Online Harassment & Cyber Stalking: charged with stalking but it continues

Online Harassment & Cyber Stalking: charged with stalking but it continues

Online Harassment & Cyber Stalking: charged with stalking but it continues

All bloggers love receiving comments.  It’s their life blood.  There’s that thrill that most creative people crave and the buzz when their work is acknowledged or their audience grows.  Creative people NEED to entertain in whatever medium they have chosen to work.  Sadly online harassment and cyber stalking can be an unwelcome side-product of a life online.  And often, despite being charged with stalking the harassment can continue.

I am a blogger and one day when I was checking my new contacts I felt sick to my stomach.  A name from my past had popped up on the screen in front of me.

A man who had been convicted of stalking and harassment and who had been charged with a LIFETIME non-molestation order by a British court and ordered to stay away from me and who was in addition banned from attempting to make any contact with me had signed up to follow my blog.

Online harassment

Now he hadn’t just typed my blog name Scarlet Jones Travels into his browser.  He had specifically signed up to receive my free guide ‘Things to know before you travel’ which meant that he would now be sent an email every time I posted an article.

That’s not simply stalking.  That’s also harassment.

Why would anybody do something like this after being charged with stalking in a court for his crime?  Research comes up with some possible reasons.

  • It could be because he is arrogant and believes himself to be above the law.
  • I have a totally awesome blog and he doesn’t want to miss a single post.
  • Maybe he is a narcissist and has no empathy or consideration for anybody except himself.
  • Perhaps because he is controlling and manipulative and he is determined that he WILL have the last word.
  • He is a bully who wants me to know that he is still watching me and keeping tabs on me.
  • And/or he hates to think that I can cope without him and I am getting on with my life (yes, I was once married to this man for twenty five years!)

Who knows what goes on in a mind like this, but I could go on all day listing possible reasons as to why he thinks he can stick two fingers up at the British judicial system.

Living with the Dominator

Pat Craven has written an absolutely AWESOME book called ‘Living with the Dominator‘ which explains all about emotional abuse far better than I can.  Pat outlines varies character types and the reasons why some people feel the need to bully, control and manipulate.  In my opinion, everybody should read this in order to understand the insidious creeping strangulating problem that is domestic violence.  You may be lucky and not experience an abusive relationship first-hand but one in four women do.

Could you recognise the signs?  We keep them well hidden you know.

Previously this man who signed up to follow my articles had actually taken the trouble to track down some of the people who had commented on my blog and he sent them nasty and inappropriate emails. He had taken the trouble to contact friends and business associates that I have collaborated with and he had advised them that they shouldn’t be working with me.


Because I left him!

What to do about cyber stalking?

I am in the business of blogging.  Blogs are public.

I am not able to remove his name nor am I unable to block him from my ‘follow’ list.  He has to unsubscribe himself.  Fat chance of that! (Refer to the same list of possible reasons above)

The funny thing is that when this man was questioned by the police he claimed that I was the one who continued to make contact with him. Hmmm….NO!!  (Note: women will also stalk and harass.  This is not just a male thing)

Whilst I love to engage with my audience, the delivery of my blog articles is fully automated.  I have more than 10,000 followers across my social media sites but I can’t imagine why my stalker is sitting at home and getting excited every time a blog update from me pops into his inbox. Apparently I have ruined his life so why would he be interested in mine?

Other blogger friends have their trolls who follow them and who give them problems too.  What makes my situation different is that my stalker has served a sentence of two hundred hours community service for his crime of harassment and stalking.  Yet still he continues.

I feel NOTHING for him.

And I don’t care about his life.  I don’t care in the same way that I don’t care what the uncle of Joe Blogs who lives in Kansas is doing.

online harassment - a better life

They say that the best revenge is a good success.  I am not out for revenge (I truly DON’T care) but as my arrogant, narcissistic stalker will no doubt be reading this as may your own arrogant narcissistic stalker, I want to point out that I am getting on with my life.

I am living a nomadic lifestyle and working via my laptop I am supporting other survivors of cyber bullying and emotional abuse – the sort that destroys one’s self esteem.  I help survivors believe in themselves again via the Smash the Pumpkin Project.

  • I will not stop blogging
  • I will not close down my business
  • I will not stop writing

I will live MY life MY way

  • I will continue to inspire and to encourage others
  • I will continue to bring you articles about my travels
  • I will believe in myself and not in the crap that I was fed during the time that I was with this man

Stalking Awareness now has its own campaign week allocated to it in the national social calendar along with Quit Smoking and the National Walk to School Week. Domestic violence and especially emotional abuse has been running as a storyline in the British radio drama, the Archers which has raised awareness and the domestic violence laws in the UK have recently been improved..

There is much more understanding about the effects of coercive control and things are slowly improving in favour of the victim survivor.

We, the survivors, are not the ones who should be adapting our behaviours.  We should not have to change our names, or move home or relocate to a different continent.

We can however take steps to protect ourselves – you could carry a personal alarm – this small one fits in the palm of your hand– and you should always be aware of your surroundings.

Can you identify with the issues in this article?

If you are reading this and you are a rational human being do you think that it is fair to subject a person to unwanted and uninvited attention?

Can’t you accept that no means no?  I don’t love you anymore actually means I DO NOT love you anymore. Or maybe you subscribe to the school of thought that says that women invite rape because of how they are dressed or maybe you think that it’s fun to pull the legs off a daddy-long-legs?

