January 16, 2014
I had a cultural experience last night with the “betel nut” here in Myanmar. The Burmese, both men and women, chew on betel nut and I’ve read it has the same effect as a cup of coffee or maybe a cigarette if it contains tobacco. When we approached a man selling them, he laughed suggesting “are you sure” when we asked him if we could get some off him. We had a vague clue on how to chew them but luckily our new friend put one in his mouth giving us a proper demonstration. Anyways, he wrapped three nuts in a leaf and handed them over. We sat there and chewed them for sometime. They had a potent, herbal taste and made your tongue and cheek semi numb.. and they produced loads of saliva. Needless to say, as you walk the streets the smiles are filled with red stained lips and teeth from the betel nut. The ground has red spit stains throughout. I saw this in Laos and remember the first time I thought the ladies mouth was bleeding but then my ignorance was curbed once I noticed everyone around her had the same red colored grin. It was am experience for sure but after 10 minutes I found myself spitting it out. Maybe next time I’ll go for 15.