Taiwan's 60,000 betel-nut kiosks and the young women who work in them

Betelnut girl Hsiao Chin, Taoyuan [CC. Tobie Openshaw]

I tried betel nut in Singapore many years ago from an old guy in a market off Bencoolen street. He gave me a packet with some leaves, some of the nut, and some lime (calcium carbonate). I didn't feel its purported stimulant effects, but I enjoyed preparing the quid and the way my saliva turned red.

Betelnut is popular throughout Asia. Oddity Central has a short item with photos about Taiwan's betel-nut kiosks and the woman work in them:

The main roads are filled with around 60,000 such phone booth-style kiosks; they’re so much a part of the nation’s identity that they’re actually featured on old tourist guides. The women who operate the stalls are usually from poorer families, but according to news reports, the job pays more than housekeeping, waiting tables and other conventional jobs.

Tobie Openshaw took this photo of a "Betelnut girl" in Hsiao Chin, Taoyuan. He wrote:

Betelnut girls (Binlang Xi Shi/檳榔西施) are a unique part of Taiwan culture. They sit in brightly-decorated glass booths wearing skimpy outfits, and sell cigarettes, drinks and betelnut to passing drivers. It’s a controversial trade but not actually illegal. The question of whether the girls are exploited is open to debate – certainly their own perception is mostly that they are doing a job like any other, and the less they choose to wear, the more they sell. For more info, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betel_nut_beauty and follow the links to the video and pictures.

Check out Openshaw's Flickr stream for more photos.