A bunch of ripe areca nuts from Kampong Speu province.

Chewing¬† {tobaco, betel leaves and areca nuts} is an age-old tradition in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. When I was younger, growing up in the Philippines, I watched with utmost fascination how my grandfather and grandmother assemble the “ingredients” of their favourite pastime and how their mouths magically turned red as they chewed. Some people, especially the Westerners, find this unhygienic, ugly and unpleasant. But chewing or betel-chewing is very much part of our culture.

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