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 Jeen) and chicken biryani.
Local food in Ko Samui and its province of Surat Thani are salted eggs and rambutan.
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. There are also numerous clinics and pharmacies, especially at Chaweng Beach.
An island of great natural beauty and variety, Samui is home to about 40,000 full-time inhabitants, 90% of whom are Buddhist. The palm fringed shoreline and coconut and fruit cultivation of the coastal lowlands rise to a central granite massive, the slopes of which are cloaked in virgin rainforest.
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 travelers. 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.
Unfortunately, development on Ko Samui is starting to take its toll and the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are overcrowded in the high season.