The Tower of Betel

A large pile of Betel Nuts in Myoma Market.
A large pile of Betel Nuts in Myoma Market.

I came across this large pile of Betel Nuts at Myoma Market မြို့မစျေး in Myanmar’s sprawling capital of Naypyidaw နေပြည်တော်. These nuts (in name only as they’re actually berries) are popular throughout Southeast Asia for their effects as a stimulant, and are usually wrapped in the leaves of their parent plant, creating a neat little package (often tobacco and other goodies are added in for an extra kick), before being chewed intensely in order to achieve the buzz.

The nice lady who manned (is that really the right gender neutral adjective?) this stall obviously thought I needed some, and kindly gave me one to try, which I subsequently pocketed and never did – The consumption of betel is linked to developing oral cancer and other associated nastiness, as well as re-colouring your teeth and gums in a vivid shade of Red that makes it look like you’ve just dined on blood. Additionally, because many don’t generally swallow the resultant paste, it’s often spat out and you can see pavements, roads and other thoroughfares stained Crimson from the ejecta, creating a bit of an eyesore that has lead to its prohibition in many places in the region.

One time probably wouldn’t hurt, but there’s plenty of other stuff out there gradually shortening my life – I’d rather not add another to the pile.