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Taiwan's 'betel nut beauties' drum up business,
 
 
 
 
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The betel nut's distinguished history dates to China's Six Dynasties period (220-589), when it was a treasured gift for royalty. In more recent years, Taiwan has moved this royal indulgence decidedly down-market. Now you can get betel nut soap, betel nut liquor, even betel nut chicken feed.

But the main show is roadside -- a cheap thrill, given that packages sell for a dollar or two.

"Basically, men are randy," says taxi driver Cheng Chunho, dipping into a plastic bag of "Hi Class Beetle Nut Crispy & Tasty." "I don't even like the stuff. But after a long day of driving, buying it provides a bit of excitement."

Suggestively dressed women in neon boxes on lonely highways would spell serious trouble in most countries. But attacks are rare, a fact sociologists attribute to Taiwan's relatively nonviolent, reserved culture.
 
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