Koh Samui is a Thai island and as such the culture is dominated by Thailand. Most of the inhabitants are Thai and Buddhism is, as everywhere in Thailand, the dominant religion. There is a small Muslim presence on the island concentrated in a quaint village in the South of the island. There is also a growing western population as more and more people come to buy holiday home or make a new life for themselves in a tropical paradise.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, one in which the monarchy, or certainly the current King is extremely popular. King Bhumibol ahs been on the thrown since 1946, and is the longest serving monarch in the world. Although he has little or no official authority, he does command enormous respect from the 66 million population. The king does still therefore sometimes have a role to play. Especially in recent years, when a coup in 2006 ousted the former Prime Minister Taksin Shiniwatra from power.
Thailand is the only country that has never been part of a European powers empire, and as such has always been proud of its independence. The countries name was formally Siam, but has been Thailand since 1949. People often believe that the name is derived from the word for ‘free’, whereas it is actually more likely to be from the word for an ethnic group from Thailand. However Thais will still tell you that the name refers to the land of the free.
Thailand is also known as the ‘Land of Smiles’ – this is due to the unmistakable fact that the people have fantastic capacity for warmth and friendliness which manifests itself in the smile that you a greeted with in Thailand, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.