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The beach on Ko Samui.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Thailand > Southern > Ko Samui

Ko Samui Travel Guide

  
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Ko Samui (or Koh Samui), often called just Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, some 700km south of Bangkok and about 80km from the eastern coastline of Southern Thailand.

An island of great natural beauty and variety, Samui is home to about 40,000 full-time inhabitants, 90% of whom are Buddhist. The palm fringed shoreline and coconut and fruit cultivation of the coastal lowlands rise to a central granite massive, the slopes of which are cloaked in virgin rainforest.

At 247km² Samui is the third largest island in Thailand and the largest island in an archipelago of over 80 (mostly uninhabited) islands which form the Ang Thong National Marine Park, a kayaking and snorkeling paradise. At 25km long and 21km wide, Samui is big enough for serious exploration by the adventurous and fit, but can be circumnavigated in just a couple of hours by motorbike or car.

Chaweng Beach on Ko Samui.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Which beach to choose on Ko Samui

Ko Samui may not be the country’s most beautiful island but it is still an oasis of natural beauty with its white sandy beaches, dazzling coral, luscious lagoons, picturesque waterfalls, swaying coconut trees and crystal clear water. The water at Bophut beach, though, is often murky, especially around December. 

Unfortunately, development on Ko Samui is starting to take its toll and the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are overcrowded in the high season.

If you're into nightlife, Chaweng and Lamai are definitely the places to go.

If you're in for a quieter beach experience, try Mae Nam or the South Coast. A good compromise is Bophut

Choeng Mon is a good choice if you're looking for a quiet hideaway retreat.

Nathon is in the west part of the island, but it is a gateway town rather than a destination. Don't stay there.

Bophut Beach retains some of Ko Samui's original Thai-Chinese atmosphere.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

When to visit Ko Samui

Samui's weather patterns are a little different from the rest of Thailand. In April through September, when most of the country has its monsoon, Samui stays fairly dry, but from October to December, it's wet in Samui and drier elsewhere. The driest season of all, though, is January through March.

History and Development of Ko Samui

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 it is a corruption of the Chinese word Saboey, meaning "safe haven".

Lamai beach on Ko Samui.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

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

In the early 1970s the first backpackers traveling on the back of a coconut boat arrived on Ko Samui. For years after that the island just had a few bungalows and a trickle of travelers. Things started to change in the early 1990s when tourists started arriving in full boats and since then the place grew substantially. Samui is now the second most popular place as an island destination in Thailand (first is Phuket).






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