Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beginners Guide to Adult Nightlife in Thailand - Types of venues

The nightlife in Thailand is the stuff of legend and a thousand bar room tales.

When I first visited the "Land of Smiles" back in 2003, I will readily admit that I was more than a little naive.

I had heard stories from friends and acquaintances about the shannanigans that went on, but dismissed most of it as jocular pub banter, but little did I know that most of the eye-opening anecdotes were actually true!!!!

Arriving in Bangkok, I can remember approaching the "naughty bar" scene with a sense of trepidation, coupled with a feeling of sheer unadulterated joy, like finding the golden ticket to visit Willy Wonkas chocolate factory.

The aim of my post is too introduce first-time visitors to the nightlife in Thailand, guide them through the complexities and hopefully help them to avoid any pitfalls.

I shall start by giving you the low-down on the types of entertainment venues that you are likely to encounter.

1) Beer Bars:

The Beer Bar is probably the most common venue that you will encounter on your travels around Thailand and they range from beach-front shacks to modern air-conditioned buildings complete with pool tables and satellite tv.

They can be found in almost every destination catering for foreign tourists and as their name suggests they are geared towards servicing the liquid but also the libidinous needs of their predominantly male clientele.

The majority of beer bars will employ a number of nubile young ladies whose services can be bought, by paying the "barfine", which is a fee charged by the bar to release the girl and then agreeing a separate fee with the girl for her company which will either be "short time" (2+ hours) or "long time" (overnight). Barfines will be added to your tab or "check bin" and paid before you leave the bar.

Penfold's Tip: Make sure you agree a price and how long you want to spend with girl before you leave the bar or it will end in tear's for one of you!!!

The girls will usually be sitting outside the premises waiting for guys to walk past and they employ all manner of tactics ranging from shouting niceties, kissing, cuddling and physically pulling you through the door to encourage you to frequent their establishment. The girls are often paid a commission for any drinks that are bought for them by customers. These are referred to as "lady drinks" and will usually be 2 or 3 times the price of a bottle of beer and will also be added to your tab.

Penfold's Tip: Make sure you double check your tab before leaving as it is easy to forget how many drinks you have had and overcharging does happen. If there are any problems in the bar including poor service, overcharging etc that are not resolved satisfactorily, my advice is keep calm, pay the bill and leave and never go to that bar again!!! Remember your wallet is king!!!!

Beer bars are generally more laid back than go-go bars or discos although many of them will have the ubiquitous crappy pop music being played at full volume. I find that beer bars are a good place to go to start an evening before visiting either a discotheque or karaoke bar or if you are looking for a relatively cheap night then a bar crawl is the ideal way to check out the watering-holes in a particular destination.

Competition for customers money, both among the bars and the ladies who work in them, has always been fierce. In the current economic climate it is a "buyer's market" and although drink prices have stayed static, the price of an evening of fun with your favourite bar girl is falling significantly. However, this is a double-edged sword, due of the dirth of tourists there are now fewer top quality girls available, so it may take you longer to find your partner for the evening.

The following are a list of my favourite beers bars and details of where they can be found. I have included a link to their website, if they have one that is.

Big Dogs Bar - This is located on the ground floor at the entrance to Nana Plaza on Sukhumvit 4 Soi 2, in Bangkok. There are plenty of nice girls and I have never had any problems with service here. This is a great place to relax and watch the world go by!!!

Cathouse - This is also located in the Nana Plaza entertainment complex on the 2nd level. It is well-known among tourists and expats for its happy hour promotions. The staff are very friendly, the girls won't hassle you for "lady drinks" and it is a good spot for people watching too!!!

For more information please click on their weblink..........

UP2U Beer Bar - This is a good little bar in Pattaya and has been going for about 6 years now. It is located on Soi 13, more commonly known as at Soi Diana Inn, and is opposite the Mike Shopping Mall. The girls always seem to be having fun and again I have never had any problems with service.

Here is their website.........

