History of Koh Samui

The history of Koh Samui is immersed in culture and religion. Historians have documented 1,500 years ago Samui first became inhabited by fishermen and traders from the Malay Peninsula and the southern China coast. Ancient Chinese maps dated back to 1687 displays Koh Samui’s co-ordinates as Pulo Cornam. There are two suggestions for Samui’s name. The first name for Samui derived from Mui a native island tree. The second name for Samui evolved from Saboey the Chinese word meaning safe haven. Chinese traders who moored on the shores discovered Samui was a safe haven to settle and build their lives.

Koh Samui’s history was unknown until the 1800s. Surat Thani mainland Thailand to Koh Samui saw the first boat transport service. Sailing the 35km took a full day. Today one-hour flights from Bangkok to Samui Airport fly directly to Koh Samui Island. Statues and artefacts throughout Samui have historic meaning from the ancient past. Buddhist altars are at hotels, beaches and shops virtually everywhere you go. Locals leave gifts and pray as they have for many years. Often you see locals standing at random altars on the roadside praying to Buddha.

History Koh Samui
Lamai Temple Koh Samui

Early Samui

Accessing anywhere in Koh Samui originally was by foot or boat. Prior to the construction of the ring road, it was a 15-kilometre trek from one side of the island to the other. Hiking across the mountainous jungle and coconut plantations was an arduous task. Watching Lamai’s sunrise and Lipa Noi’s sunset was not possible in one day unlike it is now. News of the undiscovered tropical island spread in the early 1970s amongst the hippie communities. With wooden beach shacks, no electric and a swinging hammock in the jungle the backpackers slowly arrived. Tourists stream to the shores of Samui for its amazing beaches and the tropical climate. The first tourists arrived by boat from the mainland until Bangkok Airways opened Samui Airport in 1989 dawning a new era for Koh Samui. The history of Koh Samui has a long interesting past.

Developing Koh Samui

Koh Samui Island originally an isolated community is now bustling tourism island, location in the Gulf of Thailand. Inhabitants of the island had minimal contact with mainland Thailand. Island leader Khun Dilok Suthiklom and the locals people wanted to improve their island. Consulting with the Thai government in 1967 to aid with the development of Samui’s infrastructure. The rocky mountains of between Lamai and Chaweng and the hills of Nathon and Mae Nam hills obstructed the planned route. Constructing the new road involved blasting vegetation and rocks with dynamite sticks forever changing the landscape of Koh Samui. Elders watched as the island changed from lush mountain vegetation to concrete roads and hotels.

Construction vehicles and workers came from mainland Thailand to help with the new infrastructure. Rainy season downpours would halt the construction work for days. After the rains tracks had to be repaired for the trucks to gain access before work could begin again. Finally pouring the last of the concrete in 1973 completed the 52km ring road know as the 4169.

History Koh Samui
Construction of the Roads

Koh Samui is a paradise island with a rich history and a developing tourist trade. Thai culture revolves around the family and their beliefs in Buddhism. Welcoming the increasing numbers of families visiting the island waterparks and theme activities are being constructed with families in mind. On your travels around the island take some time to stop and say hello to the locals they love to meet the tourists. They welcome a chat and you could discover something new about Samui or make a new friend. Locals may invite you to share a drink or some freshly picked fruits. South of the island is still in parts like it was years ago untouched by tourism.