Briefly history of Koh Samui

The metal age

In 1977, a Bronze drum was found in Kiri Wong karam temple (Southwestern bay of the Samui island), it has been used to be an oldest evidence to indicate, since when the first civilization was presented on Ko Samui. It is the big drum with beautiful design and was made in metal age (more than 2000 years ago) by Asian artisans.

That means the first civilization in Ko Samui begun from or before metal age. Nowadays they are exhibited in the national museum in Surat Thani. Beside Ko Samui, the Bronze drum were found first time in Vietnam and afterward also in other southeast Asian counties and were assumedly used for forewarning, muster etc. However, there is not any evidence, which crowd or country is the original owner/maker of the Bronze drum.

Bronze drums can be the important physical evidences of the cultural exchange between southeast Asia countries (In that time, there are no counties, we might say lands) before prehistorical period and some of them were found in the historical period here in Ko Samui at mentioned.

This one (found in Kiri Wong karam temple ) was found under the ground 300 meters far from beach in the drum was empty. It is consider to be a big one, has less damage. It is 53.5 cm tall and has 69.5 cm diameter The drum has tracery as sun with 10 radian lines. Around the sun there are 10 birds flying and pairs of human or pairs of animals, all pairs have the same pattern.

After the founding of the first Bronze drum, another one was found in 2000 in Lamai village (Easthern of the island), this one are exhibited right in Cultural Hall of Lamai village. This one is 260 cm (2.6 m) tall and has 80 cm diameter, also much bigger than the first one. It has tracery of sun also and of animals, some people claimed the animals are elephants, some people said that seems to be flogs.

Some people assumed that the folks in the pre-historical age used to live in the Southern areas of the island for a period of time. These areas today called Saket, Taling ngam, Lamai villages, the reason supporting this thought is since the both Bronze drums were found in Southern of the island and furthermore, they also found almost 20 pieces of tools (axe) made from stone in these areas.

This stone items used to be evidence that there were folk even in stone age, also older than metal age, on the island. The cause that these pre-historical folks came and leaved the island is their nature of liking to keep moving place by place. They don’t like to settle somewhere for the long term or forever.

The owner of the Bronze drums (folk in metal age) came to Ko Samui by ship and lived here for period, time went by, they generated members of their folk. When they leaved the island, due to the more members, the ship did not have more space and they to leave items like Bronze drums with the islands.

Or the folk in the pre-historical believe, if they leaved the drums embedded in ground for respecting of god of sea and ocean, in order to have a lucky travel. The Bronze drums were the important objects indicating that there were human folks traveled through sea and ocean coming to Samui island in the pre-historical age.

The Han China age

Back to the age of Han China (9 – 206 years before Christ), Chinese merchants traveled to exchange goods with Roman empire by ships, the common goods that time were spicery, dyeing color and earthenware, these were exchanged with money or gold in Roman. They traveled back to China through Red Sea, strait of Malacca, Gulf of Thailand, Funan (Most area of Funan are Middle and Northeast parts of Thailand) and Saigon (a city in Vietnam).

They pass through the group of islands in Gulf of Thailand, those islands are today Ko Samui, Ang Thong national marine park and other neighbor islands. The Chinese merchants called all of these islands: The group of islands Ang Thong. That time, the group of islands Ang Thong was a very risk place from pirates that came for the Chinese merchandise ships containing gold and money back to China. 

Afterward, the Hai Nan Chinese used Ko Samui to be the first stop when shipping to India. Some of them settled in Ko Samui and started coconut farming and fishing. These people became the partly ancestor of Samui local people nowadays. That you might see they are several Chinese temples on Ko Samui (The history of Phuket might have same melody).

In the period of King Rama the 5th  Ko Samui was under administrative of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, a close neighbor of Surat Thani (Ko Samui is today a district of Surat Thani) before being to be under Surat Thani’s till nowadays. Ko Samui was promoted to be a district and Ko Phangan was a Sub-district of Ko Samui till 1970, Ko Phangan was also promoted to be a district like Ko Samui. Today, Ko Phagnan is a district in Surat Thani with the smallest number of populations. 

Forward (with page169 / 187 book islands group of Surat Thani)

 The civilization and tourism

It is still a question today, which Farang nation is the first group coming to Ko Samui.  In 1972, there was a Thai movie filming on the Samui island. The name of the movie can be translated as ‘’ loveliness island, paradise beach ‘’ which has become an alias ‘’Paradise Island ‘’ of Ko Samui. After that the paradise island has become one of the world top destinations.

