The secluded beach at Phak Trang was often the star of such expat stories, catering to tourists and thrill-seekers who craved an escape from the commercialized beaches that littered the South China Sea for something pure and undisturbed. Phak Trang was said to be the best-kept secret in the province, a sheltered cove with beautiful gypsum sands, calm waters near the beach, and surfable waves further out. It was a modest hike from the nearest access road, but cabbies in the various resort towns were always ready to arrange dropoffs and pickups, though none of the local guides would go there, forcing seekers to rely on hand-drawn maps circulated by expats.

Many people who had been swore by the place, but it also had a tragic air: swimmers and surfers who went to Phak Trang had a tendency to disappear. Certainly, the deaths–noted as hashmarks on a crude sign near the beach–lent an aura of danger to the place. The US Consulate in Surat Thani held that these accidents–which had accounted for 8 citizens 1960-2010–were due to treacherous features of geography, like the cove’s fierce riptide, and the occasional local banditry.

Ask a local cabbie, though, and a different story would emerge. Not shy about sharing it, with paying fares at least, they maintained that Phak Trang was a point at which spirits could enter the world of the living when the tides were right. People who vanished might sometimes have been killed by the riptide, the cabbies conceded, but more often they were abducted by vengeful spirits or fell through the pale into an otherworld beyond imagining.