Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is a beautiful island, located in the Gulf of Thailand, amidst azure blue water and an archipelago of small green islands ringed by white sand beaches. Traditionally more of a European haunt, Koh Samui�s allure is its relaxed lifestyle. Buildings are no higher than the palm trees and bars and restaurants are often small and personal. Aside from lying on the beach and the usual water activities, a visit to the monkey school � where monkeys are trained to collect coconuts from the tall palm trees - is always fun.
The markets along the main Chaweng Beach are a must, offering great value as well as a good way to meet the locals.
Koh Samui is Thailand's third largest island at 247 sq. km., and during the last decade it has become one of Southeast Asia's premier tourist destinations.
Koh Samui sits snugly in the Gulf of Thailand, surrounded by other island gems like Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, and is located 84 km. east of Surat Thani Province, the provincial capital on the mainland. With soft-sand beaches shaded by towering palms, delicious fresh seafood and a vibrant nightlife, Koh Samui has a magical formula that seems to cast its spell on everyone. Many visitors are content to laze their days away on the beach, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the turquoise waters, but for action enthusiasts there are plenty of choices like diving and snorkelling, windsurfing and paragliding, beach volleyball, off-road driving, and other similar activities.
One of the island's most appealing features is the loop road, which makes a 50 km. circuit around the island, giving a glimpse of superb beaches on the north, east and west coasts. It runs past sleepy fishing villages and through seas of coconut palms, passing Koh Samui's most impressive waterfall and tempting turn-offs into the highlands along the way. Other attractions on or near the road include a butterfly garden, a snake show, a monkey-training centre, and health spas dedicated to pampering the body see more here Koh Samui Attractions.
There is plenty on Koh Samui to keep even the most jaded traveller happy for a week or two, but for anyone spending even a few days here, an opportunity not to be missed is a trip to the emerald islands of the Mu Koh Angthong Marine National Park, which offers another perspective of a tropical paradise.
History of Koh Samui
The island was probably first inhabited about 15 centuries ago, settled by fishermen from Malay Peninsula and Southern China. It appears on Ming Dynasty maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam. The name Koh Samui is mysterious in itself. Perhaps it is an extension of the name of one of the native trees, mui, or it is a corruption of the Chinese word Saboey, meaning "safe haven".
Until the late 20th century, Koh Samui was an isolated self-sufficient community, having little connection with the mainland of Thailand. The island was even without roads until the early 1970s, and the 15km journey from one side of the island to the other involved a whole-day trek through the mountainous central jungles.
Today, Koh Samui has a population of about forty-five thousand, and lives on a successful tourist industry, as well as exports of coconut and rubber. It even has its own international airport, with flights daily to Bangkok and other major airports in Southeast Asia. While the island presents an unspoiled image to the public perception, economic growth has brought not only prosperity, but changes to the island's environment and culture, a source of conflict between local residents and migrants from other parts of Thailand and other countries. Reflecting Koh Samui's growth as a tourist destination, the Cunard ship MS Queen Victoria (a 2000-plus passenger ship) will dock at Koh Samui during its 2008 world cruise.
Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35km northeast of Surat Thani town (9°N, 100°E). It is surrounded by about sixty other islands, most of which comprise the Ang Thong National Marine Park, but also include other tourist destinations Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan.
The island is roughly circular in shape, and is about 15km across. The central part of the island is an (almost) uninhabitable mountain jungle (peak Khao Pom, 635m) and the various lowland areas are connected together by a single road, that covers the circumference of the island.
There is one town, Na Thon, on the west coast of the island, with a major port for fishing and inter-island transportation. Each of Koh Samui's many beaches is also nominally considered a town, due to the number of hotels, restaurants and bars that have sprung up in recent years.
Koh Samui Information by Tourism Authority of Thailand