Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand (Aou Thai) off the east coast of the Thai mainland, in the province of Surat Thani. It is Thailand's third largest island, after Phuket and Koh Chang, with an area of 228.7 km² and a population of 47,874 (2006).
Before tourism hit Koh Samui it's main economy was based around agriculture and fishing, with coconuts being the main export. From the 1980's onwards however, tourism has become an economic factor and is now the dominant industry with many hotels to choose from. The construction of a stable, high-speed internet connection in recent years has also made the island a practicable location for IT-based enterprises and you can find Thailand Web Design and Thailand Website Hosting companies based here, which are also beginning to provide a certain amount of economic diversity. The island's climate and accessibility make it particularly attractive for international investors with direct flights from nieghbouring countries as well as hourly flights from Bangkok.
Koh Samui History
Inhabited about 15 centuries ago, Koh Samui's first settlers were probably fishermen from the Malay Peninsula and Southern China. The island appears on Ming Dynasty maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam. The origins of the name Samui is unknown in itself. Perhaps it is an extension of the name of one of the native trees, mui, or it could be a corruption of the Chinese word Saboey, meaning "safe haven" which it obviously became for the many fisherman and traders.
Samui was an isolated self-sufficient community, until the late 20th century, having very little connection with the mainland of Thailand. Koh Samui was even without roads until the early 1970s, and the journey from one side of the island to the other involved a whole-day trek through the mountainous central jungles.
Today, Samui has a population of about forty-eight thousand, and thrives on a successful tourist industry, as well as exports of coconut and rubber. It even has its own international airport, Samui Airport (USM), with flights daily to Bangkok (BKK) and other major airports in South East Asia. While the island presents an unspoiled image to the public perception, economic growth and tourism 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) will dock at Samui during its 2008 world cruise.
Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand (Aow Thai), about 35km northeast of Surat Thani town. It is surrounded by about forty other islands, most of which comprise the Ang Thong National Marine Park, an archipelago west of Koh Samui, splayed over an area of 250 square kilometres, of which 50 square kilometres is land mass, but also include other tourist destinations Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan.
The island of Koh Samui is roughly circular in shape, and is about 15km from east coast to west coast. The central part of the island is largely uninhabitable mountain jungle and the various lowland areas are connected together by a single road, that covers the circumference of the island.
The administrative capital is Nathon, on the west coast of the island, and remains the major port for fishing and inter-island transportation. Nathon is the seat of the regional government, and the true commercial hub of Samuians. It has a charming pace, and is almost small enough to walk everywhere. The old Chinese shop houses along the middle street wisper of an exotic and mysterious history.
Each of Koh Samui beaches is now also nominally considered a town, due to the number of hotels, restaurants and bars that have sprung up over the years.
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