Around 1972, west backpackers who was finding the meaning of the life, continuously stepped on the every beach of Ko Samui more and more by word of mouth that there is a quiet paradise island existed in Gulf of Thailand. The more visitors, the more news were widely released to the travelers in that time. The first generation of travelers came to Ko Samui and used to stay with locals in their houses, sometime in temples and other available places and mostly located in Na Thon where was first hub (Yes, seems like Chaweng and Lamai were still the secret beaches).

They ate the same foods the locals ate, if they miss their favorite bread, then only cheep breads that the children like to eat were available in that decades. The early travelers had much chance to fully experience the real culture, way of life, the friendship and kindness of the locals. In that period of time, the transport was much inconvenient, there were just small amount of vehicle and most were vehicle using in agriculture.

It needed too much time to explore the parts of the island. Number of travelers spread out the entire of island to explore new beaches, enjoy sea winds, sunshine, the shadow from the coconut trees and the moonlight even in night time.

When it seemed to be more and more travelers in each beautiful spot, the first generation of accommodations were begun to be built.  The first accommodation specially for (west) travelers was in built at Chaweng beach. I am about to tell a little bit about this first hotel on Ko Samui.

In that period of time, when the early travelers headed to Chaweng beach and asked to stay in the house of the family Sikwan which was a big two-storey house separated into many rooms because they have many children. They were very friendly, the travelers joined the table eating together with family. The family often cultivated fruits, papaya, banana and coconut from their farm had the Farang try it.

The family kindly did not accept any money unless the travelers leave it (In a fair amount) in their rooms before they left the house.  When the same situation continuously repeated, this house finally became a homestay. In 1975 the family had built a small row houses with 6 rooms AAAA specially opened for travelers for 15 Bath a room/night, only local foods service, no electricity, using light from oil lamp, shared bathroom. Afterward, their grandson came back from other province to Ko Samui and help the family manage the accommodation (bungalow).

Near the same time the first bungalow was built at Lamai beach. Three year later, the first bungalow was built in Bo Phut beach. The locals usually called this ‘’ bungalow ‘’ while the Farang called it ‘’ hut ‘’. Because the first generation of bungalows were built with natural materials, the roofs and walls were made from palm or coconut leaves and bamboo. The bungalows were built on several beaches on the Samui island more and more. Due to a large number of tourists (Backpackers) and continuously rising that time.

Just in the next decade after this phenomenon has attracted the big money from the big lands who have a super vision for doing tourist business here, invested by buying several beach lands, which are the most valuable treasures till today and built the accommodations call resorts and hotels.

Due to the transform of lands and properties authority from locals to developers, whether locals who are rich by selling lands or normal locals who don’t have income from tourism and still life traditionally, have to cover the high life cost because of the changing to a tourist city. Many descendants of Samui locals who studied or worked in the main land when Ko Samui was just a coconut island (agriculture phase) came back to their old home here in Samui in the Tourism volution to support the development of their home town.

Over 100 years ago, entire the island is covered with forest, there are grass everywhere and then were replaced with coconut farm which were the best source providing monthly income to the locals. Coconut farming attracted many Hai Nan Chinese to Samui and settles here since then. There for, these Hai Nan Chinese were one of significant ancestors of the recent locals in Ko Samui.

The coconuts closed the economy of wild stuffs exchange in the pre-historical age and started the economy of goods-money trading. It has given regular work to locals and became the based-occupation of them, till the history coconut economy has been also closed nowadays welcoming the locals to the new economy of tourism.

Since 1989, the first generation of luxury resorts and hotels have started to open. The huts in coconut farm call bungalow are always faint with their usual guests: backpackers. Also, the traditional cheap bungalows have been transferred to the more convenient accommodations for the guests with luggage or suit case coming from airport.  If you come here in 1977, you would use only 4 – 6 $ (roundly 100 – 200 Bath) to cover accommodation and foods cost for a day nut now Ko Samui has been no more cheap paradise.

The first 5 stars luxury hotel was built at same beach as the first bungalow was: Chaweng beach, by a big hotel chain from Bangkok. Afterward this chain built another luxury hotel at Thong Sai beach next to Choeng Mon bay. After this, many of luxury brands have followed. These are the big guarantee of the rising of tourism on Samui island.

You might be wonder, how about the first bungalow of family Si Kwan nowadays, this bungalow still open today, but just already reformed to a hotel and resort to be compatible to others offering several thousand Bath per night. Most of hotels in Samui are design with Thai tropical pattern expressed the feeling of local atmosphere which still providing convenience, also, the combination of Thai local design and luxury.   

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