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Ko Pha Ngan (or Koh Phangan) is famous for its full moon party at Haad Rin Beach and as a backpackers destination. Ko Pha Ngan has two sister islands: the larger Ko Samui to the south and the smaller Ko Tao to the north.
The name of Ko Pha Ngan comes from the word 'Ngan', meaning 'sand bar' in the southern dialect, for there are many sand bars offshore around the island. Ko Pha Ngan has been a longtime favorite of past kings of Thailand. Specifically Rama V, or Chulalongkorn visited Ko Pha Ngan 14 times during his reign. The Bronze Drum of Dongson Culture (500–100BC) that was found on Ko Samui in 1977 is evidence that there were settlements of people on Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, and their islets from more than two thousand years ago.
Some historians and archaeologists believe that the first group who migrated to Ko Pha Ngan were the Muslim sea Gypsies (Pygmy, Semung, and Proto-Malay) who travelled by boat from the Malay Peninsula. However, nowadays there are few Muslims who live on the island.
Over the last century the Island's population has steadily expanded; first living off the sea and the land, farming coconuts; then tin mining also became part of the economy. In the 1970s the mining industry faltered and finally petered over the next decade as tourism took hold. Now the island is primarily a tourist destination; however fishing and coconut farming are still big parts of the local economy.
Due to its topography the population remains based around the coastline whilst the mountainous interior is generally inaccessible. More than half the island designated as National Park and Ko Phangan has more than 80Km2 of pristine rain forest with diverse flora and fauna. It is also considered a spiritual place with numerous Buddhist temples around the Island and a thriving spa, retreat and meditation industry.
The world renowned Full Moon Party is a monthly dance music festival set on Haad Rin Nok Beach scheduled every month at full moon. The event primarily features electronic music and attracts anywhere from 10,000 party-goers on a normal month and up to 25,000 in high season (December to March). Recently steps have been taken to make Ko Pha Ngan into a more family-friendly tourist destination, promoting the Island's wealth of natural attractions and also stepping up the police presence; road blocks with stop and search procedures are commonplace and undercover police also patrol parties.
Koh Tao (The Turtle Island) is an island covers an area of about 21 km². Administratively it forms a tambon within the district (Amphoe) Ko Pha Ngan of Surat Thani Province.
The economy of the island is almost exclusively centred around tourism, especially scuba diving.
Initially the island was uninhabited, with only the occasional fisherman from the neighbouring islands, looking for shelter in a storm or just resting before continuing on his journey.
It would appear from old maps and descriptions that this island was known by European cartographers and mariners as "Pulo Bardia". The old maps show a chain of three islands aligned north-south and lying off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The most northerly and smallest of these islands is marked P. Bardia - the name sustained until the early 1900s. The best map example is a map by John Thornton from "The English Pilot, the Third Book", dated 1701 but the specific map of the Gulf of Siam is dated around 1677. Also see maps of the East Indies by William Dampier c1697. By modern standards of accuracy, the islands are poorly placed on early maps. 17th century marine navigation and cartography used the 'backstaff' which, in this area, was accurate to one degree of longitude or around 60 nautical miles.
On June 18, 1899 King Chulalongkorn visited Ko Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror bay next to Sairee Beach. This place is still worshiped today.
In 1933 the island started to be used as a political prison. In 1947 Khuang Abhaiwongse, prime minister at that time, pleaded and received a royal pardon for all prisoners on the island. Everybody was taken to the shore of Surat Thani and Ko Tao was abandoned again.
In the same year Khun Uaem and his brother Khun Oh reached Ko Tao from the neighbouring Ko Phangan by trying out their traditional sail boat, for that time a quite long and dangerous journey. Even though the island was still under royal patronage, it did not stop these pioneers claiming themselves a good part of the land on today's Sairee beach. Having brought their families over, they began to cultivate and harvest the excellent soil, forming the first generation of the present-day community. They lived a simple and tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables, which were also traded with Ko Phangan. Despite the difficulties in reaching the island, the population grew steadily.
