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Friday, January 29, 2016

How A Gum Boil Sent Us on Vacation

Jim and I make an effort to maintain our health while traveling by booking yearly wellness exams and dental cleanings for the family. Our last visit to the dentist was in Mexico before we sailed to the South Pacific in 2014. (Yeah, I know... time got away from us.) We recently began asking around in Fiji. We heard there was an awesome dentist in Labasa. We made appointments and hopped on a $10 van to the big city.

The van stops at roadside fruit and veggie stands on the way back to Savusavu
Dr. Kumar's friendly chair-side manner put us at ease immediately. Our routine consultation and cleaning took a couple hours for the three of us. Carolyne, for all her junk food sneaking and candy crams, came out with a glowing report. And Jim's severe overcrowding is good for one thing - cavity causing bacteria can't divide and conquer. He finished with zero cavities and a dismissive warning from Dr. Kumar about a small area on his gums. And then my turn...
Dr. Kumar is very popular with the cruisers
“Ah, you have a gum boil,” Dr. Kumar said.
“I've never heard of a gum boil,” I said. It sounded scary, but it was almost Christmas so I imagined a red striped, liqueur-filled candy instead. But when Dr. Kumar said, “This is a serious infection. It's in the bone,” my Sugar Plum vision crumbled. After cleaning my teeth AND filling a cavity, I was sent home with a baggie of antibiotics. (Yeah, I know. Gross.)
Jim in Dr. Kumar's office in Labasa
I returned to Dr. Kumar's office 3 weeks later. “The antibiotics didn't work,” he said and sent me to the hospital for an X-ray. When I returned to his office with my film, he shook his head. “I recommend you see my colleague in Suva,” Dr. Kumar said.
And that's how we went on vacation.
Because I knew you were dying to see inside me
(All costs are in U.S. dollars)
Jim: Ultra-sonic cleaning and exam - $28
Carolyne: exam - $2.50 (yep - that's right)
Meri: Ultra-sonic cleaning, exam, compound filling and antibiotics - $45
X-ray at hospital - $17
Second and third consultation without appointment - free
TOTAL: $92.50

Suva is on the big island and meant either we flew, we sailed our boat or we took the ferry over. We chose the ferry, which crosses during the nighttime and is much cheaper than flying. We booked a “sleeper” room, a dormitory-style room with separate bunks in air-conditioning. It's a far cry from what the airlines call “first class”, but beats the heck out of sleeping on mats on the hard floor in the heat... which is what the economy class does.
COST: $35 one-way per person on either Bligh or Grounder Shipping
Scenes in Suva

Gorgeous flowers at the market

Mother and daughter puletasi

We arrived in Suva early – before 8am. After coffee and breakfast, we asked a taxi driver to recommend a safe, economical hotel. He took us to South Seas Private Hotel.

We didn't have a reservation when we arrived at 9am, but were granted early check-in. Our room was spartan, but clean. The building was like a historic dormitory with polished wood floors and stair banisters. No A/C was in the room, but overhead fans were fine during summer in December. Nice, quiet grounds with tropical flora - Large community kitchen with ample seating and roomy fridge - Museum and Thurston Gardens next door.  It's within walking distance to downtown.
South Seas room

South Seas corridor
There are no electrical outlets in rooms to charge devices. None. However, you can sit in TV room and plug in if you have hours to keep an eye on your belongings. Also, we got locked INSIDE our room at 10:30pm when one of us got up to use the community bathroom. Half-an-hour later we'd jimmied the door with a pocket knife. The night manager said she had to get permission before allowing us into another room. We rigged the door that night so we could lock it, but get out if we needed. The manager on duty the next morning was upset the night manager hadn't moved us into another room when we told her of our "Hotel California" experience.
COST: $30 per night for all of us

In the window at Proud's Dept. Store

Suva locals
We moved the next day and ended up at Studio 6 Apartments in a “deluxe” accommodation. It's located on the other side of downtown from South Seas, but is within waking distance of downtown.

PROS: Air-conditioning! Kitchenette! Color TV! Refrigerator!
Good location and nice staff. Early check-ins allowed.

CONS: Floors were dirty; we wore flip flops inside. Hot water in shower is fickle. The breaker blows if you plug in too many things into the outlets.

COST: $75 per night for all of us
(Carolyne and I returned to Suva for my follow-up appointment a month later. We shared a double bed at Studio 6 Apartments in a smaller room with a fridge, A/C and TV. Cost was $42.)

Japanese lunch at Daikoku Restaurant - we highly recommend it!
Not all of Fiji is Third World

Dancing and music at the Fiji Museum

Carolyne in the large exhibit room

Carolyne's photo of our exquisite lunch 

Ladies selling flowers at the market in Suva

Dr. Singh has a lovely office downtown. His modern equipment and cutting edge technology made my diagnosis easy. I had a dead tooth (now an infected dead tooth) and I needed a root canal. I had a couple X-rays taken in his office and he scheduled the procedure immediately. He was so gentle I almost fell asleep in the chair - and that's without anesthesia. No joke.

COST: CT Scan $85.... Root Canal, follow-up and all other X-rays $300.

Contact info for Dr. Singh at Stewart Street Dental in Suva


  1. Not much fun but glad it went well. A reminder for us to get checked when we get back to Fiji. See you guys when we get back. Max

    1. Really affordable here and I'm pleased with level of professionalism and expertise. Can't wait to see you!!

  2. We just paid $95NZ each just for cleaning. We'll be sure to remember your post when we get to Fiji this year!

    1. Boo for NZ dental costs. Yay for visiting Fiji! Please let us know when and where you'll be so we can meet up!

  3. Never heard of a gum boil, but so happy that all is better now. That explains the pictures of Suva. Glad the Caroline joined you for the adventure!

    1. Had a blast in Suva! (except for the gum boil part!)