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Fah Thai Magazine Sep/Oct 2017

"FAH THAI" is the in-flight magazine of Bangkok Airways Public Company Limited and is edited and published by MPMI Group Ltd.

"FAH THAI" is the in-flight magazine of Bangkok Airways Public Company Limited and is edited and published by MPMI Group Ltd.

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SAMUI REMINISCING<br />

If you want to listen to a nostalgic<br />

storytelling of a promising Koh Samui<br />

that’s grown into quite the beauty of a<br />

place, just ask Dr. Suwit Nantapanich,<br />

fondly called “Mo Tapu” by Samui islanders.<br />

‘Mo’ is doctor in <strong>Thai</strong> and ‘tapu’ means nail,<br />

a nickname given by family with its own<br />

esoteric history. Mention his name to longtime<br />

Samui residents and the enthusiastic<br />

response will be, “Mo Tapu? Yes, he was<br />

our family doctor!”<br />

Photo Thewin Chanyawong<br />

Clockwise<br />

from Right<br />

Samui still enjoys<br />

a strong coconut<br />

industry; with a<br />

little help from a<br />

friend, a reward<br />

for his labour is the<br />

sweet fruit of<br />

a coconut.<br />

Dr. Suwit’s clinic<br />

was a reassuring<br />

presence for ailing<br />

Samui locals.<br />

Mo Tapu remembers<br />

when the first group<br />

of foreigners visited<br />

the island and were<br />

in awe of its<br />

unspoilt beauty.<br />

As Samui’s first doctor – there<br />

was hardly a person on the island<br />

he didn’t treat– his astute eyes and<br />

calm manner makes him the best<br />

observer of island changes from his<br />

serene clinic on Chaweng. Although<br />

retired, he still keeps a close eye<br />

on the island happenings and<br />

developments.<br />

With a faraway look of<br />

remembrance, he remembers<br />

greeting the first foreign visitor to<br />

Samui in the 1960s when the island<br />

paradise was a relative unknown.<br />

“In the 1960s, the local patients<br />

I treated came to me because of dog<br />

bites,” he says with amusement.<br />

But adds with the seriousness of<br />

a physician, “Now, the cases are<br />

mostly of people falling off their<br />

motorbikes.” A lot of cases are<br />

surprise run-ins at sharp turns<br />

on the road and foreign tourists<br />

handling the unfamiliar power of<br />

a bike. Such is the Samui then and<br />

now, he points out.<br />

Sitting at home, he reminisces<br />

on a Samui that was less resort<br />

island and more a residential<br />

island with potential. Dr. Suwit<br />

is of Chinese heritage who came<br />

at a younger age to be a general<br />

practitioner.<br />

In archival information, the<br />

earliest maps of Koh (island in<br />

<strong>Thai</strong>) Samui go as far back as the<br />

17th century. “Accidental tourists”<br />

might be a better way to call the<br />

first group of visitors of fishermen,<br />

sailors and sea traders who chanced<br />

upon the island as they sought<br />

shelter from the storms and the<br />

treacherous waters along the Gulf<br />

of <strong>Thai</strong>land.<br />

So the first settlers of Chinese<br />

and Malay descent enjoyed the<br />

bountiful nature and natural<br />

resources that produced vegetation,<br />

fruit varieties, and fish and wildlife.<br />

Across the seas to other parts of<br />

<strong>Thai</strong>land, stories circulated that<br />

on an island called Samui, money<br />

can be made on coconuts that<br />

numbered in the thousands and<br />

luscious tropical plants and fruits<br />

could be harvested. So more people<br />

started trickling in, eyes shining<br />

with the hope that Samui’s fruit<br />

bounty becomes a lucrative move.<br />

These days, there are shrines and<br />

memorials that acknowledge the<br />

first settlers. Dr. Suwit’s clinic is<br />

in Chaweng, a town, he says, that<br />

used to be an oyster village. Located<br />

on a quiet street, the clinic in light<br />

green pastels showed the tranquil<br />

nostalgia of doctor’s visits. Nearby<br />

sits one of the oldest cinemas<br />

in a neighbourhood, while cosy<br />

restaurants offering local eats<br />

and an art gallery is situated near<br />

a market.<br />

Travel agency Kuoni brought<br />

the first group of foreign tourists to<br />

the quiet beauty of Samui, Dr. Suwit<br />

recalled. Then, there was no city<br />

planning, no roads or infrastructure.<br />

Part of the stream of visitors were<br />

on a quest for enlightenment in the<br />

early 1960s, a hippie crowd that<br />

ventured to Samui on their way to<br />

Kathmandu.<br />

He talks of the time that Swiss<br />

magazine Du Atlantis, interviewed<br />

him for their story of a picturesque,<br />

serene Samui. Together with<br />

photography by Rene Burri, the<br />

magazine’s editor and writer Samuel<br />

Gasser described how in Samui,<br />

“the heat and bountiful water<br />

supplies bring forth an inexhaustible<br />

abundance of fruit. Pride of place<br />

goes to the coconut. Then there are<br />

54

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