Viet­nam visit is child’s play

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JES­SICA PALMER WALLIGAN, QUEENS­LAND

My heart starts pound­ing in my chest. Where is she? She was here a sec­ond ago. The wait­ress was play­ing peek-aboo with her and now I can’t see her.I stand up quickly, spilling my glass of wa­ter, and scan the room.

My hus­band is at­tempt­ing to con­vince our 3½ -yearold that spring rolls are ed­i­ble. The peo­ple at the table next to us are deep in con­ver­sa­tion. Why aren’t they look­ing wor­ried?

I open my mouth to shout, “Help, the wait­ress stole my baby!”, and then my eyes fall to the pi­ano in the cor­ner, a few me­tres away.

I spot my 11-month-old baby girl, sit­ting on the wait­ress’s lap, bash­ing the pi­ano with her chubby fists in the way that young chil­dren do. She looks over at me, smiles and con­tin­ues her as­sault on the pi­ano. No­body seems to mind the aw­ful noise she is mak­ing.

Although this is the first time, it cer­tainly isn’t the last oc­ca­sion a Viet­namese wait­ress steals my baby. A lit­tle con­fronting ini­tially, it is not un­com­mon for Viet­namese peo­ple to reach out to young chil­dren. In fact, it seems the norm here to go out of your way to make baby talk with a stranger’s child, or in­ter­act with them. If your child is happy enough, like ours, they will in­deed pick her up and walk around the restau­rant in­tro­duc­ing her to all the other staff and cus­tomers.

Chil­dren are not only wel­come in Viet­nam, but are treated like VIPs, es­pe­cially for­eign kids. If you stroll near a group of lo­cal women, it is un­likely you will make it past with­out at least one squeeze of baby’s thighs, or some very se­ri­ous baby talk and fits of gig­gles when baby smiles back at them.

This warm wel­come, com­bined with great food, good pub­lic trans­port and lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion at af­ford­able prices, en­sures that Viet­nam is a strong con­tender for one of the eas­i­est places to take hol­i­days with your fam­ily.

My ad­vice is to give in to the wel­com­ing na­ture of the lo­cals. By the end of your trav­els, this “it takes a vil­lage” culture will have be­come a breath of fresh air.

Where else in the world would you re­ceive such a warm wel­come with young kids in a restau­rant? Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists will re­ceive a Cross Tech3 Mul­ti­Func­tion Pen that neatly switches be­tween a black and red pen, pen­cil, eraser and a sty­lus for use on smart­phone or other touch­screen de­vice; $89.95. More: lux­u­rypens.net.au.

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