The Sanctuary in Koh Phangan: a novel balance between hedonistic and healthy

A resort in the Gulf of Thailand may be the inspiration for Alex Garland’s The Beach. Brigid Delaney takes a plane and two boats to check it out

This year it is 20 years since Alex Garland first published his backpacker classic The Beach. You couldn’t get on a plane or lie on a beach without seeing copies of the book in your neighbours’ hands. It was reprinted 25 times in less than a year and the film rights were hot property. The book about seclusion and secret places was everywhere.

The Beach is a modern take on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The backpacker, Richard, meets an unhinged Scotsman going by the alias of Daffy Duck who gives him a hand-drawn map, with directions to a beautiful island with a hidden lagoon and beach, located in the Gulf of Thailand and inaccessible to tourists. Richard finds paradise, but he and his fellow travellers are locked in a constant battle to keep it to themselves.

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