And what does your current partner think of your obsession if you have one?  Are they happy with the situation – or perhaps you have also manipulated them and undermined their self confidence?  Are they aware that you have a criminal record for HARASSMENT?  That should be a red flag in anybody’s book.  Leopards don’t change their spots nor can you teach an old dog new tricks.

  • I started blogging as a means of communicating my situation to friends and family when I was too stressed to tell them what was happening in my life.
  • I started travelling because I had always wanted to experience new cultures and traditions and to know what it was like to feel free.
  • I continue blogging because of you, my audience, you who contact me by email, Facebook, personal message or who enter your comments at the end of my blog articles. You – my reader – who asks me what the chicken buses are like in South America or what fried crickets taste like.
  • I continue travelling because I love the lifestyle and the freedom. I no longer have to think up excuses about why I forgot to record Coronation Street or explain why………..!

(And on a travel related note I can fit most of my life into my Osprey Rucksack which I LOVE and fits me so well I don’t feel restricted or confined in an emergency – I can’t recommend this bag highly enough) – you can find out for yourself at this link

online harassment - getting on with life

If you have been affected by online harassment or any of the issues raised in this article; maybe somebody you know has been charged with stalking and won’t stop, then do drop me an email or comment in the box below.

If you are that person who is carrying out the online harassment and stalking – then stop it right now.  For your own sake and for those around you.  Get a life and be happy.

And if you are a survivor of domestic abuse and as a consequence you have low self-confidence or low self-esteem, I will be able to help you with that.

The Smash the Pumpkin Project is a system of support and empowerment which is especially relevant to anybody who is a survivor of domestic abuse (although not exclusively for survivors of domestic abuse – it’s suitable for just about anybody who likes a challenge).   You can now sign up and trial the first month – a donation will be appreciated if you like and benefit from your experience.

Click on the box below to get more details about the course or contact me by email at if you want further information.

The Smash the Pumpkin Project

Smash the myths; live your dreams

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Inspirational People – Colin’s Story

Inspirational People – Colin’s Story

How would you cope if I were to tell you that you will never walk again?

What if you wake up from a sleep to discover that you have been in a coma for a month?

Read on and tell me, do you think that YOU could deal with this?

This post contains affiliate links and/or references to our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on or make a purchase using these links.  Scarlet Jones Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Colin’s story

This is the true story of a man that I met in the Isaan region of Thailand.  Two years ago Colin was knocked off his motorbike by a car which was going the wrong way down a dual carriageway and which proceeded to turn his life upside down.

I was in the North East of Thailand and doing a work exchange with Colin and his wife Wichien on their small-holding.  I had learnt about them via the Workaway website (which I have used many times over the last few years).  I was very quickly made to feel a part of their family.

Colin who is originally from the north of England married Wichien five years ago.  They set up home together and after working in the remote mountains (that in itself is a fascinating story) they returned to her home village and they built a house.

Inspirational people

Wichien is a school director and Colin quickly established an organic farm, selling fruit and vegetables and fish and eggs from his bantams.  And then on the 4th October in 2013 their lives were turned upside down.

The accident left Colin with the 4th and 5th vertebrae in his back shattered, a broken hip, pelvis and femur.  He had four broken ribs, a torn diaphragm and his lungs collapsed several times during his time in hospital.

You will never walk again

While he was in his month long coma, Wichien fought relentlessly to get him the best surgery; spending all of her time either at the hospital sleeping on the floor underneath his bed or travelling to and from her work at the school.

The doctors pinned Colin’s spine back together with four titanium rods and forty screws, but when he finally woke from the coma they had to give him the news that he was a paraplegic and he would never walk again.

Coping with bad news

I asked Colin what were his initial thoughts on being given this news.

He told me, ‘I wanted to do away with myself.  I can’t live like this.  I would have to get someone to do it for me though because I was unable to lift a hand off the bed. I was now a paraplegic with no feeling from the chest down.  I begged Wichien to kill me. Without Wichien I would certainly wish that I was dead.’

inspirational people

Colin and Wichien

Prior to moving to Thailand Colin had a good job in construction in the UK.  He is a master stonewaller and he is the sort of man that can turn his hand to most things.

He told me that his dreams and aspirations prior to the accident were to get their organic farm up and running.  It was just beginning to take off and he was establishing a steady clientele.  Often Thais spray formaldehyde on their fruit and vegetables in the markets to keep them looking fresh but Colin refused to even use weed killer on his land.

And what of Colin’s aspirations now?

Colin said, ‘It’s a hell of of a thing to be told that you will never walk again.  My hopes for the future?  Not that I will walk again because I know that can never happen.  I hope that we both continue to have the good relationship that we have now.  I have no hopes or plans to go anywhere.  I’m happy at home.  I’m in a wheel chair but I never get bored.’

Inspirational people

dealing with the traffic

In the four weeks that I was living with Colin and Wichien I witnessed his determination to continue with as normal a life as possible.  He has designed a couple of hydraulic hoists to enable him to get in and out of bed and into the car and he is adept at catching escaped chickens and planting, weeding and harvesting his crops.

inspirational people

harvesting the crickets

Much of Colin’s vegetables are in a series of raised concrete rings and beds.  My first task was to construct a cement ramp for his wheelchair so that he could access yet more of the garden himself.

It must have been incredibly frustrating for Colin to watch me slowly mixing the cement and trying to smooth the path with a trowel, but give him his due, he was incredibly patient as he explained everything to me.

