The Khao San Road, Bangkok - first stop for the hordes of rootless young Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia.
On Richard's first night there, a fellow traveler slashes his wrists, bequeathing to Richard a meticulously drawn map to "the Beach."
The Beach, as Richard comes to learn, is a subject of legend among the young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for thousands of years.
There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled into a communal Eden. Richard sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists.
They discover the Beach, and it is as beautiful as it is reputed to be. Yet over time it becomes clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling, even deadly undercurrents.