Photo story: Looking sexy to sell nuts in Taiwan

Betel nut, a mild stimulant, is enjoyed across Asia. But only in Taiwan is the nut sold by fetching young women in outrageous outfits, perched in neon-lit, see-through roadside stands.

Popularized in the 1990s, the so-called "betel nut beauty" phenomenon has long had a parade of critics, including feminists (the trade degrades women), health officials (betel nut causes oral cancer), embarrassed local officials (betel nut culture is low-class and vulgar) and environmentalists (the cash crop is over-planted and causes soil erosion).

GlobalPost correspondent Jonathan Adams and photographer Tobie Openshaw paid a visit to a few of Taiwan's betel nut stands to see the famed beauties in action.



A Taiwan betel nut beauty waits for customers. She said her tattoo cost her $2,500. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Amy, a betel nut beauty, chats on the phone as passersby stare. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

A betel nut beauty in her shop. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Many prepares nut for customers, spreading lime paste on a leaf that;s wrapped around a betel nut. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

A betel nut beauty in her shop at night. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauties at the Albion betel nut stand. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Nina greets a customer. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel but beauty Sally, dressed in a harem outfit. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Ada easts with a friend. (Tobie Openshaw/Globalpost)

Betel nut beauty Xia Wen prepares nuts for customers. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Xia Wen shows the 40,000-volt cattle prod she uses for protection against unruly customers. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Vietnamese betel nut beauty Mandy (Hsuen-Hsuen) with her pot-bellied pig Mei Li. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Amy, in her shop. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)

Betel nut beauty Amy waves goodbye to a customer. (Tobie Openshaw/GlobalPost)