Although Ko Samui is a part of Thailand, it has its own distinct set of local customs, which can be traced back to the island’s rich history. The first people to inhabit the island were traders from China. The local population may also trace its roots from Muslim fishers who were among the early settlers in the place. This mix of Chinese and Muslim customs, combined with those of Thai traditions, gave way to uniquely interesting culture and festivals in Samui.
If you are planning for a Samui getaway, try to catch some of the most celebrated festivals in the island. The Loy Krathong, or the Light Festival, is held on the full moon of every 12th lunar month. It is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Ko Samui celebrates this festivity together with neighboring areas like Sukhothai, Bangkok, and Chiangmai. During Loy Krathong, men and women head out to the water, dressed in special attire and carrying objects called krathongs often designed like large flowers that are shaped like cups. These flowers are then released into the water where they float and eventually disappear into the horizon. Loy Krathong is the most colorful festivity in Ko Samui.
There are several interpretations for what the krathongs represent. Some say they symbolize the journey of an egg cell from the time it is released until it gets fertilized. Others say the krathong carries the sins and tragedies that they experienced for the year, and as they let it go on the water, all these things are released from them as well.
Others say lovers can determine if their relationship will last by releasing their krathongs on the water together. If their krathongs stay close to each other until these disappear on the horizon, then they would have a lasting relationship. Still others say the Loy Krathong is similar to the Biblical account of Moses. One thing is sure, though: Loy Krathong is definitely one of the most interesting displays of culture and festivals in Samui.
New Year’s Day celebration in Samui is one of a kind because it is celebrated three times on the island – in January 1, in February, and in April 13. January is what we know as the traditional New Year’s Day. Early February sees the celebration of the Chinese New Year. Finally, April 13 marks the Songkran, which is the first day of the Thai solar calendar. The Songkran is a time for families to be together and that’s why there are noticeably fewer members of staff in commercial establishments during this event.
If you want to taste the culture and festivals in Samui, never miss out on the Songkran. But don’t be surprised if, on the day of the celebration, someone splashes icy cold water over you. This practice is called sat nam and is one of the highlights of the celebration as young people line up on the streets with water guns, hoses, and even buckets of icy cold water, ready to drench those who are passing by. You can participate in the event yourself and join the locals in surprising the passersby with a splash of chilled water.