How a Trip to Malaysia Saved Me $7,000

Since discovering the high quality and affordability of Malaysian dentistry seven years ago, my husband and I won’t go anywhere else for our dental work. Our dentist—Dr Ong Kok Khean—is in Penang. There are many great dentists in Kuala Lumpur too, but we love the excuse to spend time in one of our favourite places in Southeast Asia and Dr Ong is hands-down the best dentist we’ve ever had—anywhere. Like many Malaysian dentists, Dr Ong studied overseas— he completed his Oral Implantology qualification in Germany. His clinic is state of the art. His English perfect.

If you need more convincing, dentistry in Malaysia is ridiculously affordable. I received a quote of around $7,500 for an implant (including bone graft) in Australia—Dr Ong’s fixed quote of RM8,000 ($2,531) made my decision to head to Penang recently a no-brainer.

As it turned out, I also needed a root canal treatment, a crown and a filling. With Dr Ong, I paid $280 each for the root canal treatment and crown; $31.15 for the filling; $93.46 for a CT Scan; $21.80 for a scale and polish. Total cost: $3,237.41. In Australia, these procedures plus the implant would have set me back around $12,100.

Sure, I’ve got travel costs. Twice in fact—I’ll be going back in six months’ time or so to get the implant finished. This trip, I’ve spent around $1,000 on flights, accommodation, meals and sundries. The next trip will be longer as I need two appointments two weeks apart (I’m planning a holiday between visits, either to Thailand or Indonesia). Taking out the cost of that two-week holiday, I estimate savings of approximately $7,000.

In between dental appointments, I loved having time to myself to wander the chaotic maze of streets in the old quarter of Penang’s capital, George Town, checking out the latest street art instalments and visiting my favourite hawker stalls and cafes. I love walking the pre-dawn streets—the air is cool and the traffic sparse as the old town gently wakes up.

At Chowrasta market, I grab a bowl of pork noodle soup for $1.25 and savour it while taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant spot. I follow it up with a traditional Malaysian coffee, kopi susu—filtered coffee served with a layer of condensed milk on the bottom—a steaming cup costs me just 47 cents. The trendy cafes serving espressos for more than 10 times the price won’t open their doors for another few hours. But the streets of Little India come alive with the dawn—I stop for a roti canai and masala chai (all up, $1.15). I confess…this is my second breakfast of the day but, when in Penang…

Later in the day, I make sure I’m on Siam Road when old uncle sets up his char kway teow cart at 3 p.m. He’s the only one left in Penang who still makes these delicious fried noodles the traditional way, over a charcoal burner. It’s the best of this iconic dish on the island and it’s worth queuing for.

And I was delighted to find my ancient bag repair man, Mr Wong, still working out of a battered shophouse on Chulia Street. My 20-year-old leather bumbag had recently died—it needed a new clasp but that wouldn’t have been worth the cost in Australia. Mr Wong fixed it while I waited—as good as new for $2.50. I’ll probably get another 20 years out of it.

So you see, in Malaysia, a trip to the dentist doesn’t have to hurt one bit!

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