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Ko Samui is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, close to the mainland Surat Thani town. It has an area of 228.7 kmē and a population of 45,873 (2004).
Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 35km northeast of Surat Thani town (9°N, 100°E). It is surrounded by about sixty other islands, most of which comprise the Ang Thong National Marine Park, but also include other tourist destinations Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan.
The island is roughly circular in shape, and is about 15km across. The central part of the island is an (almost) uninhabitable mountain jungle (peak Khao Pom, 635m) and the various lowland areas are connected together by a single road, that covers the circumference of the island.
There is one town, Na Thon, on the west coast of the island, with a major port for fishing and inter-island transportation. Each of Samui's many beaches is also nominally considered a town, due to the number of hotels, restaurants and bars that have sprung up in recent years.
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The reason why people come to Samui is, quite simply, the beaches which remain stunning after decades of development, helped in no small part by a height restriction on new buildings.
Other than lying on the beach with a cold beer in hand and ogling at the babes and hunks sauntering past, there isn't all that much to see on the island. A certain pair of rocks on Lamai amuses some visitors, Bang Rak has a large but nondescript Buddha statue, and there are some waterfalls (notably Na Muang) of minor interest.
The usual panoply of watersports are available, including plenty of dive shops, but most diving is done either in the nearby Angthong Marine National Park or Ko Tao as the visibility around Samui's sandy beaches tends to be poor. You can book diving day trips at dive shops, most of which are based in Chaweng. The dive boats tend to leave from the pier at Bophut.
Santiburi Samui Country Club boasts the only 18 hole golf course on the island. Located inland from Mae Nam, the neighbouring town to Bophut, the challenging mountain-side and high valley fairways offer stunning views of the bay area and distant Ko Pha Ngan. Golf carts are compulsory, to prevent the exhaustion of players otherwise following the steeply rising and falling fairways. Large greens offer some compensation to players distracted by the fabulous views and lush tropical setting. The clubhouse includes locker rooms, dining, conferencing rooms as well as a driving range, practice green and shop.
Kayaking is a great way to see the Angthong Marine National Park. Look for a credible tour operator when on the island.
There is a nice natural pool at the top of the Na Muang waterfall 2. It's about 30 minutes steep hike from the point where the road ends. There are also some elephant ride businesses, that can take you to the bottom of the waterfall.
Shooting you can visit the Samui shooting range and fire various 9mm and revolver pistols and even the famous AK-47. Turn up and shoot - prices are quite steep around 1000 baht for a clip of ammo but it does make for a memorable experience and is suitable for small groups.