Betel nut beauties or betel nut girls (檳榔西施 binlang xishi) are a common sight along the roadsides in Taiwan. Some people regard their presence as an outrage while others think they are a unique and colourful part of life in Taiwan. The girls can be seen in sitting in large glass-walled booths on the sides of the road. They are usually busy counting betel nuts or else sitting there looking very bored. Customers stop while driving past and the girls run out to sell them bags of betel nuts. The girls also sell drinks and cigarettes.
Betel nut is also known as areca nut. It is the seed of the betel palm (Areca catechu). Betel chewing is common in many parts of Asia, although the exact methods and preparations vary. The nut is usually wrapped in a betel leaf. This leaf comes from the betel pepper plant, which is not related to the betel palm. Lime is also often added. The nut is a mild stimulant. Chewing is addictive and can cause cancer.
Betel nut is Taiwan's second largest agricultural crop. Betel nut plantations dominate the landscape in parts of Central and Southern Taiwan. While betel nut girls are a source of controversy and interest the environmental and health impacts of betel nut are in reality more serious concerns.