Koh Samui (Thai: เกาะสมุย) or Ko Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand located in the south of the Isthmus of Kra and belonging to the province of Surat Thani. Located about 25 km from the coast, it is the third largest island in Thailand, with an area of 228 km ² and a population of 45,873 inhabitants in 2004. It has many natural resources tourism: white sand beaches, coral and coconut trees.
Nicknamed the “Pearl of the South China Sea”, the island has experienced a relatively late development. It was probably uninhabited until the sixth century and settled by fishermen from Malaysia and southern China. It appears on maps of China in 1687 under the name of Pulo Cornam. The current name Samui is mysterious. It may be with the name of a local trees, mui, or saboei Chinese word, meaning “safe haven”. Ko is a Thai word meaning “island”. Until the late twentieth century, Ko Samui was a fishing community, self-sufficient and isolated, which does little contact with Thailand. She had only dirt roads until the late 1980s and the arrival of tourists, and a 15km drive across the island demanded a full day of hiking through the jungle mountains.
The island is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35km northeast of the city of Surat Thani, the center of a small archipelago of 85 islands of which six are inhabited, that comprise the National Park Mu Ko Ang Thong (the islands of the bowl of gold). Ko Pha Ngan, also very touristy, is located a few kilometers further north.
Ko Samui has a massive form (25 km x 21 km), rather than circular. The center, which rises to 656 meters, is covered with a hostile jungle mountain. The plains are connected by a single road 51km essentially following the coast.
The main town is Nathon, a fishing port and transportation between the islands, located on the southwest coast of Samui. It is also the seat of local government and the economic heart of the island.
The name of each of the main beaches of the island is now linked to a clean city, because of the location of many hotels, restaurants and nightclubs in recent decades.
Koh Samui is a district (Amphoe) in the province of Surat Thani, divided into seven sub-districts (tambon). The entire island is a municipality (thesaban Mueang). The district covers the island and the Ang Thong archipelago and some surrounding islands.
Located in the province of Surat Thani, Samui has essentially two seasons: hot tropical most of the year, with a short rainy season. Unlike Phuket and much of southern Thailand, which has a six-month wet season from May to November, the climate of the island is relatively dry during the year, with a rainy season in novembre. The rest of the year, the showers are short-lived.
The traditional activity is fishing and the exploitation of rubber and some 4 million coconut trees that produce copra.
The tourism industry is now the main economic activity. Its beautiful beaches have attracted a flood of tourists since the 1970s, originally style hippies, when the connections with the continent were difficult. Building its own international airport in the 1990s has linked the island to the rest of Asia with daily flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore. But growth and economic prosperity of the island upset culture and environment of Koh Samui, and were a source of conflict between natives and immigrants from the rest of Thailand and foreign countries. On the other hand, the influx of new tourists caused inflation of land prices and the start of construction on natural sites. Evidence of the emergence of Samui on the list of major tourist destinations, the Queen Victoria (ship of more than 2000 passengers), made stops on the island during his world tour of 20083.
The construction of stable access to broadband in recent years has also made the island a potential implant site for computer companies, which tend to diversify the local economy. In addition, its climate and accessibility make it particularly attractive for foreign investors.
Several ferries connect Samui to the mainland. Public buses serve the island. The songthaew (bus-truck near the tuk-tuk) operating on the coastal road and private taxis are available throughout the island although they are criticized for their lack of reliability (odometers and overload).
The international airport of Ko Samui (USM) is a private airport originally built by Bangkok Airways, which is still the main operator and was long the only one to offer a link between the island and Thailand. The airport is also served by Thai Airways International. It does not have actual buildings available to passengers, apart from the gift shop. It has two terminals: Domestic and International, a distance of about 50 meters.
The airport is located near the Big Buddha pier where ferries depart to Koh Pha Ngan. Fast ferry to Ko Tao and Chumphon leave from the dock at Maenam, about 6 km northwest of the airport.
Although the island is located in southern Thailand, where Islam has the strongest influence, indigenous people, known as ‘Chao Samui’, are mostly Buddhists. In the past, most of them lived in the harvesting of coconuts. Now most jobs related to tourism. Many people took advantage of the tourist boom of the island to sell land they owned for decades. As a result of economic development in Samui, many Sino-Thai have come to Samui from Bangkok. Most of the workers necessary for the growth of the island come from the poorest region in the northeast of Thailand.
Southern Thailand is a melting pot of Buddhists, sinothaï, Muslims … But Ko Samui does not seem to suffer from tensions between religious communities in all coexist peacefully. Outside the tourist areas, the Thai language (a dialect of the South) is widely spoken.
Ko Samui is a popular destination for many elderly and retired people living there, probably because of the climate, landscape and quality of life of the island.Resorts & bungalowsAfter the exploding tourism in Koh Samui there has been a growth in building resorts, bungalows and luxury private villas on the island. This economic growth has led many businessmen from all over the world to invest in Koh Samui. With over 260 resorts and bungalows in Samui, counting from the end of year 2009, it has become Thailand’s second largest resort business behind Bangkok and surpassing Phuket.
Events and festivals
The Festival of bullfighting is one of the most famous festivals of the island, organized for special occasions like Christmas and New Year or Songkran. The season varies according to ancient customs and ceremonies. The bull is richly decorated. Before the fight lasts two rounds, monks sprinkle holy water. Traditionally, the owner of the winner gets a sum of money.
The Festival of the fishing village is a five-day festival music, and celebration of local food. The music is played by famous artists and tents selling specialties from the neighboring houses at affordable prices.
The Samui Regatta is held every year since 2002. She is known internationally and competitors are all in Thailand as Australia, Singapore, Japan or China.
In general, the food of southern Thailand is known for its chili content. Most of the local cuisine comes from the Malay cuisines, Indonesian and Indian. Favorite dishes include Indian curry (Massaman curry), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (Khanom Jeen) and chicken biryani. As in the rest of the province of Surat Thani, local dishes are pickled eggs and rambutan.
There are four private hospitals in Samui International:
- Samui International Hospital on Beach Road north of Chaweng
- Thai International on Lake Road in Chaweng
- Bandon Hospital on the coastal road
- Bangkok Hospital Samui Chaweng Noi
The public hospital is located in Nathon. There are also many clinics and pharmacies, especially at Chaweng.
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