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Koh Samui

Koh Samui

Ko Samui (or Koh Samui, Thai: เกาะสมุย) is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, Thailand. Geographically in the Chumphon Archipelago, it is part of Surat Thani Province, though as of 2012, Ko Samui was granted Municipality status and thus is now locally self-governing. Ko Samui is Thailand's second-largest island after Phuket, with an area of 228.7 km2, a population of over 63,000 and a hotel occupancy rate of 73 percent as the number of visitors increases. Abundant tourist resources, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and coconut trees are present on the island.
Koh Samui Overview
Samui conjures up scenes of island paradise, and for good reason. This is the very island where much of the movie The Beach was filmed. And while the seclusion of past decades has been replaced by broad resort development, there are still a few secluded beaches, hidden lagoons and idyllic thatched bungalows to be found, especially on the west coast.

In a strange twist of tragic events, the tsunami of 2005 devastated Phuket, Thailand's leading island destination. In the aftermath, vacationers tentatively tweaked their travel plans to favor the sheltered gulf waters of Koh Samui. With its well established infrastructure, Samui rose to the challenge and has grown more in the past five years than in two previous decades.
History of Koh Samui
Prior 1940, there were no roads no vehicles on Koh Samui. The inhabitants of Koh Samui lived a simple life and almost without contact with the outside world. People moved around Koh Samui on foot or by boat by following the coast. To go from Maenam to Lamai for example, it took several hours of walking through Koh Samui’s mountainous jungle. Going there and back in the same day was impossible.
 
Tourism was non-existent in Koh Samui partly because there were no convenient means to get to the island. The only way of reaching Koh Samui from mainland Thailand was by a daily night boat, which took more than 6 hours to get to Nathon. Once you arrived in Koh Samui, it then took several hours to get to where you wanted to be on the island.

Due to the mountainous topography of Koh Samui and the difficulty of transferring large machinery to help with the construction, the first plans to build a road in Koh Samui were abandoned. Finally in 1967, Khun Dilok Suthiklom, the head man of Koh Samui, decided that something must done and approached the Thai government for help.
 
There were 2 obstacles that had to be resolved: the high hill between Nathon and Maenam and the rocky and mountainous region between Lamai and Chaweng. At the beginning, construction was achieved with several hundred manual laborers to clear a way around Koh Samui. Trees and rocks were moved that finally resulted in a narrow track circumnavigating Koh Samui. In the first years before the concrete laying, you would frequently see the passengers of a vehicle outside pushing it up the hillside.
 
The area between Lamai and Chaweng had to be cut in to the mountain along a 3km length, only achievable with the use of dynamite and heavy construction machinery. Machines were brought to Koh Samui from mainland Thailand but unfortunately had to be brought to an area of the coast that was deep enough for the transport container to land without getting stuck. During this period, delays plagued the project due to the monsoon season making progress practically impossible.
 
Finally in 1973, the Thai government gave the order to complete the project by pouring 52km of concrete to finish what is now known as the ring road of Koh Samui. For a long time, this road was only 2 meters in width until it was widen to cope with the increase in traffic.
 
Accompanying the rise of Koh Samui was a influx of immigrants from mainland Thailand and further afield, who quickly discovered the richness of the soil on Koh Samui was perfect for agriculture, starting a very important chapter in the history of Koh Samui. Coconut tree plantations were started as well as fruit plantations and orchids growing a variety of fruits such as banana, durian, lychee, pineapple, mango, guava, and rambutan.
 
It is thought that the first tourists to Koh Samui were European backpackers, who discovered this beautiful and tropical Thai island in the 1970’s. Obviously at this time the infrastructure was not in place for mass tourism. Back in those days most visitors slept in basic beach huts along one of Koh Samui’s beautiful undisturbed sandy beaches.
 
Tourism has advanced a great deal in Koh Samui since then and has overtaken farming as the main source of income for the island. The quality of the hotels in Koh Samui has improved dramatically along with the service, amenities, infrastructure and attractions. Koh Samui is now littered with high end 4-5* spa resorts and private villas to indulge your every desire.
Koh Samui Climate and Best time to see
The best time to visit Koh Samui is from December to February, which is the dry season. Each season in Koh Samui has something special to offer. High season, also known as dry season, is busy, but the weather is nice, and you won't see rain. If you want to jump into the sea, explore the surrounding islands, or get on a boat for a tour, this is definitely the best time of the year to visit.
 
If you have a budget in mind and want to avoid the crowds, then you might want to arrive during the hot or the rainy season, which chase many visitors away but offer better prices and better deals.
Koh Samui Transportation
Rental Car
Hiring a car is an ingenious way of getting around Koh Samui as it is cost-effective and time-saving. Negotiating prices with taxi or tuk-tuk drivers can be challenging and frustrating, therefore; settling on a rental car solves the dilemma perfectly.
Hiring an insured car could cost you as little as 1200 to 1500 THB a day while an uninsured one goes for a mere 900 THB a day. However, it is recommended to hire insured cars as settling claims in cases of theft or accidents is easier as compared to uninsured cars.
Unfortunately, driving on Koh Samui can be quite challenging for tourists due to the different driving regulation as well as reckless drivers. Caution should be highly practiced, and foreign drivers should possess a Thai Driving License or a Driving Permit from the relevant authorities.
 