He did confess that he sometimes takes his frustration out on his wife and he wondered how she ever puts up with him!  He knows that he has become more bad tempered, but consider for a minute how frustrating it must be to find yourself suddenly in his position.

Colin and Wichien go to their local hospital every three weeks for physiotherapy and a check up.  That in itself is a drama as I saw for myself the time that I tagged along.

Firstly, the porters who used to ignore Colin and leave him in the car for ages now virtually run to help to transfer him onto a trolley.  He have had to resort to bribery/tipping them, despite this being a ke part of their job.

The day that I was there Colin had to hang around in the car park on a trolley for ages because several members of staff had parked their motorbikes at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp leading into the physio department.

Even after the porters went and explained the situation, half of them came out and stood around waiting before they could eventually be persuaded to move their bikes!


Colin told me that in the early days after his accident he actually requested that the surgeons amputate his legs.  They are after all no use to him and he would be able to move himself around a lot easier if he didn’t have them – but they refused to do this.

I asked Colin if he is a glass half full or half empty sort of person.  He didn’t hesitate.  ‘Half full’ he replied.

And then I asked him what his biggest fear is.

He said, ‘Previously – none.  Now – losing Wichien.  If that happened I would kill himself.  I wouldn’t or couldn’t continue’.

Colin’s message

And what is Colin’s message to anybody who is reading this?

‘Make sure that you always wear a helmet on a motorbike – or don’t go on motorbikes on Thai roads. (Colin was wearing a helmet at the time of his accident)

And finally – Is there anything that you (Colin) regret not doing in your life now that many doors are closed to you?  ‘No, nothing’.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER go abroad without buying travel insurance first.  You never know what is around the next corner and the last thing that you want to be doing is relying on family and friends to have the heartache of dealing with an accident from afar.

I use Alpha Travel Insurance who are based in the UK – you can check out their site here and get a quote – Alpha Travel Insurance

Life in the Thai countryside

During my time with Colin and Wichien I worked on the land during the longest drought in that part of Thailand for years.  The temperatures topped 44 degrees every day for a week and there was little respite during the night when I would forgo my mosquito net and drag a mattress out onto the terrace where I could catch whatever breeze was there.

inspirational people

what an idyllic place to sleep

I learnt all about the life cycle of the cricket and how to rear the insects, harvest them and cook them and I learnt how to eat sticky rice with my fingers.

Under Colin’s guidance I learnt how to use an angle grinder and a chisel to remove a bit of old wall and I rebuilt it.  I made friends with the people in the village and I saw scorpions, a snake and a zillion insects.

I learnt so much about the Thai (Isaan) culture and family life from Wichien who cooked every meal from fresh ingredients and not one tree or plant in her garden couldn’t either be eaten , had medicinal properties or couldn’t be made into something.

While this is Colin’s story, it is what it is because of the quiet strength of Wichien.  Educated, intelligent and with a wicked giggle and a beautiful smile, Wichien works tirelessly and with a calm serenity.

She reminded me very much of my maternal grandmother who had more sense in her little finger that many people acquire in a lifetime. Brought up in the countryside she capably caught the scorpions which invaded us after the rain, cooked amazing dishes with spices and herbs and would give alms to the monks when they passed the gate early in the morning.

inspirational people

collecting alms

Live life today. Tomorrow may not be what you expect.

I bring you this story to remind you not to waste your days doing things that you will regret. Embrace your life and try to pack it with the things that you want to do.  It can all change in a heartbeat, no matter how careful you are.

If you want to know more about how you can make the most of your day to day life and embrace new challenges, click here and learn more about The Smash the Pumpkin Project.

Ayutthaya or Sukhothai? Which is the best?

Ayutthaya or Sukhothai? Which is the best?

Ayutthaya or Sukhothai: the ancient Siamese cities:  which one is the best?

This article was originally published in January 2016 has been updated with new information.  It also contains affiliate links and/or references to our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on or make a purchase using these links

Scarlet Jones Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

If you don’t have time to visit both of the ancient Siamese cities of Sukhothai or Ayutthaya this article may help you to decide which one is the best or you could get a copy of the Lonely Planet Guidebook for Thailand (click here for the latest version).  Both Ayutthaya and Sukhothai lie to the north of Bangkok, each was once the capital city and both are brimming with ruins.

Sukhothai is older than Ayutthaya and was once the original capital city of Siam (the original name of Thailand).  The city was abandoned and the population were forcibly relocated south to Ayutthaya in 1583 after a battle, a Burmese invasion and an earthquake.  I visited them in reverse order as I made my way north up through Thailand.


Ayutthaya – A UNESCO Listed Cultural Heritage Site


The city of Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand for 417 years (after Sukhothai) and before the political power was transferred to Bangkok and it sprawls out, scattered with ancient ruins and temples.  The modern buildings in the town have been built right up to the edges of the rusty red bricks and the collapsed spires of the ancient city and an enormous central area is given over to grassy parkland that is peppered with relics.

Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 when the Thais were forced south from their previous capital in Sukhothai and it lasted as the capital until 1767 when the Burmese invaded and destroyed much of it. In the 17th century it ranked in the Top 16 cities in the world (how have I never heard of it before now?) and it was renowned as a centre of commercial prosperity, international trade and harmony; however what I find astounding is that 1 million people lived there at the height of its power.

It is now quite rightly listed as a UNESCO Listed Cultural Heritage Site and, I repeat, how on earth had I never heard of it before? The old part of the city is bordered by 3 rivers which almost form an island and the monuments and the ruins lie a deceptively large distance apart.  It’s a good idea to hire a bicycle or to tackle the sights over several days in a series of bite-sized chunks, but there’s plenty to see and to do here apart from the old temples.

