Tooth of the matter in Vietnam
SELLICKS BEACH, SA IT was odd that after a long flight to Vietnam I should spend seven more hours in Ho Chi Minh City in a reclining position, being offered an occasional polystyrene cup of water. But this trip was about my teeth.
Passing through Ben Thanh market to reach the West Coast International Dental Clinic provided a tantalising experience of the city at full throttle, with seemingly endless stalls selling conical hats and T-shirts with slogans such as ‘‘iPho’’.
Street food looked and smelled delicious, but my first taste of Vietnam was novocaine and mouthwash during a lengthy root-canal operation, followed two days later by a crown fitting and a filling procedure.
The clinic was almost an identikit copy of those in Australia, down to the waiting-room magazines and heavily rotated music. The seventh hearing of a 2002 Greatest Hits compilation within six hours provided the only discomfort in a relatively painless procedure.
The clinic has English-speaking staff and a surgery in Hanoi as well as Ho Chi Minh City, enabling patients to start some treatments at one end of the country and finish at the other. Practice co-ordinator Amanda Peatey tells me the clinic has had a 10-15 per cent rise year on year in the number of patients from the US, Japan and Britain. Dental implants are the most popular treatment.
By arranging my appointments into two long sessions, with a day’s break to visit the Cu Chi war tunnels, I was able to spend most of my time exploring the city.
The proximity of the War Remnants Museum to the clinic provided an ideal opportunity to learn more about the conflict from a local perspective, but it was strange to think my teeth were getting fixed within a few hundred metres of where a communist tank had crashed through the gates of the Reunification Palace, spelling an abrupt end to war in 1975.
The dental work was considerably cheaper than in Australia and after my final session I took a moped ride through the maze of HoChi Minh City’s backstreets during a lightning storm to sample shrimp pancakes at Banh Xeo. It was probably the most perilous journey of my life, but at least I knew I was in the right city to be identified by my dental records. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Published columnists receive a 200ml Sodashi Mint Soother Foot Treatment lotion ($63.60) to cool aching feet and legs; the lotion is perfect for a deeply moisturising overnight treatment. More: sodashi.com.