Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers

Once they spot the baby there’s no escape.

They work themselves up from gasps and oohs and titters, gradually building the courage to creep forward. Soon they are crowding me, reaching out to squeezing cheeks and fat little baby legs. And then they strike. They smile at the baby. They hold out their hands. She smiles and they scoop her up, covering her in nose-kisses*.

Darling Man thinks this is normal behaviour. He scoffed at my early nervousness, then giggled in disbelief when I told him that people have been known to steal babies in Western countries.

“Naw,” he said, dismissively. “Vietnamese people just love babies.”

It still takes me by surprise, this Asian baby-love. I feel it less in Singapore but it’s still here. In Vietnam, babies are revered. In Singapore, in the right circumstances, they are enjoyed like a sneaky treat.

When I was at university I worked as a waitress at a family restaurant. Kids were a pain in the butt. They whined and complained, spilled their softdrink and dropped their chips on the floor. Sometimes they ran around shouting. Babies could be ignored if they weren’t screaming. Mothers were given distainful looks.

Later I traveled for work and I encountered kids again. At airports, where mothers and their offspring were treated like putrid liquid leaking from a bag of four-day-old garbage. The sight of an infant would cause the nostrils of non-encumbered passengers and airline staff to flare and mouths to pucker into the shape of a cat’s bum. I would emit a deep internal sigh if I was seated next to a child. (Although I usually had a great time clowning around with them.)

That’s the kind of attitude I expected once I became a breeder. As well as giving up my carefree life, I was expecting to be shunned by most of society. I feel helpless in the face of this Asian baby devotion. Sure, I think she’s wonderful, but that’s my job.

Our beautiful bundle is a seasoned traveler, taking her first international flight at nine weeks old. I was very stressed about the flight, especially after the Vietnamese embassy lost our passports, which meant we had to delay our flight, which meant we were traveling without Darling Man who had to leave Australia before his visa expired.

Miss M's first flight

But the flight went well. The baby slept for five hours, her longest-ever stretch. She probably would have slept longer but I woke her up, just to check there was nothing wrong. Then the airline lost some of our luggage, leaving me with one change of clothes in a country where I can barely fit my arm into the waistband of a pair of “big size” jeans.

Since then we’ve done a fair bit of zipping around with the bundle. Vietnam to Singapore at six months. Back to Vietnam for her first birthday. A weekend away in Indonesia. Back to Vietnam for a wedding.

And in every location — the baby snatchers.

Mobbed on Vietnam's Con Dao Island

The king of the baby snatchers lurks at our local pub. Robert, the pub manager, is such a devoted fan of Miss M that he will chase us down the street to snatch the baby and then take her inside to smile at his staff. He’s so disappointed when he sees me marching past without Miss M. “I have to go to work,” I tell him. “Bring her tonight,” he says. Sometimes we do. We just stroll down the road, walk into the pub, hand over the baby for a while, then take her home again.

Robert, king of the baby snatchers

There’s another set of snatchers further down the road, at the chicken rice restaurant. My presence, alone, breaks the hearts of the staff who loiter on the footpath waiting for customers. A family outing that takes us past their restaurant, not to their restaurant, nearly kills them.

In Vietnam, the biggest baby snatchers are waitresses. They crowd around discussing the cuteness of the baby, the length of her eyelashes. If they spot her dimples, they nearly start screaming. They hoist her up and carry her about the restaurant as if she’s a religious relic. Upstairs to show the other staff. Next door to show off to their friends. Her smiles are greeted with roars of approval, as if Vietnam has just scored a goal in a SEA Cup match.

Those are the positives of living and traveling in Asia with a baby. There’s a whole new world of interaction. It’s not terribly deep or meaningful, and it really does make me feel like I’m just a manager of a rock star.

The downside of traveling with a baby is that your time is no longer your own. The baby decides when you wake up. You can’t sleep until she finally drops. Babies need constant attention and outings require a lot of planning. If you’re a worrier like me, it’s even stressful when they’re asleep.

But being a new parent is relentless wherever you are. Traveling alone has its pros and cons, traveling as a couple has its pros and cons. I’m glad I’ve done solo travel and couple travel before taking on with-a-baby travel. Darling Man and I know how airports work. We are old hands at budget airlines. We’re used to planning trips, packing and waiting around. We don’t always know how the  baby will react to these things but so far she’s been a pro.

The most important part of traveling with a baby is to be prepared. Take an extra bottle, extra nappies, medicine, dummies, wipes, a change of clothes and toys. (We forgot toys for one international flight. The trip out was bearable because the air hostesses were lovely. On the trip back, the dragon-lady air hostesses made the entire two hours in the air a nightmare.)

My advice — DON’T listen to your husband when he puts on his “what a waste of money” scowl when you discover a baby sitting service. Open your wallet and get the damn sitter. Catch up on sleep. Be a couple again.

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This post is part of a group writing project by family travel bloggers.

Check out these related posts for the low-down of traveling with kids of all ages:

Take Your Child to Work by Globetrotting Mama

The Highs and Lows of Traveling with a Teen and a Tween by Wander Mom

The Age of Perfection by Around the World in Easy Ways

Traveling With Children – Which One To Leave Home? by Snaps and Blabs

What’s it Like to Travel with a 3 Year Old Girl by Tripping Mom

Travelling with Two Children Under 6 – Insanity or a Great Idea? by Our Travel Lifestyle

We Love Traveling With Our Daughter by Wandering Educators

Travels With a Ten-Year-Old by Travels With a Nine-Year-Old

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Traveling Around the World With a 5-Year-Old by Rider By My Side

The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole by Almost Fearless

Traveling With Your Kids – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly by Eastside Curry

The World is Our Playground by Got Passport

Which is the Best Age for Travel? by Family On Bikes

Disclaimer: I am not sure all babies recieve this type of attention when traveling through Asia. It’s possible that our baby really is the cutest baby in the world with special powers that turn otherwise normal people into baby snatchers.

