Koh Samui Island History, Thailand
Koh Samui is Thailand’s second most popular tropical island holiday destination
and has been a popular Thailand attraction since the first backpackers appeared on its shores. The island offers fantastic beaches, great choices of accommodation for all budgets, incredible views and truly wonderful people. But when did the island become popular, how has the island changed and what was life like here before the arrival of mass tourism?
It is thought that Koh Samui was first inhabited between twelve and fifteen centuries ago when Malay fishermen started using the island as a base from where they would stop over on long fishing trips in the rich waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The meaning and derivation of the word ‘Samui‘ is mysterious but some people believe the word comes from the Malay word ‘Saboey’ which means safe haven. The island was self-sufficient, un-connected to the mainland and unknown to the outside world until the 1840s when the first boat services to the island were launched. At this time the boat journey took 6 hours and arriving visitors faced an exhausting hike through mountainous jungle as there was no transport on the island.
In the late 1960s the Thai Government was petitioned by Samui locals to build a ring-road around the island and so began the building of a dirt track coastal road. This road improved transportation though trucks were still unable to pass many steep sections of the track. In 1973, the Government ordered the construction of a concrete road and Samui began to climb in popularity with more and more visitors arriving year on year. At this time Samui was a very different place with thick jungle and coconut groves right up to the beach. So thick was this jungle that few of the island’s beaches could be seen from the interior of the island or even from the coastal ring-road.
In the early 1980s, Thailand’s Tourism Authority began exploring the island as the Government began to realise to true potential of Koh Samui as a premiere tourist destination and thus began to invest heavily in tourism. This heavy investment has continued until modern times and now Koh Samui is one of the premiere tropical holiday destinations in all of South-East Asia.
Nowadays, Koh Samui has a growing transient population of around 30,000 people as more and more tourists visit, more foreigners settle down and more Thai workers migrate to the island to cash in on the tourist dollar.
By Bob Robert Johnston Submitted On October 03, 2011
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