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Introduction to Koh Samui

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Koh Samui is an island in the province of Surat Thani, often just referred to as Samui by the local Thai people, is located just off the east coast of Thailand close to the city of Surat Thani.  Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island and has a total area of 228.7Km2 with a population of more than 55,000 (2008).  The island has an abundant supply of natural resources, with a fantastic amount of Coconut trees, sandy beaches and coral reefs.

 

History

It is thought that Koh Samui was initially inhabited some 1,500 years ago and was settled mainly by fishermen from southern China and the Malay Peninsula.  It is still unknown today where the name Samui came from, however many suspect that it may have come from the Chinese word Saboey, meaning “safe haven” and mui the name of some of some of the native trees found here.  Of Course Koh is Thai for “island”.

Koh Samui remained relatively isolated for 100’s of years, almost cut off from the mainland, until the early 70’s when the first roads were constructed and the 15Km trek from one side to the other got cut from a 1 day hike to less than a 1 hour car journey.

Koh Samui’s population of 55,000 and is sustained by a very healthy tourist industry, and also from exports of Coconuts (apparently the best in Thailand) and rubber.

The owners of Koh Samui’s airport, Bangkok Airways, started building Koh Samui’s airport back in 1982 and opened it in 1989 and steadily the flow of tourists visiting the island has grown year by year.  In fact the airport was expanded in 2007 to cope with the extra demands and now the airport has the capacity to deal with more than 2 million tourists per year.

Geography

Koh Samui is located about 35Km north east of the city of Surat Thani in the gulf of Thailand and measures approximately 25Km at it longest point and 21Km at is narrowest.  No few than 60 other islands surround Koh Samui, of which Angthong Marine Park, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan are the most visited.

Koh Samui has an unusual shape, somewhere between a rectangle and circle, and is about 15Km across.  Parts of central Koh Samui are virtually uninhabitable due to the thick mountain jungle vegetation, and its tallest peak is, Khao Pom, peaking at 635m.  The island is mainly connected by a 51Km long road which essentially runs around the coastline connecting all the tourist hotspots.

Samui Capital is still Nathon, an old fishing village which has since been dwarfed by Chaweng, on the west coast of the island and it still remains a major port for ferries between the mainland and other islands, as well as fishing.  Nathon is lined with many old Chinese still shop houses, still with many red lanterns to this day, and has quite a slow pace with everything being within walking distance.  Nathon is the home of the Police HQ and the seat of the regional government.

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