* Noses kisses are not unique to Vietnam but that’s where I first experienced them. Instead of planting a kiss with the lips, noses are squashed against the skin. An inhalation creates a vacuum inside the nose, which makes a strange kissy-sniffy kind of noise when the nose is lifted away slightly. It’s not as gross as it sounds and it’s difficult for Westerners to do because our nose cartlige is too hard.

3 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, had a baby, went back to work and then decided to drop out again. Blogging from Ho Chi Minh City at the moment. With a new baby!

30 Comments

  1. [...] Barbara: http://www.thedropoutdiaries.com/2011/04/attack-of-the-asian-baby-snatchers/ [...]

  2. [...] Travel Lifestyle: The Best Age to Travel with Young Kids? The Dropout Diaries Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers Almost Fearless The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole Wandermom The Highs and Lows of Travelling with [...]

  3. [...] The age of perfection by aroundtheworldineasyways.com [...]

  4. [...] Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers [...]

  5. what a HOOT! i love this article. and the baby snatchers? i love all that love, around babies!
    wandering educators recently posted..Visiting Paris

  6. Ok, I am so glad you wrote about this, because we have been dealing with this since we left. At first the girls were shocked at being grabbed in the middle of the street and plunged in the middle of a giggling girls crowd for a picture. Now, they are professionals and even have the set of smiles ready.
    I was told to watch out for Thailand and India, but after reading this I am giving up hope of living in peace until we leave Asia.
    The one that blabs a lot recently posted..Traveling with children – which one to leave home

    • The Dropout says:

      I prefer the baby-snatching to being ignored. I can’t wait to take the baby home to Asia. Only two days left on our Australian expedition, then we’ll be back in baby-loving Asia!

  7. [...] Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers [...]

  8. C says:

    It’s very much an Asian thing. Indians, Singaporeans, Thai…they love them some babies.

    I was surprised by your comments about Singapore. We’ve lived there for a year now, and my 2.5 year old is always getting her photo taken, being picked up (when she lets them) given hugs, and otherwise doted upon by Aunties and Uncles left and right.

    We’re in the US for a visit and I’ve grown so accustomed to that warmth that people seem downright rude in their ignoring of Elanor here (although as an American I know it’s more about fear of being seen as a potential pedophile than anything).
    C recently posted..Being Sick Sucks…but E is healthy

    • The Dropout says:

      I’m in Australia now and I’m getting the same feeling. We still get friendly smiles and lovely compliments but its not from everyone — how rude!
      The Singapore baby-love isn’t as intense as the Vietnamese baby-love. Perhaps it’s time you visited!

  9. [...] The Dropout Diaries: Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers [...]

  10. [...] The Dropout Diaries: Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers [...]

  11. Hilarious! Love the title and good to know that it happens in Asia, I’ll be prepared. We encountered something similar in Italy. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for that country because of the way they loved my children. I bet the world never felt smaller than when all that snatching was happening. Great post.

  12. Amy says:

    Now you’ve done it. You’ve gone and moved Asia way up on my list of places to go. Cheap, exotic, and friendly. Now I’m definately not going to be satisfied with Australia alone.

  13. jade says:

    Too cute! And, your baby is adorable… especially all that hair!

  14. MaryWitzl says:

    I’m a baby snatcher too! Whenever I can get away with it, if I see a baby, I commune with him or her. If the parents aren’t too weirded out, I will give any receptive baby a cuddle.

    When our daughters were little, they were a big hit in Japan. They got carried around and cuddled and baby-talked. I got into the spirit and did the same with other people’s babies. It was well worth it: some of the babies at my kids’ nursery started crawling towards me when they saw me coming. I can tear up just remembering.
    MaryWitzl recently posted..Growing Pains

  15. [...] “In Vietnam, the biggest baby snatchers are waitresses. They crowd around discussing the cuteness of the baby, the length of her eyelashes. If they spot her dimples, they nearly start screaming. They hoist her up and carry her about the restaurant as if she’s a religious relic…Those are the positives of living and traveling in Asia with a baby. There’s a whole new world of interaction. It’s not terribly deep or meaningful, and it really does make me feel like I’m just a manager of a rock star.”   – from Barbara at The Dropout Diaries [...]

  16. Denise says:

    beautifully written, but now I want to hear the sound of a nose kiss!
    Denise recently posted..To commercial websites which ask for free content, rot in hell

  17. [...] are, too.  Read their experiences of travelling with children of various ages.Almost FearlessThe Dropout DiariesWanderMumAround The World In Easy WaysTripping MumGlobtrotting MamaSnap and BlabsRider By My [...]

  18. [...] Travel Lifestyle: The Best Age to Travel with Young Kids? The Dropout Diaries Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers Almost Fearless The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole Wandermom The Highs and Lows of Travelling with [...]

  19. [...] Many cultures love babies and toddlers. Ask for help! You might find that you can eat your WHOLE dinner without interruption, as people coo over your precious rock star. [...]

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