Click here to compare the current grandeur of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand to the ancient cities.


Ayutthaya or Sukhothai?

What did I see and do in Ayutthaya?

I hired a bike from my Ayutthaya hostel and my first port of call was to the very well laid out Ayutthaya Tourism Centre.  Here I collected a decent map and where I read the informative display boards that explained about the history, the geography, the art and the culture of the city.  I learnt about how and why Ayutthaya deserves its place as a UNESCO Listed Cultural Heritage Site and I also got information on some traditional homestays although sadly I didn’t have enough time to stay in any of them.

Wat Ratchaburana

This was one of the largest complexes inside the park and I felt like Indiana Jones as I climbed up into one of the towers – and then clambered down inside narrow stone steps to the bottom.  I held my breath as it fleetingly crossed my mind that if someone chose to close the hatch at the top I could be there forever until I had turned into nothing but dust – but seeing the ancient murals on a tiny patch of ceiling was worth the slight trauma, as was the special feeling of having the whole place to myself.

Wat Mahathat

Among the ruins of this particular temple is the much photographed head that was caught up in the roots of tree a long time ago and is now bound there forever.  I actually hunted around for ages until I gave in and I asked somebody who laughed and said ‘just find the crowd’.  And I turned a corner and there was a huddle of people all jostling for the best picture of it.  As a mark of respect you should try to avoid standing over a Buddha image so everybody was squatting to get their photos taken with the stone head.

Buddha head in Ayutthaya

Elephant rides

There is a well trampled route – sadly along the side of the main highway – where weary looking elephants ferry tourists along in the dusty heat.  I have to confess to once riding an elephant in India, although I would never do that now that I am aware of the damage that it can do to these huge animals. The training methods are usually based on cruelty and fear – but not withstanding that, it seems so wrong to walk animals along hard pavements with lorries and cars just inches from them and the pollution pumping out, not to mention the sharp hooks that get stuck into their heads by some of the mahoots.

You really shouldn’t buy into this depressing part of the tourist trade; but for now, until more tourists boycott them the elephants are a part of the Ayutthaya tourist scene.

Riding elephants in Ayutthaya

 River Trip

Talking to Annika and Robin from the UK who were staying at my Ayutthaya hostel I learned about the river trip and this was something that I was really pleased to do.  Early one evening a small group of us were ferried around the rivers and canal systems that circle the old city of Ayutthaya for a couple of hours.  This trip included short stops at three very impressive sights.

We visited

  • Wat Phananchoeng with the most massive golden Buddha ever
  • Wat Phuttaisawan with its weird cockerel statues and
  • Wat Chai Watthanaram where we wandered among the ruins as the setting sun showed off dark silhouettes of half broken spires and domes against the night sky
sunset view from the river at Ayutthaya

The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum

This museum had some interesting pieces in it with more Buddha images than you could shake a stick at – but the best bits were the gold and jewelled treasures in the special rooms upstairs.  There was an impressively huge bronze Buddha head and many intricate wooden carvings as well as loads of other stuff, although disappointingly there wasn’t much information in any language other than Thai.

The Toy Museum

Now this museum was just bizarre.  It had a huge collection of toys BUT some would be hard pressed to be called toys. They were grouped together in dusty clusters with, as far as I could see, no thought given to themes or historic relevance. There were cabinets full of plastic pieces such as you might get with a fast food burger meal, and just not one example of each, but hundreds.  There was a definite robot theme going on and some very battered dolls, as well as knives (toys?) pictures and, well, just strange stuff.  It was odd but for entertainment and giggle value alone it was well worth the admission price. You can still get something like these classic robots on Amazon – click here for some examples if you want to bring back some distant childhood memories!

robots in the toy museum at Ayutthaya

The Japanese Village

Ayutthaya was a thriving port and back in the days when it was the capital city the people of Ayutthaya welcomed traders of all nationalities – although they were not permitted to settle inside the old town walls.  Several villages were established outside the city perimeter – among them the Japanese, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch and the French.  I visited the Japanese Village which had a small information centre and a riverside garden but to be honest, not much else, although I was told that the garden is still trying to recover following devastating floods a couple of years ago.


Ayutthaya lies to the north of Bangkok and it was once one of the world’s most prosperous cities.  It ranked in the Top 16 Cities of the World in the 17th century when it contained 3 palaces and many other royal buildings and important temples.

I travelled the five hours to Ayutthaya by bus from the western city of Kanchanaburi (read that article here): home to the famous bridge (over the River Kwai), the Erewan waterfalls and Hellfire Pass. Ayutthaya was the only city in Thailand where I was warned not to go out alone after dark – not because of robbers but because of the packs of feral dogs.  Lying comatose during the heat of the day, these sleepy looking mongrels wake up and prowl the streets at night.  Like something out of a futuristic movie they follow you, circle around you and generally freak you out.  They have been known to attack people when the streets are deserted, and later lying in bed you hear the packs howl and call to each other like wolves. These dogs are no reason not to go to Ayutthaya though – all in all, it is a great city full of history and it gives you more than a glimpse into a past life.


I took the five hour bus from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai  and I spent a couple of nights here so that I could visit the city and compare it to Ayutthaya. I stayed on the outskirts of the modern town in a tiny cell-like room in a little guesthouse which had nothing much going for it apart from having a real wood fired Italian pizza oven in the garden, where the Russian owner made excellent pizzas and his Thai wife made superb pasta dishes and coconut ice cream.

