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 continues to increase. Abundant tourist resources, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and coconut trees are present on the island.
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. Some people believe that the word “samui” derives from the Malay word “saboey”, or “safe haven”, although there appears to be no credible corroboration of this. 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 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.
Economic growth has brought not only prosperity, but also major changes to the island’s environment and culture