General Information Ko SamuiArea: 228.7 km² Population: 62,500 Language: Thai Currency: Thai Baht
Ko Samui is an Amphoe in Surat Thani Province. It is located in the northeast of the city, 35 kilometers away from Don Sak Pier and 84 kilometers away from Surat Thani City, and is the third biggest island in Thailand.
Samui is one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand because it has wonderful nature, white beaches, clear seas, waterfalls, spectacular viewpoints, beautiful temples, and many activities for tourists to enjoy. The island has an airport and a vast array of accommodation options, which makes it a great place for travelling.
Samui is now the main travel hotspot of the southern areas of Thailand’s Gulf. There are so many beautiful beaches here like Chaweng, Lamai, Taling Ngam, and Natien. Besides plentiful nature, the island is also full of history and culture.
Ko Samui has been settled for about 1500 years and the first inhabitants were fishermen. The island is found on 500 years old maps from the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Fishing and coconut plantations have been the major source of income on the island, but today the tourism is the main income for the inhabitants of the island. The people of Samui are called "Chao Samui".
Samui's weather patterns are a little different from the rest of Thailand. In April through September, when most of the country has its monsoon, Samui stays fairly dry, but from October to December, it's wet in Samui and drier elsewhere. The driest season is from January to March.
Ko Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand (bordering the South China Sea in the Pacific Ocean). The island is a "Amphoe" or district in the Surat Thani Changwat or province. Samui is divided into seven "Tambon" or administrative regions: Maenam, Bophut, Maret, Taling Ngam, Namuang, Lipa Noi and Angthong.
Ko Samui became a backpackers destination in the late 70's. Today, all kinds of tourists from all over the whole world are visiting this easygoing "paradise". Samui is surrounded by more than sixty other islands, some small and inhabited, some are larger such as Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Other popular destinations in the area are: Koh Nang Yuan (three small islands, connected with a beach, next to Koh Tao) and the Angthong National Marine Park (located between Koh Samui and the Suratthani mainland).
There are many daily flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport - Thailand's international airport, situated just outside Bangkok. (it opened in September 2006). Bangkok Airways flies directly to Samui Airport. A flight schedule with Bangkok Airways is found here.).
Thai Airways and Air Asia also flies to Suratthani. From there, just catch the waiting bus or a taxi for an hour long trip to the ferry pier in Donsak.
If you prefer a more economical way to travel, we recommend a so called VIP bus from the well-known Khao San Road or from the Southern Bus Terminal at Boromrat Chonnani Road. The so-called VIP buses are more comfortable, and has less seats than a regular A/C bus. You can buy a ticket in almost every travel agency in Bangkok. The ferry ticket is normally included in the price.
Another comfortable way to travel is the night train from Hualamphong, the Bangkok railway station, to Surat Thani. The sleeping cars have rather comfortable beds. To travel by railway is a little more expensive than by bus, but you will probably get a better sleep. Upper beds are less expensive than the lower ones. The lower beds are also a little wider.
A private "first class" train compartment for two people is also available. Then you are able to lock the door for privacy. There is also a small water sink in this compartments. The ideal choice for couples!
The fastest ferries departures from the two main piers in Donsak on the main land. There are three operators:Lomprayah - Catamarans 45 minutes to Samui. Seatran - Car ferry About 1,5 hours to Samui. Raja Ferry - Car ferry About 1,5 hours to Samui.
A ferry ticket is about 160-350 baht for passengers (Lomprayah is more expensive than the car ferries) and 500 baht for cars. The ferries are passing the Angthong Marine Park and you will see many of the small surrounding islands from the ferry, if you don't fall asleep.
Thai Boxing Stadium
The Lamai Stadium is located in South Lamai, between Ring Road and Lamai Beach Road. Another ring is found in a bar area in the middle of the Beach Road (so called lady boxing and free to watch). The Chaweng Stadium is the main arena on the island and located rather close to Reggae Pub. There is action several times a week. Sometimes you can see "farangs" (westerners) vs Thai guys in the ring. We also recommend Ratchadamnoern and Lumpini stadiums in Bangkok if you want to see "the real thing" even if there might be good fights on Koh Samui too.