Limousine
These are rental cars that come with a chauffeur or a personal driver. There are varieties of companies that offer limousine services on arrival to the airport, mainly charging 2000 to 2500 THB a day. While they may seem a little more expensive, the benefits that come with these services cannot be overlooked.
English-speaking drivers are provided and cruising around Koh Samui becomes even more convenient when you don’t have to deal with unfamiliar roads or reckless drivers. Limousines can range from small cars, mini-vans to stretch limos depending on the size of family you’re traveling with, and level of luxury desired.
 
Taxi
Metered-taxi is one of the most convenient ways of getting around the island as they charge a negotiable price with a personal driver. The prices are usually around 400 to 600 THB a day from Chaweng to Lamai beach (which is about 25-30km).
However, private taxis are known to exploit tourists, especially those that lurk around the airport or touristy areas. It is of paramount importance to ensure that before hopping into that taxi, a price has been agreed to. Or better yet, ensure the taxi you settle for uses a meter to charge the fare. Airport taxis are also preferred as they charge a consistent rate and can be booked online on their respective websites.
 
Motorbike
This mode of transport is the most common in almost every part of Koh Samui and the most affordable in all aspects. Hiring a 100-125cc Scooter will only cost you 150 THB a day with larger and heavier motorcycles being charged an exorbitant rate of 2500 THB a day! While settling for this choice, it is important to ensure that the motorbike is insured, and the dealer is reputable as cases of theft and exploitation of tourists are very common.
Tourists are categorically advised to avoid dealers that ask passports as collateral as this has been used severally as a base for exploitation. It is common sense that one should acquire a good helmet and Driver’s permit to reduce brushes with the law.
 
Songtaew
Commonly known as Songtaew, these are truck-based mini-buses that have a pair of bench seats in the back with the most popular being the pick-up truck. The larger types, usually lorries, have an additional bench seat in between the bench seats that are on either side of the back of the van.They are convenient for lone tourists as they are economical for shorter distances and are a good way of interacting with the locals.
 
Tourists should particularly be careful when approaching Songtaews with no passengers as drivers may take advantage of the situation to charge exorbitant fares.
Things to do and see in Koh Samui
Today, most of the attractions, from odd-shaped outcroppings of rock to sophisticated restaurants, are on the east coast in communities like Chaweng, Lamai and Bophut. Myriad daytime attractions include animal shows, landscaped gardens and theme parks. By night, Samui's east coast becomes one of Thailand's hottest party destinations.
 
Chaweng
On the southeastern coast of the island, Chaweng is the most developed of all Koh Samui's resorts. Main Street follows the beach and is lined with restaurants, hotels and a lively night district. This is also where shoppers will find the island's best selection of goods.
 
Lamai
Second to Chaweng, Lamai is another of the island's busiest districts. It's a little further south down the beach (but still in the Maret sub-district). It's best known for its twin-rock attraction, but there are also plenty of facilities for tourists to enjoy. It appeals to some visitors because it's a bit quieter than Chaweng without being far removed from the scene.
 
Nathon
Koh Samui's port community is on the northwest coast and receives ferries from the mainland on a regular basis. The port is backed by a shopping and dining district, and the sunsets make it worth lingering on the day you arrive.
 
Mae Nam
Mae Nam on the north coast boasts a long, white-sand beach with calm waters. A minor hotel district is onsite offering bungalows and guesthouses that enjoy a clear view of the sunset. Facilities here are minimal.
 
Bophut
This beach community on the northern coast of the island retains a bit of the island's original character when it comes to Chinese-Thai architecture. Fisherman's Village is the main commercial area, with plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from. Bophut is gaining a reputation as a luxury hotel destination. 
 
Tongson Bay
This scenic destination resides on the northeastern end of the island within easy reach of the ferry pier. Quiet and laid-back, this bay is home to a few luxury hotels and resorts that offer an all-inclusive escape from the crowds of Chaweng and Lamai.
Koh Samui Travel Tips
Since the charming beaches of Koh Samui will entice you to spend most of the time sprawled on the satin sand gazing at the breathtakingly beautiful seascapes or enjoying a refreshing dip in the clear waters, these are a must:
  • Good, comfortable swim wear along with tons of sunscreen to ensure you stay protected from the strong sun at the tropical island. Make sure the sunscreen is at least an SPF50.
  • Comfortable sandals are great for walking around in the humid weather as well as using on the beach or while visiting temples.
  • A wide-brim hat and sunglasses will go a long way in warding off the harsh sun as you amble along the island.
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