Greeneville native Marshall Harbison, 24, is currently making a five-month solo backpacking journey, self-financed and self-directed, through several countries in Southeast Asia.
A daughter of Steve and Sally Harbison of this community and a 2010 graduate of Wofford College, she has been living and working in Atlanta for the last two years.
During the next few months, she will be sharing highlights of her unusual journey with Greeneville Sun readers through a series of e-mailed columns sent from the countries to which the trip takes her.
BY MARSHALL HARBISON
KO CHANG ISLAND, Thailand -- I have never particularly liked getting shots. I mean, who does?
Fortunately for nurses everywhere, I have grown out of my sheer terror of them -- screaming, crying, fighting with every aspect of my being. However, In my 24 years, I've never thought I would feel excited about the poke of a needle.
Receiving my final vaccination against rabies, though, meant more than just having protection from "cute" monkeys and dogs. It meant FREEDOM! I could finally continue my travel adventure on my own, away from the bustling city that is Bangkok.
So, where does a girl from a landlocked state go, you ask? The beach, of course!
The island of Ko Chang is just off the coast of Thailand, close to the Cambodian border. Several beaches make up the outer rim of the island; then it is just straight jungle in the middle. Beautiful, as one can imagine!
I decided to stay on Lonely Beach, which, thankfully, did not live up to its name.
Sometimes it is nice to get away from the crowd. I enjoy my alone-time, in fact. (I mean, I came all the way to Asia for it. ... ha, just kidding)!
But this was not one of those times; I needed more than minimal human interaction, if for nothing else than to hear other people's stories. And maybe share a few of my own.
Well, I found this and then some on Ko Chang.
Upon arriving at the first bungalow on the island in which I stayed, for four nights, I instantly met several Dutch and Danish people, with whom I then went to the Halloween parties! (It was that season.)
My bungalow was bright pink, with a porch, a private bathroom and good sheets! It was about a 10-minute walk from the beach. At less than $15 per night, I didn't mind the short walk.
I found Ko Chang to have an incredible sense of community, among both locals and foreigners. It's quite small, so you see the same people on the street or on the beach every day.
There are several bars where people congregate, but each bar has its own "party night," so mostly everyone winds up in the same place for drink specials and barbeque on any particular night.
I would tell you about all of the experiences I had on this island, but it would look like this: wake up, eat breakfast, exercise, go to the beach, read, eat, read, nap, etc.... You know, island life.
But the people I met while here made took up about five pages of my journal -- people from all over the world (still have not met another American), with tons of experiences traveling.
Fun fact-- I met an Italian guy who lives on Ko Chang now, but lived in Knoxville for a couple of years. Just goes to show what a small world it is.
For my last night on the island, I ended up moving to a bungalow just off the beach, to share with an Australian girl I met. It was a wooden hut, but only $3!
I semi-adopted a dog while I was there, too. Or, more like he semi-adopted me, as he followed me everywhere. But don't worry, he wasn't rabid!
I am not sure if it was necessarily the island itself that I fell in love with, or just the connections with the people I had.
Either way, I will always remember this special place, and may even go back before I come home!