Tooth of the mat­ter in Viet­nam

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - WILL VENN RANT OR RAVE

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.

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