My husband and I, both in our late thirties, have made a major decision.

In 2008, one year after getting married, my husband and I moved to Mumbai, India to work as Media Directors in an advertising agency. We’d both spent over ten years working in London and as keen travellers the opportunity of working in Asia was too good to be missed.

After 16 months I fell pregnant and we decided to relocate back to the UK, basing ourselves in Swansea where my husband’s family are from. Gower is a beautiful place with unspoilt beaches, country pubs and friendly people and we had hoped to settle there long term and enjoy a slower pace of life.

Backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Leaving Wales on August 11th, 2011

We’d accepted that the job market in Wales would be very different from London but my husband found it frustratingly difficult to find a fulfilling job that he could consider as a long-term role.

We both missed the vibrancy of living in Asia (and the weather), so after many months of debating we have decided to take the bull by the horns, follow our gut instinct and leave the UK. We’ve packed our life into boxes, bought a return ticket to Singapore and have the Rough Guide to SE Asia tucked in our back pocket.

What we do know is that we will be able to enjoy quality time as a family. What we don’t know is where this journey will end or what we will end up doing.

This blog is a diary of the highs, lows and experiences of backpacking around SE Asia with our baby – a topic we found very little information on when planning the trip. I hope that our experiences and top tips will help others who are considering their own adventure.

If you are planning a trip and have any questions feel free to email me on suedobb@hotmail.com. I will respond as soon as I’m based in an area with wifi.

13 responses »

  1. Sue,
    This is fab. A true Mummy’s perspective on traveling with a baby. When i get the nerve up to take the leap, I will be referring back to your list! Hope the three of you have an amazing time and I can’t wait to read the updates!!
    Lots of love to you all and safe travels! xx

    • Hello and thanks for your question.

      Immunisations:
      In terms of immunisations, he’d had all the standard UK immunisations for stage 1,2 and 3 (8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks old). In addition to this and based on the advice of our medical practitioner we also gave him a Hepatitis A vaccination.

      We were advised that it wasn’t necessary to give our baby a rabies immunisation but in hindsight I would have felt more comfortable if he’d had one. We met a Dutch family backpacking in Cambodia, the father of which was a GP and both of their children aged 2 and 4 had had the rabies shot. (Please note that Holland has different immunisation regulations to the UK). There are so many stray dogs and cats in Asia, particularly in Cambodia, that I would feel a lot more comfortable if our baby had been given some form of cover.

      We’ve been careful throughout our trip to avoid high-risk malarial areas (parts of Borneo, areas of Indonesia), but he’s currently taking a course of paediatric malarone to give him more protection in Cambodia, which is a malarial area. In the UK paediatric malarone can be prescribed when your baby is 11kg plus, in the USA the same dosage is prescribed from 9kg upwards.

      Please seek the advice of a medical practitioner if you’re planning a trip away as I am not qualified to give medical advice.

      Washing hands:
      With regards to washing his hands we wash them in the morning, before bed and use wet wipes before he eats. After a few weeks away we realised that it was going to be impossible to keep him clean, particularly as he was at the crawling stage. I’ve taken a very relaxed approach to cleanliness as otherwise you would spend your entire trip chasing your baby around with anti bacterial hand wipes. It’s inevitable that your baby is going to touch the floor and then put their hands in their mouth. We’ve been lucky that apart from a cold he hasn’t been sick – good going for any baby over a 5-month period.

      Over the last few weeks our baby has taken to licking everything. He licks the back of bus seats, chairs, windows and walls! Again, it’s impossible to manage this all the time so I’m taking the approach that he’s building up a very good immune system.

      I hope this helps you.
      Feel free to ask anything else.
      Susannah

  2. Hi there fantastic adventurers!
    Firstly I just wanted to say a massive thank you for your incredible blog. My name is Bex and my fiance and I are preparing to take on a very similar adventure to you guys with our currently 8 month old son. We are based in Australia but are planning a year or so in Asia on the look out for career inspiration and time out from the western way. We will be booking our flights this weekend but I was just wondering how you guys went about your visa’s? Did you arrange them in advance? I’ve been reading a lot about needing to show confirmed exits from certain countries before a visa will be granted. Just wondering if you have encountered this at all? Did you guys book your travel between countries before you left? I’m a bit of a planning freak but my partner is more inclined to ‘go with the flow’! Really cant thank you enough for your detail and brilliant blog. Hope you’re having a great time where ever you are now!
    Many thanks,
    Bex

    • Hello Bex,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I’m so glad that the information I’ve been collating is useful to somebody else.

      Visas:
      In terms of visas then yes we did organise a couple in advance. I’m not sure what the situation is if you’re applying from Australia, but when you’re travelling from the UK, we were able to get a longer visa for Thailand by applying in advance. We organised our Thailand visa from the UK which gave us 60 days and multiple entry, rather than the 14 days that you often receive if you come across the land borders and 30 days if you arrive by air.

