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Last updated : Nov 2009
Samui Culture Guide
Samui Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com

There are more than 40,000 full-time workers on Samui Island. Similar to its neighbouring islands, Samui was settled by ethnic Malay fishermen from the mainland, including newcomers from Southern Thailand; at a time when the waters teemed with fish. Maps dating back to 1687 have the island identified as "Pulo Cornam", from the Malay. There is very little written history of the island left today; however, the knowledge we have now has been passed down through the generations.

There are 2 theories as to how this island came to be named Samui. The first hints that the name of a commonly-found tree called "mui" was lengthened at some point. Secondly, and probably the more likely notion, is that "Saboey" which is Chinese for safe haven (an apt description of the island's largely protected waters) was adopted by Chinese fishermen, and later become the name used today.

Not more than a decade ago, people on Samui had hardly seen foreigners. As a large number of tourists had arrived, an industry was born and thousands of jobs were created. Foreign currency flowed in, benefiting many on this island.

The former farmers and fishermen now unexpectedly competed to fulfill Western tastes and demands. But the renowned patience and flexible nature of Thai people, and the new chances that tourism presented, made it easy for them to accept the oddities of their new visitors. Their entrepreneurial spirit helped counter for their limited knowledge of other cultures, and many have thrived.

Most Thais are Buddhist, and a tiny amount of the population is Muslim. The philosophy of the Buddhist thought is more influential in the life of the average Thai than is the dogma of the religion. Most do not allow themselves to get too worked up over minor inconveniences of this life, after all, it is only a passage into another one. If you consider this, and the island's benign climate, its plentiful harvests from the land and sea, then it becomes easier to understand the "take life as it comes" approach which continues to amaze and puzzle visitors.