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檳榔西施
撰文者: Wayne 發表日期: June 13, 2009 – 9:36 am

「檳榔西施」(Betel nut beauty) 是台灣特有的消費文化,在台灣公路兩旁塑膠玻璃包廂後面販賣檳榔的「檳榔西施」,在外國人眼中屬於特殊現象。不過,版主認為這不算是一種台灣文化,充其量不過是某些人競爭與求生存的方式。檳榔負作用甚大,常見嚼檳榔的人滿口紅齒,更糟的還會罹患口腔癌。版主住家附近的人行道常被人吐檳榔汁,每次瞥見滿地的鮮紅殘汁都覺得噁心不已,還得屏息憋氣,踮起腳尖,躡手躡腳而過。版主表哥也因為長年”跛”檳榔,不到四十歲牙齒都掉光了。檳榔這種東西真是百害而無一利,希望有朝一日能從台灣徹底消失。

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(版主的英文評論)

Betel nut beatuties, or Binlan girls, are a common sight along the roadides in Taiwan. Those skimpily dressed young girls are often in miniskirts and on ultra high heels sitting on elevated stools in glass-walled kiosks. In fact, they are competing for the attention of customers to sell betel nuts, and they are usually busy counting or preparing betel nuts. Whenever customers  stop in front of the booth, they run out to sell them boxes of betel nuts, even drinks or cigarettes. Generally, betel nuts are wrapped in a betel leaves, and a slaked lime paste is often added. The nuts come 20 per box, on which a picture of a topless or scantily-clad girl is usually printed.

Foreign tourists might regard their presence as a colorful part of life in Taiwan. While the betel nut beauty social phenomenon is unique to the island, it is just a way of bringing in business and definitely not part of Taiwan’s culture. To some extent, betel nut beauties are the Taiwanese version of Budweiser girls who promote for Budweiser beer maker Anheuser-Busch. Although they are not plying the world’s oldest trade of prostitution, these scantly-clad girls are banned from doing business in Taipei out of fears of a negative international reputation and, more practically, of traffic accidents from rubber-necking. This practice, however, is still going strong on the outskirts of other major cities on the island.

Betel nut chewing is quite common in Taiwan, but the preparations vary from area to area. There is a chance you will be offered betel nuts in the company of farmers or working-class Taiwanese. They might also tell you something about “Taiwan’s culture”. Well, you’d better thank them for the offer and then politely refuse.

While betel nut girls are a source of controversy, the environmental and health impacts of betel nuts are actually more serious concerns. Chewing betel nuts is addictive and will cause oral cancer for veteran users, whose teeth are often stained blood red. You can tell if a man chews betel nuts simply by checking whether or not his teeth is stained red. Betel nuts not only stain the lips and teeth of veteran users, but their spit also stains something almost anywhere you look.

The extent of the destruction caused by betel nut goes even further. The betel nut is the island’s second largetst agricultural crop. Its plantations dominate the landscape in parts of Central and Southern Taiwan. Farming this cash crop has created tons of problems, partly because the roots of the betel palm do not hold much soil and erosion often occurs at a rapid rate. A lot of betel palm tress are grown in mountainous areas, making these places suscepitable to serious landslides and mud-rock flows.

I heard that the demand for betel nuts in Taiwan is so great that it must be smuggled in from other countries. I hope this is not the truth. Chewing betel nuts must be banned in public places just as smoking in Taiwan.

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