Koh Samui, Koh Tan and Koh Tao has many excellent diving sites. There are many schools who provide professional education. Snorkeling and wave diving is also fun. You can buy equipment in many diving shops on Koh Samui and Koh Tao.
Culture and History Ko Samui
Ko Samui History
Samui History: A look at how Ko Samui evolved into the tourism hub as we know it today. Have you ever wondered what Koh Samui was like 100, 50 or even 20 years ago? You may be reading this while reclining on a sun-lounger at your 5-star resort, sipping a cocktail, after arriving via the quaint airport that resembles a hotel lobby. Imagine how your tropical holiday would have been different before the airport was built, before the ring-road let you travel right around the island in an hour, and before the electricity cable from the mainland was built allowing us to wallow in air-conditioned rooms, and keep in touch with the world via WiFi.
Historians generally believe that Samui was first inhabited around 1,500 years ago by fishermen from the Malay Peninsula and traders from the southern coast of China. Ancient Chinese maps, dating back to 1687, show the co-ordinates we now know as Koh Samui, as ‘Pulo Cornam’. There are two schools of thought as to where the name ‘Samui’ originates from. ‘Samui’ may be derived from the name of a native tree, Mui, or may have evolved from the Chinese word ‘saboey’ which means ‘safe haven’ which it was to the Chinese traders who moored at its shores.
Little was known about the island until the first boat transportation service to Samui was launched in the mid 1800s. Back then, it took a full day of sailing to cover the 35km voyage from Surat Thani on the mainland vastly different to the easy one-hour flight from the capital now.
So when did the Samui as we know it, evolve? A few decades ago, the island was an isolated community, with little contact to the mainland. But in 1967, Khun Dilok Suthiklom, leader of the island at that time, decided to ask the government for help in developing Ko Samui’s infrastructure.
Two main obstacles were the high hill between Nathon and Mae Nam, and the rocky and mountainous area between Chaweng and Lamai which had to be blasted to in order to construct the road. Vegetation and rocks had to be cleared. Dynamite and heavy construction vehicles were needed, and these had to come from the mainland. The result was a narrow track around the island. Before concrete was laid along this track, it was not unusual to see passengers exiting the cars to help push the vehicles up steep inclines.
Construction of the ring-road was constantly interrupted by heavy downpours during the rainy season. Finally the concrete was poured in 1973 to complete the 52km stretch that made its way around the island. Initially, the road was only two meters in width, but over the years it was widened to accommodate more traffic, to form the (mostly) tarred ring-road that we know today.
Nowadays, we can hardly imagine a time when the only way to go from one place to another on Koh Samui was on foot or by boat. Prior to the ring-road being built, a journey from the east to west coast meant a 15 kilometer trek across the island’s mountainous jungle. Watching sunrise in Lamai, and nipping across to watch sunset along Lipa Noi beach in a day, was just not a reality.
During the 1980s, on realising the island’s true tourism potential, the Thai Government started pouring resources into Samui. Word of our tropical paradise continued to spread and more and more tourists flocked to the shores of Kho Samui – at first only via ferry, but then in droves when the airport was built by Bangkok Air in 1989. Unfortunately, as with most tourism booms, the infrastructure did not increase at the same pace as the visitors arriving to the island. John ‘Squall’ says there was never a flooding problem before the island’s busiest areas were so built up, even though Chaweng sits mostly on swampland. The water’s natural runoff paths became blocked by large hotels, without adequate drainage being allowed.
There will always be those for and those against development. But, there is no arguing that progress cannot be halted – it can however be controlled. We are seeing better building regulations aimed at keeping Samui aesthetically pleasing. Now law states that roofs must be pitched Thai-style, and height restrictions have been set in place (12 meters, not higher than the closest coconut palm, in fact). Huge budgets are being spent on improving the roads and drainage; all good news.
We may not see Koh Samui as the hidden paradise it was four decades ago, privy only to a few travelers in on the secret. We can however learn from the mistakes made by the early developers and let Samui evolve gracefully, protecting her natural beauty, preserving the heritage of her Thai, Chinese and Malay founders, and making sure that it keeps its identity and doesn’t become just another beach holiday location which it isn’t.
