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Ko Samui or often simply Samui as it is referred to by locals, is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand. It is located close to the mainland town of Surat Thani in Surat Thani Province. It is Thailand's third largest island after Phuket and Ko Chang, with an area of 228.7 km2 and a population of over 62,000 attracting 1.5 million tourists per year. Ko Samui has abundant natural resources, white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. It is part of Mu Ko Samui.
Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35 km northeast of Surat Thani town (9°N, 100°E). It is the most significant Island in the Mu Koh Samui Archipelago. The island measures some 25 km at its widest point. It is surrounded by about sixty other islands, which together compose the Ang Thong Marine National Park (Mu Koh Ang Thong National Park) and include many other popular tourist destinations, including, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan.
The central part of the island is an almost uninhabitable tropical jungle mountain called Khao Pom, peaking at 635 m. The various lowland and coastal areas are connected by a single 51 km road, running mostly along the coastline and encircling the bulk of the island. On the northwest coast of the island is the old capital, Nathon. Although Nathon spreads over a large area, the actual port and main business district is relatively small. However, the eclectic mix of traditional Thai, Malaysian and Chinese architecture provides a first impression for all tourists arriving by boat.
Nathon continues to be the major port for vehicular and goods transportation from the mainland, it is the centre of the fishing industry and remains the seat of the regional government. The majority of the government utilities are also based here, as is the public hospital. Being the location of the main port and the closest inhabited area to the mainland provided the impetus for Nathon becoming the commercial centre for the Samui locals. More recently, the decline in dependence of the local coconut industry, the continued growth and development of the tourist industry and the north-eastern location of the airport, has seen the move of the commercial centre to Chaweng.
Chaweng Beach which is on the eastern side of the island is undoubtedly the current hub of Koh Samui with nearly every Koh Samui visitor coming to see Chaweng at least once during their holiday. Chaweng offers hundreds of shops, restaurants, resorts and entertainment venues over a 5 kilometre beach-side stretch of golden sand. The other primary tourist beaches and beach communities are; Lamai Beach on the southeast of the island, Bophut Beach (Fisherman's Village) on the northeast side of the island and Maenam Beach in the north. These beaches provide a wide variety of accommodation, from the original and now almost extinct beach bungalows, to modern and very ambitious 5 star resorts and almost everything in-between.
More recently, the less crowded western side of the island has seen the development of many 5-star hotels and resorts who have chosen this side of the Island as their home. This vast array of style, price and location provides a myriad of options that continues to attract tourists of every age and demographic, from all over the world.
Ko Samui is an Amphoe (district) of Surat Thani Province, subdivided into 7 subdistricts (tambon). The complete island is one city municipality (thesaban nakhon). The district covers the island, as well as the Ang Thong archipelago and some other small islands nearby.
Ko Samui features a tropical monsoon climate under Köppen’s climate classification. However the city only has one true dry season month. Average monthly precipitation in February falls below 60 mm, the threshold for a tropical dry season month. The climate is warm and humid for most of the year. However, in comparison to Phuket and most of the rest of Southern Thailand, Samui's weather is relatively dry. The heaviest precipitation is typically seen in the months of October and November. For the rest of the year, given the tropical climate, rain showers are brief; 20–60 minutes duration is typical. The island sees on average just under 2000 mm of precipitation annually.
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Historically the island's economy has been based around subsistence agriculture and fishing, with coconuts as the main cash crop. From the 1980s onwards, tourism has become an economic factor and is now the dominant industry. Ko Samui transport links have made it a destination for tourists seeking to explore the other islands in the area.
Samui international airport
Ko Samui Airport is a private airport originally built by Bangkok Airways, which is still the main operator and was for a long time the only airline with services to Ko Samui from mainland Thailand. The airport is now additionally served by Thai Airways International to Bangkok, Firefly Airlines to Kuala Lumpur, and SilkAir to Singapore. The budget option of getting from Bangkok to Samui by plane is to fly ThaiSmile, AirAsia or NokAir to Surat Thani Airport (URT), then take a bus to Don Sak, and finally take a ferry from Don Sak to Ko Samui by Sertran Ferry. Flights from Samui to Phuket and other in-Thailand destinations are available.
In 2012, the Thai Government announced they are considering a second airport for Ko Samui.
Several ferries connect the island with the mainland, including the two aforementioned car/passenger ferries and from Don Sak to piers in the west of the island, near or in Nathon. Public buses to all parts of the mainland operate from a small bus station located in the south of Nathon. Songthaews (tuk-tuk style buses) circle the ring road, and private taxis are available throughout the island, although they do not use their meters and are quite expensive. Rates double after dark on both song theows and taxis. Motorcycle taxis are common, and generally around the same cost as a song theow.
The expansion of tourism in Ko Samui has resulted in growth in building resorts, bungalows and luxury private villas on the island. This economic growth has led many businessmen from all over the world to invest in Ko Samui. With over 260 resorts and bungalows in Samui, counting from the end of year 2009, it has become Thailand's second largest resort business behind Bangkok and surpassing Phuket.
Events and festivals
Buffalo Fighting Festival One of the best-known festivals on Ko Samui is its Buffalo Fighting Festival, which is held on special occasions such as New Year's Day and Songkran. Unlike Spanish bull-fighting, the fighting on Ko Samui is fairly harmless. The fighting season varies according to some ancient customs and ceremonies. The buffalo are beautifully decorated with ribbons and gold-painted leaves. Before the contest, which lasts just two rounds, monks spray them with holy water. The winning owner typically takes home millions of baht in prize money.
Triathlon Event The International Triathlon Union organizes this event every year. This event in Ko Samui draws more than five hundred participants from around the world.
Ten Stars Samui Art Party A recurring cultural event bringing together art lovers, local Thai and international artists and their new, original artworks. These annual events, hosted at various high-end resorts and other 5-star venues on the island, focus on building the art community on Ko Samui with presentations by featured artists.
Samui Regatta The Samui Regatta is a sailing tournament, held every year. The tournament is internationally known and competitors come from as far away as Australia, Singapore, Japan and China. This event, for boats of all sizes and shapes, began in 2002.
In general, Southern Thai food is renowned for its spiciness. Much of the cuisine has its origins in Malay, Indonesian and Indian food. Favorite dishes from the south include Indian-style Muslim curry (massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (Khanom chin) and chicken biryani.
Local food products of Ko Samui and Surat Thani province include salted eggs and rambutan.
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There are four international private hospitals on Samui: Samui International Hospital on the Beach Road in North Chaweng; Thai International off the Lake Road in Chaweng; Bandon Hospital on the Ring Road; and Bangkok Samui Hospital in Chaweng Noi. The Government Hospital is in Nathon. Bangkok Hospital Samui is generally regarded as the best equipped and staffed, as it is part of a Nationwide chain of high-end hospitals.