While scooting around Ko Yao Noi I came across the scene above, a local woman stirring a vast wok of fragrant curry. I stopped and asked what was going on and she explained that she doing the Muslim equivalent of making merit by sacrificing an animal (in this case a buffalo) and sharing the meat with friends and family:
The woman went on to explain that because I wasn't a Muslim, I couldn't eat any of the food -- not even one bite -- as doing so would render the merit invalid. She was very clear about this, and repeated it several times, not to be exclusive, I suspected, but rather because she felt guilty that she couldn't offer any to me. Ko Yao Noi is a predominately Muslim island, and like other Muslim places I've been (Pakistan, Bangladesh and other places in southern Thailand), the hospitality and generosity run thick. I found the residents of Ko Yao Noi in particular to be the friendliest people I've met anywhere in Thailand. I ran into characters ranging from a man who uses monkeys to gather coconuts:
to a group of Muslim missionaries:
and everybody was genuinely friendly, generous and kind. These experiences, not to mention some pretty interesting food, have given me a strong desire to visit more Muslim lands. Later this year I'll have some free time and a lot of frequent flier miles, and at the moment am considering Syria or Yemen (although food-wise, Lebanon and Turkey look pretty interesting). Any Muslim world hands with any suggestions?