Betelmania in Taiwan
So farewell to my colleague Albanius who retired today. It made me think about the time that both of us went to Taiwan on business trip over a decade ago. Three things come to mind:
- Taxi to our hotel: As many people did not speak English, we were advised to have someone write the name and address in Chinese on paper and take that with us. We handed that paper to taxi driver at the airport and off we went. We sat in slow traffic for a while and the taxi driver turned off next exit and drove us to our hotel. Hey looks nice, we thought and had the valet unload our bags and take us to the front desk. We got a receipt from the driver and because we had sat in traffic, we gave him a good tip. At the front desk, they had no record of us as guests. We protested and handed over our booking documents: That is not this hotel sir. Yep, he deliberately took us to the wrong hotel.
- The jade market: On Saturday afternoon, we had time to kill so we have quite a few beers. I did note that Albanius got very merry, very quickly. “Let’s go to the jade market” he said with a bit of a slur and not having a better alternative, I agreed. It actually turned out better than what I expected and I bought some Chinese hand painting. Albanius on the other hand was on a jade hunt for his wife. He liked something but didn’t have enough cash to buy it so I lent him money to buy it.
- Betel nuts: For the life of us, we could not work out what the pretty looking girls in bikini’s skirts were selling in those roadside small shops/ outlets – see the internet picture as an example. We didn’t think a conservative society like Taiwan would permit sex workers to be so openly pursuing business but we remained curious about. We even asked around what was going on and nobody could explain it back to to us. We eventually read about it: they were selling Betel nuts which are a mild stimulant used by many drivers. PS: remember kids, if anyone offers you betel nuts, just say no : It isn’t good for you.
When back in the US, I gently reminded Albanius that he owed me money. Would you believe it that the Chiseler denied all knowledge of ever borrowing money and claimed he had bought it himself: He would have remembered borrowing money he said ! It then occurred to me that since he wasn’t much of a drinker, he probably doesn’t remember much about the jade market anyhow so there was no hope there. Still it was some consolation to find out that the expensive preesent he had bought for his wife with the help of MY MONEY, got broken intransit. Thank you travel gods – Karma.