The Thai resort island Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand after the famous James Bond island of Phuket. The island is roughly circular in shape and is located just off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus which is near the mainland town of Surat Thani and it is also one of the most popular tourist attraction in the Kingdom of Thailand.
Koh Samui has a land mass of almost 230 sq km ( about 90 sq mile) with a population of about 50,000 people (2007). The main island is surrounded by about 60 other smaller islands. The central part of Koh Samui is almost uninhabited and is dominated by a mountain jungle with Mount Khao Pom as its highest peak at 635m (about 2100ft). The island’s lowland areas are inter-connected together with just one single road that weaves the circumference of the island.
Historians estimated that the island started to see its first inhabitants in about 1500 years ago. The early settlers were probably fishermen from Malaysia and Southern China. The island even appears on the Chinese Ming Dynasty maps way back in 1687. No one knows for sure how Koh Samui got its name. Some speculated that it was derived from a native Mui tree while others think that it is a hybrid of the Chinese word “saboey”, which means “safe haven”.
Situated on the southwestern coast of the island is Nathon, the ancient capital of Koh Samui. This area is a still major fishing port and also an inter-island transportation hub today. Koh Samui was an isolated self-sufficient community until as late as the 20th century as it had little contact with mainland Thailand back then. The island did not even have a road until one was built in the early 1970s.
Today, the island of Koh Samui is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Thailand and it even have its own international airport, called Samui Airport. Bangkok Airways have flights to and from Samui every day. Samui Airport also receives flights from Bangkok and other major cities in South East Asia.
Samui island’s economy used to be based on subsistence agriculture and fishing, however, from the 1980s, the tourism industry grew by leaps and bounds and is now Koh Samui’s main source of income.
Being an island, Koh Samui’s main tourist attractions are naturally its white beautiful beaches and beach resorts. Tourists can find stretches of beaches and accommodations along the beaches of Chaweng, Lamai, Maenam, Bophut, Bangrak, Choeng MoN, Ao Tong Takian and Nathon with Chaweng and Lamai beaches being the most popular but crowded. For tourists who prefer a quiet beach for relaxation, then check out Maenam beach.
Another popular attraction in Koh Samui is a 12 metre (35 ft) tall statue of the Buddha, affectionately called “Big Buddha”. This statue is located at the top of a ceremonial dragon-steps at the temple of Wat Phra Yai. Koh Samui and is also home to quite a few other impressive temples such as the Wat Khunaram. Wat Khunaram is where the mummified body of Loung Pordaeng, a monk who died in a meditating lotus position is on display.
A sightseeing trip to see Papa and Mama rock at the south of Lamai beach can be very hilarious due to the rocks’ hilarious resemblances to the male and female sexual genitals.
To the more adventurous tourists, the jungle mountain in the interior of the island is a good camping ground for jungle trekking. This area is also home to a number of beautiful gardens, waterfalls at Na Muang and rubber plantations.
Animal lovers can also visit Koh Samui’s numerous animal attractions such as the crocodile farm, the monkey theatre, take elephant rides, a snake farm, a marine aquarium and a butterfly garden.
Most tourists to Koh Samui will make a day trip to the awe inspiring Ang Thong National Marine Park. The best time to visit Koh Samui is in summer (Feb-Apr). With such interesting landscape and attractions, no wonder this island is drawing tourist from around the world all year long.