Koh Samui - Thailand's Islands
Koh Samui is Thailand's third largest island and is located on the east coast in the middle of the southern gulf area and is part of the archipelago containing Koh Tao and Koh Pha-Ngan. The first settlers here were from Hainan, an island which is now part of China. These settlers became coconut farmers and Koh Samui's many palm trees still give a large crop of coconuts. However the inhabitants of the island now make far more money from tourism than they could ever hope to make from coconut farming. The population of the island refer to themselves as chao samui rather than Thais and have a different culture and cuisine from the other islands.
Koh Samui started becoming popular with Western traveller from the 1980s onwards and is now quite crowded in high season (December to February and July to August). Koh Samui may be affected by the rain from July to October but the weather will still be mainly fine. There can be heavy winds from October to January. It can be hard to get accommodation at these times. Koh Samui still has a traveller air about it and it is more laid-back than other developed tourist resorts in Thailand. Koh Samui has many beaches, some are more developed than others and it is still possible to find quieter parts of the island.
With the influx of visitors, environmental issues are becoming a concern. Buildings are restricted in height to being no taller than the palm trees and policies are being formulated to deal with the increased amount of noise and rubbish on the island.
If you are bored of the beaches, there are plenty of other things to do. There are several temples worth visiting on the islands. Meditation courses are occasionally held for Westerners (farang) at Wat Pang Bua and there is a mummified monk on display at Wat Khunaram. Wat Phra Yai at the northern end has a large Buddha and Wat Samret has a marble sitting Buddha.
There are two waterfalls: Nam Tok Hin Lat accessible from Na Thon and Nam Tok Na Muang in the middle of the island. The latter has a pool large enough for swimming at the lower part of the falls.
Koh Samui has an airport. There are ferries from Surat Thani or the nearby islands of Kao Tao and Koh Pha-Ngan. Package deals are available to travel to Samui from Bangkok by train, bus and boat. These can be booked through travel agents. Travel around the island is by songthaews which are pickups with two benches which follow set routes, picking up and dropping off passengers on the way, or there are a few air-con taxis. It is possible to hire motorcycles but the roads aren't great and accidents are frequent.
Check out our hotel suggestion for Ko Samui.