      We also organised our Vietnam visa from the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok (you do need to organise this visa before getting to the borders), although it’s actually feasible to organise this in a number of cities, so you may be better off doing this once you know what your rough plan of travel is as you have to give them a starting date for your visa to commence.

      Planning:
      We initially planned a very rough route based on the weather and booked a couple of internal flights. In hindsight I wouldn’t pre book any internal flights as it gives you more flexibility to book when you’re there. There were a couple of times near the beginning of our trip when we would have liked to have stayed somewhere longer, but couldn’t as we had flights pre booked. Air Asia has so many good flight deals that it’s very easy to book cheap flights up to a few days in advance. I would say that planning your route based on the monsoon cycles is VERY important, particularly when travelling with children. We avoided wet seasons as there is a huge increase in mosquitos and it’s also not ideal to travel in, particularly as the roads aren’t brilliant anyway.

      Before we left the UK I also worried about where we were going to stay and spent hours checking accommodation reviews on Trip Advisor. My husband was very relaxed and preferred to go with the flow. I have to admit that once we’d been away for a few weeks I relaxed into it and actually enjoyed not booking ahead. We used hostel bookers and Hostel World to book last minute deals (which saves a lot of money) and we would often turn up in a town, base ourselves in a cafe, whilst one of us went off to find a room that we would be happy with.

      Please feel free to contact me when you’re away if you have any questions.
      Have a great time and good luck with your job hunt.
      Sue

  3. What a fabulous blog – so so informative – thank you for sharing. I am about to move to Manila with a 5 month old baby and am quite nervous – I have only discovered your site today so will do some reading and will pop back with some questions if you don’t mind. Lucy

  4. Happy travels to you!

    I see you’ve been in Mui Ne and was wondering if you remember how easy/hard was it to buy baby food and baby diapers there. Can’t find any information about that online. We are planning of going in a couple of days for 2 weeks….

    Thanks a lot for the info.
    Cheers!

    • Hello,

      Thanks for reading my blog and getting in touch.

      I do remember as we were surprised at how few baby items were available for a busy tourist location.

      There are a number of small shops selling groceries and toiletries, but the choice is VERY limited. Our baby was 17 months old when we were there and we couldn’t find any baby milk powder. Instead we had to give him cartons of milk, but a lot of these were sweetened which wasn’t ideal.

      We were able to buy nappies, small packs of Huggies, but again it was a bit hit and miss as to the nappy sizes available and quantities that each shop sold.

      As our baby was older we didn’t need to buy baby food, but based on not being able to buy milk powder I would anticipate that this would also be difficult to buy.

      I’m not sure what age your baby is, but it’s often possible to ask restaurants to make rice porridge which is ideal for smaller babies. It’s rice served very soft in a broth with soft vegetables (usually carrots) and chicken or fish. Our baby found it really tasty as it’s soft and easy to eat and most places charge very little for it.

      In short, try and stock up before you arrive.

      Have a great time on the rest of your trip.

      Kind regards,
      Sue

      • Thank you so much for the information!
        Too bad that the food options are pretty limited but it’s nice to know that and be mentally prepared:) I’ll try to take as much as possible with us and hopefully be able to figure out the rest…

        Our Maia is 14 months old. Good thing is that she likes regular milk and if I can find that somewhere food should not be too big of a problem. Sugar in the milk is not an ideal option:(

        In any case, thanks again for your help and I wish you the best.
        P.s. Your little guy is very cute!

  5. Hello,
    I have been reading your blog and this would be fantastic for my wife and I except we now have number two just about to join the world.
    Can I ask how you went with the foods? Did you have to stick to the rice broth or did you introduce some mild spicy flavours?

    • Hello,
      Welcome to my blog. When we left the UK our son was only 11 months old, so we stuck to rice soup (a savoury thick dish with vegetables, rice, broth and chcken/meat) and fruits and yoghurts. A few months in and he started to eat the rice dishes and noodles and started to introduce spice. He’s now 2 years and 3 months old and loves Asian food. In fact, he’s not a fan of mashed potato, sandwiches or typical Western style cuisine. Instead he loves rice and spice! He even surprised us recently when he ate half a portion of chicken vindaloo! I think children are very adaptable so just try a little bit at time and they will probably start to get a taste for it. Have fun.

  6. Hello!
    Thank you for your blog! It is very informative and encouraging! Last year we spent 3 months backpacking on a lowish budget in South India with our 8year old daughter. We all had an amazing time. Now we have a new member in our family and yesterday we bought tickets to Singapre, will be leaving Finland in mid-may and travelling around Malaysia for 1,5 month. Our baby will be 6months old by the time we start the trip.
    Anyway, I am really happy I found your blog and just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience :)

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