Sukhothai is older than Ayutthaya and unlike Ayutthaya which has the old and the modern side by side, in Sukhothai the older ruins stand totally separate and are a 20 minute songthaew ride (open sided truck with bench seats in the back) along the highway. It was perfectly safe to do this trio by myself and once at the gates to the heritage area I picked up my map, hired a bicycle and I paid my entrance fee into the main site.

Sukhothai vs Ayutthaya - how can you choose?

There are 5 mains sites in the historical park – the central site, and areas ringing it to the north, south, east and the west where each commands its own entrance fee.  The major ruins are clustered in the centre and were once palaces, temples, and administration centres when Sukhothai was at the hub of the country. The ruins bear a similarity but are different to those in the southern capital at Ayutthaya; these are from an older era, but it is the location which sets them apart. Huge grassy fields are dotted with copses of trees around lakes and streams.

You can see any number of stone elephants, gigantic Buddhas and chedis and stupas. The pace is unhurried as people cycle around the paths and wander among the ruins, scooters buzz around and the minivans ferry coach loads of day trippers, but there is space for everyone and as the temperature climbed and the insects zizzed and fizzed, more and more people chose to flop under one of the shady trees and rest awhile.

elephants at Sukhothai?

I visited three of the five sites at Sukhothai – the central, the north and the west and by then I was done – I was all ruined out.  I collapsed under a parasol drinking an icy cold drink and watching an artist paint a Buddha onto canvas.  I bought one of her pictures as a memento of the region and the ruins before wearily heading back to my hostel.  It was extremely hot and dusty in Sukhothai and while there is plenty to keep you busy for a whole day or even longer in the historic area, I was done.

Ayutthaya or Sukhothai? Both are amazing

Cycling Sukhotha

On my second day in Sukhothai I joined a bicycle tour of the surrounding countryside, where the air was slightly fresher and I learnt about rural life in central Thailand. Our tour, operated by Cycling Sukhothai link here which promotes eco-tourism was led by Mem who led took 8 of us first to a local market and then to:

  • A mushroom farm
  • A (rice) whisky farm
  • A cock breeding/fighting home
  • A fish smoking factory
  • An ice cream maker
  • A frog farm
  • A furniture factory
  • A basket weaver
cycling around Sukhothai

We cycled from one rural enterprise to the next along dusty lanes and by canals and paddy fields where people were planting out the bright emerald green shoots.  They were ankle deep in water and wore conical straw hats and indigo shirts and oxen and buffalo pulled their ploughs.  We tasted the ice cream and the whisky and we watched a proud owner bathing and massaging his champion fighting cockerel.

We passed mums swinging their babies in cribs made from reeds that hung from the roofs of their porches and when I got into my tuktuk to go back to my hostel, the driver suddenly jumped off and ran into the bushes and then came back with a big honeycomb with some very angry bees buzzing around it.  I nervously shared the tuktuk with his oozing gold treasure complete with the still angry insects before collecting my rucksack from my hostel and hot-footing it to the bus station for Chiang Mai and the north.


Sukhothai bicycle tour

Ayutthaya vs Sukhothai

If you have time, I would certainly recommned that you factor in both cities on your trips especially if you are interested in history; although after a while you may suffer a little bit from ruin overload.

  • Ayutthaya has a much livelier feeling and there is a lot more to see and to do apart from visiting the historical parks but wandering around the ancient Sukhothai city gives you a chance to recharge your batteries.
  • Bus Ayutthaya to Sukhothai and enjoy the scenic countryside on the five hour journey
  • The climate is similar in both cities and both have more than their fair share of temples and glittery gold.
  • Ayutthaya has backpackers hostels and accommodation in dormitories (which I personally prefer) but when I visited Sukhothai only had guest houses (more expensive for the solo traveller and less opportunity to meet people)

Click below for the up to date prices and choices for the Ayutthaya hostels:

And finally – don’t forget to take out travel insurance.  I use Alpha Travel Insurance which works for me.  Check out their latest prices here

visiting the Buddha's head in Ayutthaya
Enjoying Ayutthaya with new friends
Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An.  I had heard mixed reviews about this city in Vietnam.  It seemed that everybody loved it but many people didn’t like its Disneyfied atmosphere: so I went to find out for myself what the truth was about Hoi An and what there was to do there.

This is what I discovered:

Love is in the air.  Everywhere!

Hoi An Love is in the air

Love is in the air

Hoi An is a totally photogenic town and it has marketed itself well.  It attracts hordes of newly-weds on their honeymoon and couples who want to pose for their wedding albums. Dodging the tripods and the professional photographers can prove quite difficult.  Shop keepers are more than happy for lovers to pose in exchange for a small fee in front of their colourful lanterns and in some places it can be difficult to walk along the canal bank without wandering into somebody’s photo shoot.

Hoi An reflections in the canal at night

Hoi An reflections in the canal


Must know:

  • In Hoi An the tourism is orchestrated and managed at a highly professional level.
  • There will be a zillion people crowding onto the bridges for the best photo shot.
  • They will use elbows to move in front of you!
  • The food and drink prices are inflated
  • And yes, the touts will hassle you on every corner….

…..but after the brashness of Hue and Danang I have to admit that I did like Hoi An.

Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

My friend Gosia and I arrived on the local bus from Danang without accommodation and we wandered around the streets to find the best hostel for our money.  As it was the shoulder season there was plenty of choices and we could bargain for a discount.  We soon found a reasonably priced hostel and Gosia and I quickly dumped our bags and went out to explore and find out what we could do in Hoi An.

If you want to check your accommodation in advance, you can search for hostels here with or you can look for hotels and other accommodation with  I use both sites when I am travelling – even if I don’t book in advance.

Hoi An - a pretty UNESCO listed town

Hoi An – a pretty UNESCO listed town

Hoi An old town

The heart of Hoi An as far as visitors will be concerned is the compact old town area which is focused around the canal.

Hoi An gained special importance in the 15th century when it grew and thrived as one of the major South East Asia trading ports.  You will find a mixture of authentic housing styles and luckily the authorities have recognised the attraction of these.  Unlike in much of Vietnam where the old is getting ripped out at speed, here in Hoi An it is being repaired and repainted.

Hoi An canal

Hoi An canal

The brightly painted houses are festooned with flowers and in the evening the trademark silk lanterns light the streets with warm colourful glows and attract hordes of people like bees around a honeypot.

Ancient temples offer tantalising glimpses into a mysterious past and you can jostle for a picture on the old wooden Japanese covered bridge (for a price).  You can browse among the hundreds of tiny shops which sell artisan products and where you will find a whole host of things made out of silk and made-in-a-day clothes or you can relax and sip mojitos on a roof terrace overlooking the canal.

One of the best things that Hoi An has done has been to ban motor vehicles from the old town for much of the daytime and for all of the evening.  Whilst the streets are packed with visiors at least you don’t have the eye-watering pollution and traffic fumes that plague the other towns in Vietnam and while the noise levels are intense, they are at least not the exhaust drones of cars and lorries.

Get your Lonely Planet guide here and discover where you can avoid the crowds and the pollution in Vietnam

One of the downsides is that you have to purchase a book of tourist tickets in order to gain access to the Japanese Bridge and to many of the temples and places of interest.  I only had time to visit one or two of the attractions but it wasn’t possible to pay at the individual sites.  Why not offer the book at a discounted rate?  I would willingly have paid slightly over the odds to see the one or two choice places that appealed ot me.

Hoi An Temple

Hoi An Temple


Beware of this trick

The touts do a pretty good job of leading you to think that you need to purchase a ticket to simply enter the old town area. This is NOT true.  The book of tickets will give you access to many of the temples and the Japanese Covered Bridge but ANYBODY is free to wander around the old town area without a ticket.  We saw a lot of tourists hesitantly parting with their cash, believing that they had to do this so that they could enter the narrow streets.

Hoi An Japanese covered bridge

The Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An

The old town of Hoi An is a gem and whilst outside of the UNESCO listed district is a new town; it’s still worth a wander around.  Here life goes on as normal away from the tourists.  Coffee shops and markets are filled with the local Vietnamese residents. Small family run businesses trade as they have done for years and you can find the best Banh Mi stalls in Vietnam.

A long straight road leads you away from the city to one of the beaches.  I hired a bicycle and I cycled along this road one morning whilst heavy lorries honked and swerved around me as I tinkled my bell and I in turn swerved around clusters of school children on their bikes and I avoided herds of cows that were being led through the traffic.

Ho An’s Beach

Once away from the town, the terrifying road thankfully quietened down and I pedalled alongside the vegetable garden area of this region.  Irrigated fields stretch for miles, where many of Vietnam’s green vegetables were growing and people worked in the fields shaded from the sun in their conical hats.  The road became dustier and sandier and eventually I reached the beach.

Hoi An Beach

Hoi An Beach

After the tourist bubble of Hoi An old town the beach was a welcome relief.  Yes, it was busy and yes, it was lined with beach bars, but the overwhelming noise level that had accompanied everything that I had done in Vietnam to date was toned right down.

I treated myself to a cocktail and I settled down on a sun-bed on the sand.  I watched the fishermen surfing the waves in their little bouncy round coracles and I relaxed.  It was lovely to escape the chaos that was all I knew of Vietnam to date.

I would soon discover the interior beauty of Vietnam away from the tourists, but for now, with my cocktail, my book and my thoughts I was very happy.

Things to do in Hoi An - visit the beach

Things to do in Hoi An; visit the beach

Night time in Hoi An

The old town is always busy but it REALLY comes alive at night.  The silk lanterns swing in the breeze, glowing with warm, colourful lights and the street food market sets up on the canal side.  The air is filled with the smell of barbequed food and stir fried noodles and you will be spoilt for choice with places to eat.

For me, the best place was down by the canal where among the tiny little plastic tables, you squat on a low stool and eat traditional dishes from the region while ladies run to and fro encouraging you to eat more.  Like everything else in Hoi An, this is street food manufactured and repackaged for the masses but it was fun, tasty and much cheaper than the restaurants.

Hoi An at night

Hoi An at night

When you are eating street food or in a smaller cafe in Vietnam it is often normal to simply toss your chewed bones, serviettes and rubbish under your table as you eat (obviously check what the local people are doing first!)

If you are lucky there will be a small bin or a bucket there for the bits, but more often than not the debris simply collects around your ankles until the evening winds down and the street traders sweep everything away.  To begin with, it felt quite naughty to throw my chicken bones onto the floor, but after a while, like everything else, it soon becomes the norm.