In the 1980s overseas travellers began to visit Ko Tao and quickly became a popular destination. As a consequence, bigger, faster and safer boats were used to allow easier access to Ko Tao. In the 1990s the island became known as a diving site.
The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking, rock climbing and bouldering. The most popular place for tourists is Sairee on the West coast, which has a white sandy beach of 1.7 km interrupted only by a few huge boulders and a scattering of medium budget resorts and restaurants. Chalok Baan Khao, to the south of the island is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative for those wishing to escape the crowds. A multitude of beautiful granite boulders, which nestle both in the forests and on the beaches of Ko Tao, attract a growing number of climbers.
Ko Tao is less developed than Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, but has become increasingly popular especially with the mid-20s backpacker crowd in search of relatively inexpensive scuba diving certification. For the last two years the demographics of the island has seen an age increase with many of the visitors that first visited the island over ten years ago are now returning with their families.
As of December 2005, Ko Tao had about 150 resorts offering accommodation and approximately 50 bars/clubs. Most of the resorts are still bungalow-style, not hotel/resort style. As of 2007 there is a trend to more upmarket resorts which do not concentrate singularly on diving. Free WiFi is provided in increasing numbers and even the first sailing charter company on Ko Tao has opened.
Ko Tao is increasingly becoming a mecca for game fishermen on a budget. Species targeted include marlin, sailfish, king mackerel, cobia, baracuda, trevally and snapper.
Diving conditions have improved dramatically in the past few years with the continuing education of locals by the dive community. The El Nino weather pattern of 1997 caused a warming of the waters which resulted in the loss of a great deal of the shallow corals near the island. Since then, the recovery has been swift and dramatic. Ko Tao now offers some of the best scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand. And with help by island conservation groups the island environmental outlook is strong.
Chumpon Pinnacle, a dive site to the west of the island has a reputation for divers in search of both whale sharks and bull sharks. However, because of the warmer water temperatures over the last year a great amount of bull sharks have migrated to cooler waters.
Ang Thong is a marine national park in the Gulf of Thailand, at the shore of the Surat Thani Province. It covers 42 islands in a total area of 102 km², of which only 18 km² are land.
The park was established on November 12, 1980. the northern tip of Ko Phaluai is also part of the marine park. There is a ranger station, bungalows, shop and restaurant at Ko Wua Talap at Ao Phi.
The name Ang Thong means bowl of gold, while Mu Ko simply means group of islands.
Since 2002 the park is also registered as Ramsar site number 1184
Surat Thani is a city in Amphoe Mueang Surat Thani, Surat Thani Province, southern Thailand. It is the capital of the province Surat Thani. The city has a population of 128,179 (2009), and an area of 68.97 square kilometers.
Suran Thani is near the mouth of the river Tapi on the Gulf of Thailand. The city offers no major tourist attractions in itself, and is thus mainly known to tourists as a transfer to the nearby popular Ko Samui island. It forms the regional commercial center, with a seaport dealing in the main products of the province, rubber and coconuts.
The city received its name, which means City of Good People, by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1915. The name was given to the city due to the intense devotion of the locals to Buddhism. Previously the city was known as Bandon, meaning Village on higher ground. The name of the city is taken from the Indian city Surat, situated in Gujarat, on the coast of Indian river Tapi. King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) gave this name to his city as he was impressed with the Indian city.
On December 21, 1930 Surat Thani became a sanitary district (sukhaphiban), which was upgraded to a town (thesaban mueang) on December 7, 1935, with a municipal area of 2.67 km². The area of the municipality was enlarged to 6.95 km² on October 14, 1958, and on December 22, 1994 it was further enlarged to 68.97 km². On May 4, 2007, the town was upgraded to city status (thesaban nakhon).
Since 1969 Surat Thani is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Surat Thani, responsible for about 6000 Catholic Christians in southern Thailand.