour from Thimphu to Paro so I would have it in hand the night before I left the country.
Tshering told me it would take about five hours to paint, but said he would send a few progress photos to Kinga to make sure it was the painting I wanted before I agreed to pay for it. He was picking up a friend at the airport in Paro the next day and said if I was satisfied with the painting, he would drop it off at my hotel in exchange for cash.
However, since we were out hiking Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Takshang Goemba) today, and Kinga didn’t want any confusion leaving the cash with the hotel staff, Tshering agreed to leave the painting without payment and allow Kinga to deliver the cash to him back in Thimphu after he takes us to the airport tomorrow morning and is on his way back home.
In what some would consider a drug deal style arrangement, I purchased the painting from Tshering. I also asked Kinga to ask him for a photo of himself with the painting. The effort that went into this deal is a testament to the generous, trusting and happy people of Bhutan.
The painting is called Lungta Fire Element, and Kinga tells me that lungta means “good fortune”. It was painted on paper made from Daphne trees at Jungshi Paper Factory, especially for me. I can’t actually describe in words what drew me to this painting, but I knew it was meant to come home with me.