Ko SamuiIs a living, working island with distinctive local cultures, habits and customs The first settlers that landed here were Chinese traders and Muslim fishermen, and both of these groups still inhabit the island today living peacefully alongside their Thai cousins.
Local markets like the one at Laem Din behind Chaweng, the Nathon fresh food market, and Hua Thanon fishing village are good places to get an authentic taste of local life. Tourism may be the main source of income on Koh Samui, but look beneath the surface and you will find a proud and vibrant local culture.
The culture of an area is a series of influences affecting the way of life. Culture is something which is both consistent and ever changing. The relaxed way of life on Koh Samui is reflective of its own unique culture and there are many factors shaping this culture.
Thai Festivals are an important part of daily life on Koh Samui. The larger celebrations are Chinese New Year in February, Songkran (Thai New Year) in April and Loi Krathong (Festival of Light) in November. These all involve processions, temple festivities, food fairs and live performances. There are also regular food and cultural events staged by the Tourism Authority in Koh Samui’s capital, Nathon.
Songkran water festival Thai New YearApril is the end of the Buddhist lunar cycle and therefore heralds three days of New Year festivities in Thailand. Songkran is in Koh Samui from 12-14th of the month and includes both traditional and more modern forms of revelry. Families pay a visit to their local temple to make merit and share food, and later in the evening parties are thrown all over the island. Water is an important symbol of the festival, and on at least one of the days, usually the middle one, local people go out into the street and pour water over each other, often by the bucketful. The original gesture was to pour a cup lightly over someone’s shoulder but nowadays it’s more like the biggest water fight on the planet. In the spirit of the festival, the Koh Samui authorities are asking everyone to maintain an atmosphere of light hearted fun, and to be aware of the dangers posed to riders and passers-by “Sawasdee Pee Mai”.
New Year’s Celebrations
The traditional December 31st New Year is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Koh Samui. It is also a public holiday. The Chinese New Year usually in February based upon the lunar calendar. This celebration takes several days. And the Thai New Year, Songkran, starts on the 13th of April and lasting at least 2 or 3 days, depending on where you are in Thailand. This is the water festival where the whole country descends to the streets to cool off from the summer heat by having a country wide water fight!
loy krathong festival samuiThis beautiful and festive holiday is celebrated throughout Thailand. The timing of this event is based on the lunar calendar and is held on the Full Moon in November. Thai’s and visitors alike construct or purchase Krathongs. These small boats are decorated and contain 3 sticks of incense, a candle, a coin and other items. The candles are lighted and placed in the water. There are several major festival venues on Koh Samui, the most obvious being the wats (temples) at Big Buddha and Plai Laem. Chaweng lake also sees thousands of visitors for Loy Krathong, where they let off fire lanterns and a firework display.
Temple fair / market
Temple fairs take place throughout the year, passing from village to village. Popular with locals of all ages, the bigger ones combine a fun fair with live entertainment, market stalls, and local food. The temple fair is probably the only place where you can buy a new pair of flip flops, watch a Kung Fu film, have your fortune told, and indulge in a bag of deep-fried grasshoppers all in one evening.
Buffalo fighting is a hugely popular sport among locals on Koh Samui and champion buffalos can be worth several million baht. The fighting season varies according to ancient customs and ceremonies so it’s difficult to predict when a bout will take place, but if you visit Koh Samui at the right time, there are stadiums in the south at Ban Saket, and also in Ban Makham, just outside Nathon. Unlike the Sanish version, the buffalos fight each other, locking horns until the weaker one submits. The atmosphere around the ring is usually very lively.
Country bars & karaoke
Country bars are the preferred venues for many local people on a night out in Koh Samui and generally feature live local music, good food and a few drinks with friends. It’s always best to go with Thai people if you want to fully appreciate this local revelry, but foreigners on their own are just as welcome to join the party. Look out for cowboy style logos and bars with a small stage, most of which are located around Koh Samui’s main island ring road.