Koh Samui Information
Thai people and customs
Koh Samui has a year-round population of approximately 34,000.
The main centers of population are on opposite sides of the island.
The beach areas of Chaweng and Lamai are located on the east coast,
and Nathon, whose population varies widely depending on the time
of year, is located on the west coast.
The King, Queen and the Royal Family are genuinely respected by
Thais. Most homes and businesses have one or more photographs of
His Majesty or the Royal Family prominently displayed. Showing any
form of disrespect to the Royal Family will not be appreciated by
the Thais and could cause you very serious problems.
Thailand is known as the "Land of Smiles", and for its
tolerance and hospitality. The simple rule is that if you smile,
people will like you. A smile is an easy way to say Thank
you" and can also be used to "excuse yourself" for
small inconveniences. A smile is the proper response to acknowledge
the wai or greetings of small children, and with hotel and restaurant
staff. Most of us were raised with the "Golden Rule" and
that will work for you as well in Thailand as it does at home. Nevertheless,
we will provide you with a short list of things that you should
know to help overcome any "culture shock" you may encounter.
- If you are invited into a Thai home, you are expected to remove
your footwear before entering the door.
- It is considered very bad manners to put your feet on a table
or chair while sitting. When seated make sure your feet are not
pointed at anyone because this is offensive to Thais, as is displaying
the bottom of the foot to someone. And try to remember, if you
drop a Thai coin, don't try to stop it by stepping on it because
it has an image of the King on it!
- Thais regard the head as the highest (purest) part of the body,
so refrain from touching or patting the head in a friendly gesture
as it is considered very impolite.
- It is not proper to lose ones temper or show exasperation
during a misunderstanding. Thais believe that "jai yen",
or a "cool heart" will solve the problem.
Visiting a temple
Discovering the wonderful temples, or "wats" of Thailand
is one of the more interesting cultural activities for travellers
in the Kingdom. Visitors are welcome and discreet photographs may
be taken. Shoes must be removed before entering a temple; wearing
shorts or other revealing clothing is a definite no-no.
Monks are the most important people in Thai society and must be
treated with respect at all times. A monks vow of chastity
prohibits him from touching or being touched by a woman. Women are
usually advised to smile and slightly bow when encountering a monk
and maintain enough distance to prevent any contact with him or
If you get up early (around sunrise) for a walk, you are likely
to encounter barefoot monks making their rounds to receive offerings.
Monks carrying bowls will be approached by Thais (usually women)
who will kneel before them and offer food or money. This is called
merit making and it is very important to Thais. The Kingdom is of
course predominantly Buddhist and this ritual can be seen every
day all over the country.
Temple fairs are held during the cool season (November through
early March) to raise money for maintenance of the wat. They're
great fun and you should definitely check one out if you get a chance.
There is a carnival-like atmosphere, lots of good food and a chance
to see normal Thai people enjoying themselves.
Held annually on April 13, this festival
marks the traditional Thai New Year. The word Songkran comes from
the Sanskrit words for New Year and was probably inherited along
with Buddhism from India, making its celebration one of the oldest
traditions in Thailand. During this auspicious occasion Thais traditionally
return home for family reunions and visit temples, sprinkling water
on Buddha images in reverence. Meeting friends and sprinkling water
on each others' shoulders and hands is an act of wishing
The traditional gentle sprinkling of water in temples and homes
is still practiced. However, overzealous Thais and tourists alike
have nowadays resorted to throwing water at any passersby that dare
to venture outside. High-powered water guns are also very popular.
It is a splashy affair for all on that day, and generally a good
way to beat the heat in what is normally the hottest month of the
year. Lately, many revelers have taken to adding talcum powder,
flour or even dyes to the water, though local authorities try to
Remember this date when you are in Samui. Leave your cameras and
anything likely to suffer water damage behind in your hotel room,
because you will get wet. Be especially careful if riding a motorbike,
as the usually dry streets become slick with water and many participants
show no mercy.
Loy Kratong Festival (Full moon day)
A floating Krathong
The origins of this charming and romantic evening are not clear
but it is considered the most beautiful of Thai celebrations. One
legend has the festival beginning in the 13th century Sukhothai
period, when a young princess floated a small boat laden with candles
and incense downstream past a pavilion where her husband was entertaining
friends. It has since grown to be one of the countrys most
As the full moon rises, Thais fill tiny floral boats with candles
and incense and launch them into the rivers, canals, ponds and the
sea to wash away sins and to bless love affairs. Join in the fun!
Buy a krathong from a vendor, light the taper and incense, place
a small coin and a few hairs plucked from the head, say a prayer
and launch it in a pond or waterway. The celebration begins around
7.30 pm, when you'll see many young Thai women wearing beautiful
traditional dresses on their way to meet friends or lovers.