I met up with my friend and fellow blogger Donna Wanderlust from Haute Culture Fashion and together we hired one of the totally over-the-top tourist boats that silently glide around the canal at night.  Surrounded by young couples who were gazing deeply into each other’s eyes, Donna and myself roared with laughter as our lady pushed us around on the water in the dark with her long pole and she encouraged us to launch the little paper and candle boat that we had bought.  She told is that this would bring us good luck and enduring love (this concept is similar to the Loy Krathong festival in Thailand).

I also met Nam in Hoi An and a few days later I did finally escape from the cacophony of noise when I took a motorbike through the Central Highlands. Read about that trip here.

Hoi An lanterns

Donna Wanderlust poses with the laterns

Would I return to Hoi An?

Yes I would return.

I didn’t have time to go to the water puppet theatre (although I did catch a show in Saigon) and I didn’t have time to explore some of the Chinese and Buddhist temples and shrines in the town, but I would definitely return to Hoi An if I go back to Vietnam.

Hoi An - early morning

Hoi An – early morning

Whilst most things in the town are overpriced, you can buy ‘fresh’ beer for about 30 pence a pint, silk sleeping bag liners for $5 and you can drink mojitos as you watch the sunset from a roof terrace above the canal.

If you can’t get to Hoi An and you fancy one of the silk sleep sacks (great for travelling) you can get one at this link: Silk sleep sack

You WILL get pestered by touts (be firm but polite if you don’t want to buy), you could pay over the odds for bicycle hire, a hotel room, food and tours (bargain hard), but you will get the most beautiful photo opportunities and you will get a glimpse into another era (albeit freshly painted) from the past.

Read more

If you have enjoyed this article and you would like to know more about my adventures in South East Asia, click here for more articles.

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Things to do in Hoi An

Things to do in Hoi An

*Banh Mi – a French style baguette stuffed with a variety of things.  You can choose from belly pork, pate, grilled chicken, fish or meatballs, cucumber, cilantro, onions and then there are the salsas.  This very basic meal is food heaven.

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Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico – Debbie’s story

Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico – Debbie’s story

Swimming with whale sharks could be on my bucket list – if I wasn’t so afraid of water – so when my friend Debbie told me that this was one of her biggest dreams I excitedly followed her plans.

I want to share her story with you and hopefully inspire you to chase the one thing that you have always wanted to do.  Put aside the excuses and start the ball rolling today – and please do comment at the bottom of this post and tell us your one big dream. (Click on the links in the text to find out more)


Inspirational people – Debbie’s story


  1. You have just returned from a solo trip to Mexico. Why did you choose to go there? 

I went to Mexico because I’ve always dreamed of swimming with whale sharks, and at this time of the year (July) there are huge numbers off the coast of the Mayan peninsular.  I went for three weeks and most of my trip was based around the water and snorkelling with the wildlife.  You don’t have to get in the water either.  I took a catamaran trip and I kayaked too. Mexico and Belize have the second largest reef in the world off their coastline, and I also crossed over the border and visited Belize for a couple of days.  However there is more to Mexico than water sports.  There is lots of history, ruins and temples – I only went to a small part – Mexico is vast.



  1. Why did you go solo? 

Partly because nobody was free to come with me and swimming with the whale sharks was something that I really wanted to do.  In the past I would never have dreamed of travelling solo, not until I went travelling with yourself last year (we backpacked together for 7 weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand), and then I realised that when you stay in hostels you are never really travelling alone.

Travelling with you (and doing your confidence building course before hand) made me more knowledgeable about this type of travel (solo).  With knowledge comes confidence and therefore I was confident enough to book this trip solo to a country that is in fact reasonably dangerous. 


  1. Did you ever feel that you were in danger? 

There was one episode – when the police were after someone.  There was a manhunt for somebody from one of the drug cartels who had killed a police officer.  I heard the gunshots whilst I was sitting outside a restaurant drinking the first of my 2-for-1 margaritas.  The staff immediately ushered us all inside the building and quickly fixed bars across all of the windows to prevent us from entering.

Were you scared? 

I watched the police in the street run past armed to the hilt.  Personally I wasn’t frightened although there were people running into the restaurant for sanctuary and many of them were scared and crying.  They were hiding behind the pillars.  In true British style I ordered my second margarita and waited it out.  The only time that I felt nervous was walking back to my hostel through streets that had been locked down and felt like a warzone.  


  1. Why did you choose to stay in a hostel rather than a hotel or an apartment? 

Well as I mentioned above, when you stay in a hostel you are never actually travelling alone.  It’s altogether a more friendly experience.  You can cook and eat with other guests, travel together and share experiences.  I would never want to stay in a hotel from choice.  I don’t want the restrictions of a hotel (unless it’s for a romantic break!). For more tips on staying in hostels click here


  1. Did you ever feel lonely? 

One day I received bad news from home.  I had just arrived at a deserted hostel – not even the owners were there – so I jumped straight on a bus to where the life was and got chatting to the waiter in the coffee shop, but otherwise, no. 

If you are not ready to take a trip like this solo, why not take a look at what Explore have to offer?  I have travelled 4 times with them and I would highly rate them – Scarlet Jones

  1. How do you think you would have coped if you had got sick? 

I can speak the (Spanish) language which is one major hurdle overcome and I had good travel insurance.  I felt quite confident that I would be fine if I were to get sick.

