British backpackers in tears after cobra and ‘2,000’ moths swarm hotel room

The teenagers were faced with a scene like something from a 'horror film' on their first week in Thailand.

Many of us have a holiday horror story, but it’s unlikely to be quite as unsettling as that experienced by two British backpackers on a gap year in Thailand.

Jemma Sayer and Lydia Ramsey-Stewart, both 18, embarked on their adventurous gap year of travel around Asia after finishing sixth form last May.

The teenagers passed through Cambodia and Vietnam without incident, before they encountered a scene they described as being like a “horror film” during their first week in Pai, Thailand, last week.

The pair, who were staying in a jungle bungalow, had decided to open the door and wrap a towel around a small hole which was letting in some moths – accidentally letting in 2,000 moths and a snake.

Sayer, from Ipswich, said: "As we opened the door, this cobra snake was dangling from the top of the door with its mouth open.

"We thought we were going to die, we were petrified. I've never ever been so scared in my entire life.

"It launched towards both of us, it literally launched towards my friend's head. This is when the moths all came in as well, they just swarmed over us.”

Lydia and Jemma react after finding the insects. (Kennedy News)
Lydia Ramsey-Stewart and Jemma Sayer react after finding the insects. (Kennedy News)

Locking themselves in the bathroom, Sayer called the hotel reception, which swiftly sent someone with a baseball bat and headtorch to remove the snake. Sayer claims the snake had lunged at Ramsey-Stewart's head with its mouth open, while the moths “made a nest” in her hair.

Sayer, who posted a video of the moths online, added: "We both screamed, I don't think I've ever screamed so loud. It probably woke everyone up.

"I grabbed my phone and we ran into the bathroom and slammed the door. We locked ourselves in there.

"We were crying our eyes out because we were so scared. I quickly, in a panic, called the hotel reception and said 'please come, there's a massive snake in our room and about 2,000 moths'.

"They came in about 30 seconds. The man came in with this bat and a headtorch, ready to whack the snake. It was like something from a horror film. There were so many comments saying it was like something from Jumanji."

Jemma Sayer (L) and Lydia Ramsey-Stewart. (Kennedy News)
Jemma Sayer (L) and Lydia Ramsey-Stewart had been enjoying a gap year. (Kennedy News)

Lydia believes the snake was just 30cm from her head when they opened the door and the pair said the hotel staff confirmed it was a cobra.

Despite their 'nightmare' experience, it hasn't put Jemma and Lydia off travelling yet, although they did admit they struggled to sleep for the week after.

Sayer said: "Every movement we heard we were like 'what was that?' We were ready to book a flight home, this is our first properly scary story but we live to tell the tale. It hasn't put us off too much.

"We've loved travelling so far, it's been a great experience, apart from that one."

Hotel reception which swiftly sent a man with a baseball bat and headtorch. (Kennedy News)
Hotel reception which swiftly sent a man with a baseball bat and headtorch. (Kennedy News)

You can reduce the number of insect bites that you get by using nets, repellents, clothing and insecticide, the NHS advises.


If your accommodation is not air-conditioned or if you are sleeping outdoors, use insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Check your net for rips and tuck the ends under the mattress.


Insect repellents help to prevent insects from biting you and should contain one of the following ingredients: DEET, Icaradin (Picardin), lemon eucalyptus (PMD) or IR3535. A product with 50% DEET is recommended as a first choice.

You should:

  • Apply insect repellent to all exposed skin not covered by clothing

  • Apply after sunscreen, (use 30 to 50 SPF sunscreen as DEET can make sunscreen less effective)

  • Reapply regularly, especially if mosquitoes are flying close to you or biting you

  • Reapply after swimming, washing, or excessive sweating to maintain effectiveness

  • Apply carefully around the face and eyes, avoiding inhalation

  • Keep away from synthetic clothes or plastics to prevent damage


To protect any exposed skin from insect bites, try to wear clothing with a high neckline, long sleeves, long trouser legs, long skirt or dress and socks.


Insecticides kill insects. For added protection, clothing, footwear, nets, and camping gear can be treated (by washing or spraying) with insecticides such as Permethrin.

Insecticide kits and sprays can be purchased from outdoor and travel suppliers; follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Clothes already pre-treated with insecticides can be bought.

Frequent washing of clothes means the insecticide will stop working as well.