Lazy Daze Bar - This is a decent bar in the resort of Hua Hin located at the junction of Soi Bintabaht and Poon Suk Road. You will always receive a nice welcome here and the girls seem to be bright and bubbly, whatever time of day or night it is. The drinks are reasonably priced and I have never been overcharged or had any service problems.

2) Go-go Bars

Go-go bars are the mainstay of the nightlife industry and are the reason why plane loads of foreign tourists come all the way to Thailand!!!

Even if you have never been to Thailand there's a good chance you have heard about the goings-on at these infamous establishments!!!!

What is a go-go bar you may ask? Well, the format is very simple, it's a nightclub or bar that features dancers in various stages of undress!!!

In most go-go's there will be a mainstage where the girls dance, frolic and slide up and down shiny chrome poles, vying for the customers attention. Some bars have really good music and choreographed shows whereas, in the majority of others, the dancing and music is slightly more ad hoc.

Many go-go bars particularly in Pattaya and the Patpong district of Bangkok, have live sex shows, featuring the girls ejecting all manner of items including bananas, ping pong balls and darts from their nether regions!!!!

The dancers services can be bought by paying the barfine, which is a fee charged by the bar to release the girl. You then agree a separate fee with the girl for her company which will either be "short time" (2+ hours) or "long time" (overnight). Barfines will be added to your tab or "check bin".

The girls, much the same as their sister's in the Beer Bars, are paid a commission for any drinks that customers buy for them. The "lady drinks" will usually be 2 or 3 times more than the advertisied price and, will also be added to your tab, which you pay when you leave.

Penfold's Tip: The barfines and prices charged by the go-go girls are often a lot higher than you find in the beer bars but the quality of the ladies is generally much better.

Good examples of go-go bars include.....

Dollhouse - This is a good quality go-go, located along Bangkok's ever-popular Soi Cowboy, between Sukhumvit Soi 21 and 23. The bar is nicely decorated, the standard of girls is generally quite high and the music and sound system are pretty decent too.

Spice Girls - This is another of my favourite Soi Cowboy haunts. There's plenty of top totty and a good selection of drinks. Spice Girls is always a winner in my opinion!!!

Mistys - Ah Mistys!!! This is an extremely popular venue in Pattaya and during my bachelor days I could always be found, beer in hand, gawping at the fine selection of fillies!!!!

3) Freelance Bars:

You may already be familiar with the term "freelance bar" but if not, it is certainly a word you will frequently hear among tourists and expats.

A freelance bar is a essentially a beer bar or other venue which is frequented by ladies who are not employed directly by the bar and work on a "freelance" basis. There are many reasons why the girls work freelance, for example they may not be suited to working in beer bars or go-go bars, they may have a full-time job and are looking to make extra money in the evenings or on their days-off or they are students trying to fund their education.

A freelance bar does have some advantages over other beer bars, because punters do not have to pay for expensive lady drinks or fork out for barfines and the rates the girls charge for their services are generally a bit lower too. But be warned there are also some serious disadvantges to going with a "freelancer"!!! The biggest problems are with STD's among freelance girls and they are also more likely to steal from you!!! If any of your valuables do go missing then the chances are you will never find her or your property again but if something like that happens and the girl is employed by a go-go or beer bar then you may have a chance of tracking her down!!!

Penfold's Tip: If you go with a freelancer, make sure you put all your valuables in the hotel safe and always ensure you have a ready supply of condoms!!!

Some good examples of Freelancer bars are listed below......

Gullivers - The Bangkok branch of Gulliver's can be found on Sukhumvit Soi 5. This is a nice venue that serves a range of Thai and International food. There are plenty of bottled and draught beers (they also serve Beer Lao which is one of my favourites!!!).

Beergarden Soi 7 Sukhumvit - This a good Bangkok meeting place and perfect for an afternoon drink or if you fancy an all day session and there's definitely no shortage of girls!!! It starts to get busy in the afternoons and by the evening is jam packed!!! There are also plenty of hotels and eateries in the area and you are just a short stroll from Nana Plaza.