I use Alpha Travel Insurance.  Get your competitive travel insurance quote here – Scarlet Jones

  1. What were the top highlights of your trip? 

Swimming with whale sharks!  I wasn’t disappointed at all, however, all of the excursions that I did were all great and also the best bit was making new friends.  I have been invited to visit a family in Colombia that I met on my catamaran trip and also to Mexico City by a flight attendant!

swimming with whale sharks

swimming with whale sharks – courtesey of

  1. And the worst? 

After a six hour hot and dusty bus journey I arrived at my next hostel to check in.  There was nobody around, just a faded handwritten notice on the door directing visitors to the run-down little house next door.  There I found a friendly family who had a key and got me into the hostel.  They were very helpful but it turned out that the owners were away and I was the only person (guest or staff) rattling around in the place.  This coincided with me receiving my bad news from home.  However, despite this, my spirits were lifted when the grandfather of the family next door invited me to sleep in one of their hammocks with his family if I didn’t want to be alone in the hostel.  I declined but the thought was there.


Swimming with whale sharks


  1. Tell me about your experience of swimming with whale sharks 

I had been very thorough with my research before I booked my day out and I wasn’t disappointed.  I chose to go swimming with whale sharks with the Whale Shark Encounter from Cancun who do a lot of conservation work.  We were one of the first boats to arrive at the expected whale shark site and because of that I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the water with these magnificent fish.

The experience was wonderful – to swim next to a 30 metre long creature, looking into its enormous mouth, seeing its gills and its eyes.  You know they are watching you but they are beautiful gentle creatures.  I would do it all again


  1. What next? 

I am thinking about going to see blue whales, swimming with dolphins in the wild and I would love to do a 3 day trek and boat trip to see orang utangs in the wild in Borneo.  By visiting these animals in their natural habitat in an unobtrusive way with responsible companies and guides can help to provide an income for local people who find it in their interest to protect the environment and the species.  For instance, in the case of Whale Shark Encounter that I used in Mexico, all employees are from the local community and the company has the National Geographic Snorkel’s Certificate.

  1. What advice would you give to anybody who wants to travel but who has friends that either don’t want to go where you want to go and or can’t get the time off work 

I would say, just do it. Research it, stay in hostels but don’t be too regimented with your plans.  I literally only had the first few days booked and planned and I made arrangements as I went.  As long as you have internet access and a smart phone it’s all so simple.

I would also recommend that anybody who is nervous about travelling solo for the first time that they take a course.  I initially followed the Smash the Pumpkin Project and then later, I joined you (Jane at Scarlet Jones Travels) on a trip through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, both of which taught me a lot.

These things gave me the confidence to travel solo and made me realise that I didn’t need to wait around for friends to be free to travel with me.


  1. What saying or mantra resonates the most with you? 

As I was racing across JFK Airport in New York to make my onward connection to Mexico I saw this sign.  I stopped briefly to take a picture but it really struck a chord.

‘Live the international life.  We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.’

inspirational quote

Inspirational quote from JFK


  1. I know that you had problems as a result of flight delays. How did you cope with that?  What were your initial feelings and was it as bad as you had feared? 

I was a little bit disappointed as I had my tour to go swimming with whale sharks booked for the following day and I wanted to be organised and relaxed for that.  I did everything in my power to catch the connecting flight but I missed it by minutes (due to delays with the first flight).  As I arrived at the gate, staff came out to tell me that they were sorry but the gate had been closed and I had missed the plane, however they immediately directed me to a help desk who organised a hotel and a flight the following morning.

I was nervous but I decided that it was just another experience and part of my travels.  I got to spend a night in New York where I met some very friendly people including a man who bought me a cheesecake!  I was apprehensive but I knew that the airport staff would fix things so I relaxed and told myself to chill.  I also got chatting to an air steward who sat with me on my first flight and explained the layout of JFK and my options should I fail to make the connection – we are still in contact via email, and he invited me to stay with his family in Mexico City.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t missed my plane.

I use Skyscanner to search for and book all of my flights – Scarlet Jones


  1. Would you return to Mexico

Yes I would and I would recommend Mexico even if you are not into water sports.  I would love to visit Mexico City, the north and the Pacific coast and I would certainly love to go swimming with whale sharks again. 


  1. And to sum up – do you have any tips for would-be solo travellers? 

If you are in Mexico and you plan to hop over to another country and back, be careful with the taxes that you might be asked to pay when you leave and enter across the border.  For instance, if you are due to leave by air at a later date you should not have to pay taxes to Mexico if you pop over to Belize by boat (you will still have to pay Belize customs).  I researched this topic from other travel blogs whilst on the way to the border and I subsequently held my ground and (correctly) declined to pay the requested taxes when leaving Mexico. I also managed to get a refund for an Irish couple at the border who had been unaware of this rule and had initially paid up without questioning. 

If you are inspired by Debbie’s story and you would like to travel alone but you are still a bit nervous why not travel with me later this year  – I am going to Myanmar Singapore and Malaysia

Would you travel solo and take a trip like this?  If not, drop me a line below in the comments and let me know what is stopping you – or alternatively tell us about your own experiences when you chased your dream


 Useful Links and information:

Travel Insurance from Alpha Travel Insurance

The Smash the Pumpkin Project – build your confidence and self belief 

Are you too old to stay in hostels?

Hotel tips: and how NOT to behave in a hostel

Getting sick while travelling in S E Asia

Travel with me in Malaysia later this year

Small group adventure holidays with Explore

Guide books to anywhere from Lonely Planet

Find a place to stay with Agoda

Search and book your flights with Skyscanner

Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun –

Scarlet Jones Travels contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions are akin to you buying me a cup of coffee and keeping me on the road so that I can continue to bring you articles and information. Thanks for reading!


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