HISTORY

From archeological evidence, at Baan Don bay found  a ‘Stone Axe’ where presumably was human habitat since 1,200-2,000 years ago. ‘Kwaan Fah’ is a stone axe, believed to be used for hunting. Another archeological evidence discovered at Tailing Ngam, south-west of Koh Samui, are two Bronze Drums. Manufactured in Northern Vietnam, they were suspected to  had been belonged to travelers  who settled in Samui for a while. On the side of one of the drums was  a painting of a boat that used to carry souls to life after death. a long boat,  curved  ends  with birds and half human half bird decorated with feathers. This indicates that people lived here for at least 2,000 years ago and they have experienced marine skill. The first few group of people to settle in Koh Samui believed to be in search of new plantation, hiding from storms, or finding freshwater sources. Indians  were assumed  to had moved to Baan Don Bay for at least 2.000 years ago. Thais  came after the Indians, for those who had settled before them were  Malay descents  who had the similar appearance to southern Thai people these days. By marriages, all these bloods mixed  between Malay, Indian and Thai, later they were joined by the Chinese.

The Name ‘Koh Samui’

‘Koh’ in Thai means island, for Samui and other surroundings islands’ names, they cannot really be identified what language they are from, usually people name places according to persons’ names, plants or geological conditions. These are some assumptions that Samui could have been named after:

  1. Malay: from other places’ names around Samui which are definitely not Thai such as Koh Phangan which means the island with sand dunes , Lipa Noi or Lipa Yai which mean narrow canal and big canal.
  2. Southern Indian: from the word ‘Samoi’ meaning waves and wind.
  3. Chinese: Hainanese word ‘Shaw Bui’ which means first island or first gate. About a hundred year ago, merchants from Hainan island, the most southern of China, traveled to Thailand and before their return stopped at Samui to pick up some of the famous products, coconuts and shrimp paste. So the word ‘Samui’ could have derived from the Chinese word ‘Shaw Biu’.
  4. A plant:  ‘Mui’ is a name for a local tree which can be commonly found on the island.

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.

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”.

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 tourists. 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). 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.