Ko Samui, often written Koh Samui or simply Samui (ko or Kho = island in Thai language), is a paradise island in the Gulf of Thailand belonging to the province of Surat Thani, in the southern part of the Kra Isthmus. Located in the heart of an archipelago of 85 islets (only 6 are inhabited) that make up Angthong National Park (the “islands of the golden bow”l), Koh Samui is only 25 km from the main land.
The story of Samui…
Nicknamed the “Pearl of the China Sea”, Samui developed fairly late because it was probably uninhabited until the 6th century and then colonized by fishermen from Malaysia and southern China. It first appears on Chinese maps of 1687 under the name of Pulo Cornam (the current name of Koh Samui remains mysterious: Koh is a Thai word meaning “island” and Samui might come from the name of one of the local trees. , the mui, or from the Chinese word saboei, which means “safe harbor”).
Until the end of the 20th century, Koh Samui was a self-sustaining and isolated fishing community that made few contact with the rest of Thailand. It only had dirt roads, and crossing the island required more than a day’s trek through the tropical mountain jungle, which is still home to extraordinary flora and fauna. The end of the 80’s will mark the arrival of the first tourists …
The geography of Samui…
Rather circular in shape, Samui is the second largest island in Thailand (25 x 21 km). It is made up of hills (highest point at 635 m) and small plains today linked by a 51 km road which follows the coast (commonly called “main road” or “ring road”) and a road that crosses the jungle. from north to south (commonly known as the “short cut road”).
Koh Samui district is subdivided into seven sub-districts: Angthong, Lipa Noi, Taling Ngam, Namuang, Maret, Bophut and Maenam (English transliteration). The administrative capital is Nathon, a fishing and transport port between the different islands, located on the northwest coast of Samui. It is also the seat of local authorities and the economic heart of the island.
The other major cities are located on the east coast: Bophut, Maenam, Chaweng, and Lamai. This is where you will find all facilities and amenities such as supermarkets, shopping malls, various shops and hospitals (see our article on Samui’s main facilities).
The west coast, less inhabited, has retained all its natural beauty and it is in Nathon, Taling Ngam, Lipa Noi or Tong Krut that you can admire the most beautiful sunsets of Samui.
The resources of Samui…
Among the natural resources of the island are beautiful stretches of beaches, magnificent coves and several small waterfalls that attract and delight tourists.
Samui has kept all its authenticity and the traditional activities of many indigenous people (called “Chao Samui”) remain fishing, harvesting tropical fruits, exploiting rubber trees and million coconut trees that cover Samui. …
The tourist boom (and consequently the economic boom) took place in the 90’s with the construction of the airport. At the same time, many Thai people took the opportunity to sell plots of land they had owned for decades (see our article on title deeds): since then, Samui has become particularly attractive for foreign investors and today many jobs are now linked to tourism.
The hotel industry, catering, sale of excursions, rental and property management etc. are today the biggest economic resources of the island. In recent years, access to a stable broadband internet connection has also encouraged the establishment of IT companies and self-employed tele-workers.
The infrastructures of Samui…
Samui is accessible by boat or by plane.
Koh Samui Airport (USM) is a private airport built by Bangkok Airways Company, which remains the main operator of the routes. The airport has 2 terminals: one for domestic flights (Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai…) and one for international flights (Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Singapore…). It is located in Plai Laem, near the Big Buddha.
Several shipping companies (Seatran, Raja, Lomprayah…) offer crossings, with or without a car, on ferries or speedboats between Koh Samui and the mainland or between Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
To travel on the island, several modes of transport are available to you. If you want to explore the different beaches, towns and villages of the island, the car or the scooter are the best options (there are many rental agencies all over the island). This is followed by the taxi (car or motorbike), Navigo (the local uber – application to download to your mobile phone) and the songteow (bus-van that walks the main road of the island every day). Until now, nothing was provided for pedestrians, but the main road has recently been lined with wide sidewalks.
Do not hesitate to consult our other articles to continue discovering Koh Samui!