Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island lies 60 km from the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand. 21 km long and 25 km wide, Samui was first discovered by backpackers in the 1970’s and much of the island is still covered by lush tropical rainforest and coconut plantations. It’s part of the Ang Thong (Golden Bowl) Marine National Park which encompasses 80 mostly uninhabited islands. Recent developments, including luxury resorts, health spas, four international hospitals, an international airport, banks, restaurants and golf courses, have made Koh Samui is the destination of choice for more than 1 million tourists each year.
Koh Samui has a population of about fifty-five thousand (source: Samui Mayor’s Office) and is based primarily on a successful tourist industry, as well as exports of coconut and rubber. It even has its own international airport, Samui Airport, with flights daily to Bangkok and other major airports in Southeast Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. 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. Despite the development, Samui still maintains the feel of a tropical beach island with an incredible variety of tranquil beaches, and bays around the island.
HISTORY OF KOH SAMUI
Up until 1940 the only inhabitants of Koh Samui were a handful of local people who lived almost completely isolated from the rest of Thailand. These people moved around by foot or by boat along the coastline. As Samui had no roads or vehicles, any journey required a trek through the mountainous jungle. There was no tourism because the only way to reach the island was a six hour night boat from Surat Thani on the Thai mainland to Nathon.
In 1967 that the then leader of the island, Khun Dilok Sutiklom, decided that development of Samui was needed for the future of the island, and asked the Thai government for assistance to build a road. Initial construction attempts were abandoned because of the numerous natural obstacles of hill and rock and because of the difficulty in getting machinery to the island. In the end hundreds of manual laborers were used to dig and blast a narrow track around the island. It wasn’t until 1973 that this 50 km dirt track around the island was finally concreted so that it became possible to drive on without the passengers having to get out and push. This road is still the main road around the island although it has recently been widened to cope with the increase in vehicles coming to the island.
The People of Koh Samui and Celebrated Festivals
90% of Koh Samui’s Thai residents have migrated to the island from other Thai provinces and they have brought their own cultures and ceremonies with them. Every month there is some sort of colorful and noisy festivals or public holiday. The most popular celebrations are:
Songkran. During April 13-15, everyone celebrates the traditional Thai New Year. In every home, Buddha images are washed with rose scented water. People also pay respects to their elders by pouring a little water over their hands. Outside, people go a little wilder and buckets of water are thrown over everything that moves.
Visakha Bucha Day. The full moon of the sixth lunar month (mid-May) is the most important date on the Buddhist religious calendar. It celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Every year on this day, teachers from the local school take part in a candle-lit procession around the main chapel of a local temple. They carry with them flowers, three incense sticks and a lighted candle. They walk around the chapel three times in a clock-wise direction. Afterwards they listen to a sermon from a monk.
Loy Krathong. The most picturesque of the Thai festivals is held on the full-moon of the 12th lunar month, usually the first week in November. Little candle-lit ‘krathongs’ are launched onto the water as an offering to Mother Water. No one apologizes for polluting the water but they do promise to do better in the future.
Koh Samui’s climate
…is tropical. It is high in both temperature and humidity. The average temperature is about 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though it is more or less summer all year round, you could say that Thailand and Koh Samui has three seasons:
Dry Season. December – February is called the the dry season on Koh Samui. Normally not much rain, but it can be some refreshing winds or breeze on the island at this time. Great for sailing and other water sport activities. Also, the sun is shining a lot at this time of year and the water conditions are usually great for swimming.
Hot season. March – August is the hot season in Koh Samui. The weather is very dry and rather hot in this time of year. In May and June however, you can experience a little increase in the rain. This is a great period to visit Samui, if you can stand 30-35 degrees Celsius daytime, as the Thai New Year’s Celebration, Songkran, is celebrated between the 12th and 14th of April. This is the largest water splashing festival in the whole of South East Asia.
Rain season. September – November is also known as the monsoon season. It is still hot in the daytime and, normally, there are many sunny days. However, you can experience that the evenings are getting cooler. Sometimes the refreshing monsoon showers only last for a moment and then it clears up again. So, every year the monsoon is different. From a whole week of rain nonstop to daily afternoon showers. No year is the same.