Little is known about Samui’s early years. What is known is that its first setllers were Malay fishermen and immigrants from Southern China.
There are two theories on the origin of the islands name. The first one suggests that it came from the name of a tree, called “mui”. The second, and most likely, is that “saboey”, which is a chinese word for safe haven, was adopted by the Chinese fishermen, and was later modified to Samui.
Old structures and relics found in the last few years offer a peek into its past. These include a khwan fa, a stone ax used for hunting during the Stone Age, and a mahoragtug sumrid, a type of drum found in 1977 in an old Buddhist temple.
One thing is certain. At the turn of the 20th century, contact with the outside world brought with it, several influences. Old Buddhist temples indicate a well-structured culture. A number of monuments date back to the early 1900s. Laem Sor Chedi, for instance, has a story to tell.
Located on the coral beach of Laem Sor, south of the island, the chedi is decorated with golden mosaics. It is said that in the past, this place housed relics that Phra Kru Phiboon Thammasarn, the former abbot of Praderm Temple (oldest temple in Samui, build about 230 years ago), brought back to Thailand after his trip to Sri Lanka, India and Nepal in 1908.
When he died, the pagoda was abandoned. In 1938, a man named Luangpoo Dang Tisso sailed his boat and stopped here to restore the chedi with the help of the people. 29 years later, lightning destroyed it. However, it was rebuild on the coral beach in 1974.
Incidentally, after the pagoda was rebuilt, backpackers haven’t stopped arriving. And although it took some time for the locals to adjust to the new environmnet, they eventually accepted the fact that their island had become a tourist destination.
Source ; Whats on Samui magazine.