Koh Samui

Country: Thailand

Province: Surat Thani

Area Total: 247 km²

Coordinates: 9° 30' 7" n. Br. - 99° 59' 35" ö. L.

Population: 62.500 (2012)

Time Zone: UTC+7 (MEZ+6, MESZ+5), keine Sommerzeit

Country Code +66

IATA-Code USM

Ko Samui (or Koh Samui, Thai: เกาะสมุย, or often simply Samui as it is referred to by locals, is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand. It is located close to the mainland town of Surat Thani in Surat Thani Province. It is Thailand's third largest island after Phuket and Ko Chang, with an area of 228.7 km2 and a population of over 62,000 attracting 1.5 million tourists per year. Ko Samui has abundant natural resources, white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees.

Geographie

Ko Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35 km northeast of Surat Thani town (9°N, 100°E). It is part of Mu Ko Samui Archipelago. The island measures some 25 km at its widest point. It is surrounded by about sixty other islands, which compose the Ang Thong Marine National Park (Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park) and include other tourist destinations (Ko Phangan, Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan).

The central part of the island is an almost uninhabitable jungle mountain, Khao Pom, peaking at 635 m. The various lowland areas are connected together by a single 51 km road, running mostly along the coast to encircle the bulk of the island.

The old capital is Nathon, on the northwest coast of the island. It remains the major port for fishing and inter-island transportation. Nathon is the seat of the regional government, and the commercial hub for Samui locals. It is almost small enough to walk everywhere.

Each of Samui's primary beaches is now also nominally considered as a small town, due to the number of hotels, restaurants and nightlife that have sprung up in recent years. The primary tourist beaches, and beach communities, are Lamai Beach, on the southeast of the island, Chaweng Beach, which is on the eastern side of the island, and Bophut (Fisherman's Village) on the northeast side of the island. These beaches form the built-up side, with hundreds of shops and entertainment venues. More recently, the western side of the island has seen 5-star hotels and resorts spring up, such as Nikki Beach, Conrad, and Four Seasons resorts.

History

The island was probably first inhabited about 15 centuries ago, settled by fishermen from the Malay Peninsula and Southern China. It appears on Chinese maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam. The name Samui is mysterious in itself. Perhaps it is an extension of the name of one of the native trees, mui, or from the Malay word Saboey, meaning "safe haven. Ko is the Thai word for "island".

Until the late 20th century, Ko 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 15 km journey from one side of the island to the other could involve a whole-day trek through the mountainous central jungles.

Ko Samui is based primarily on a successful tourist industry, as well as exports of coconut and rubber.

Whilst 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 Samui's growth as a tourist destination, the Cunard ship MS Queen Victoria (a 2000-plus passenger ship) docked at Samui during its 2008 world cruise

Economy and Tourism

Historically the island's economy has been based around subsistence agriculture and fishing, with coconuts as the main cash crop. From the 1980s onwards, tourism has become an economic factor and is now the dominant industry. Ko Samui transport links have made it a destination for tourists seeking to explore the other islands in the area.

Ko Samui Airport is a private airport originally built by Bangkok Airways, which is still the main operator and was for a long time the only airline with services to Ko Samui from mainland Thailand. The airport is now additionally served by Thai Airways International to Bangkok, Firefly Airlines to Kuala Lumpur, and SilkAir to Singapore. The budget option of getting from Bangkok to Samui by plane is to fly ThaiSmiles AirAsia NokAir to Surat Thani Airport (URT), then take a bus to Don Sak, and finally take a ferry from Don Sak to Ko Samui by Sertran Ferry.

In 2012, the Thai Government announced they are considering a second airport for Ko Samui.

Several ferries connect the island with the mainland, including the two aforementioned car/passenger ferries and from Don Sak to piers in the west of the island, near or in Nathon. Public buses to all parts of the mainland operate from a small bus station located in the south of Nathon. Songthaews (tuk-tuk style buses) circle the ring road, and private taxis are available throughout the island, although they do not use their meters and are quite expensive.