Thermae Coffee Shop - The Thermae is a basement bar in Ruam Chit Plaza on Soi 15 Sukhumvit. Drinks are reasonably priced and it is a perfect place to meet wide range of ladies. It gets very busy from about 6pm onwards and when the regular beer bars and go-go's close around 1am the place gets packed. It is really easy to mingle and have fun chatting to the girls.

4) Massage Parlours - This is an integral part of the "naughty boy scene" in Thailand and there are parlours the length and breadth of the the country offering everything from the infamous "soapy" massage, (no description needed for this one I think!!!) to a relaxing oil massage with "extras". The massage ladies will usually sit outside the shop waiting for passers by and try to cajole them into popping in for old fashinoed rub down!!! Oh er missus!!!

I must admit that I haven't been to a massage parlour, for anything other than a massage, for quite a long time, so I haven't really kept up with developments in this area the nightlife scene.

Back in the day I used to visit Annie's next to the Raja Hotel between Soi 4 and 2 in Bangkok. There was a great selection of girls, the service was first rate and represented very good value for money!!!

Here's their website...................

Another smashing venue is Dream Heaven on Soi 33 Sukhumvit, with great ladies and excellent service.

If you like to find out more please visit......................

5) Nightclubs, Gentleman's clubs and "alternative venues".

There are plenty of great venues in Thailand whatever your taste and budget. Whether your boogeying the night away in a trendy dance club, parading around in a gimp mask and arse-less leather chaps or simply relaxing in the company of a beautiful hostess.

Here are my hot tips for some of the best venues in Thailand.......

Booze - This funky venue can be found in the Thonglor area of Bangkok, around Sukhumvit 55, Soi 10. It has a cracking live band, big-screen TV's and is popular among Bangkok's bold and beautiful. And as the name suggests there is plenty of boozing.

Q Bar - It's one of the most popular venues in Bangkok and it is easy to see why. Q Bar plays some fantastic house and dance music, offers a fine selection of food and drink and the gnerally atmosphere is one of fun and enjoyment.

Eden Club - This legendary venue, on Sukhumvit Soi7/1, is where you head if you want to experience the thrill of multi-girl action and believe me it does not disappoint. The prices are a bit steep but you can rest assured the girls and the service are fantastic and it will be money well spent!!! They even offer you VIP memebership for 20,000 baht which gives you 10 girls!!!

It is mandatory that you take a minimum of 2 girls each time you visit, so you have to have reasonable stamina and be able to keep it up!!!!

The Bank - The bank is an exculsive member's club, in the Soi 40 area of Sukhumvit, near the Thonglor BTS station. It describes itself as "a full service entertainment complex with something for everyone".

With VIP Suites, a party room and business lounge it is aimed businessmen looking to entertain their clients.

However, it's also great place for birthdays or stag parties and with trial memberships starting at 10,000 baht, its well worth a visit.

Fetish clubs - If you get your jollies by cavorting with pvc-clad midgets, dressing up as a baby or having your bare bottom caned, then not only are you an extremely dirty boy, but you should also check out a couple of Thailand's leading fetish clubs!!!!

One of Bangkok's premier establishments is the Barbar club....

And for those staying in Pattaya, your best bet is the Castle Club......

They offer all manner of unusal and alternative services and are rapidly growing in popularity, despite Thailand being quite conservative when it comes to sex and relationships.

I always welcome feedback on my posts and my blog in general, so if you have any comments or suggestions then drop me a line.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My first experience of driving in Thailand

I recently heard a quote about driving in Thailand that made me chuckle.....

The first rule of driving in Thailand is: Don't!
The second rule of driving in Thailand is: Don't!

It's incredible to think that a race of people who are inherently kind, friendly and forgiving turn into complete psychopaths when sitting behind the wheel of a car or riding on a motorcycle.

However, despite its horrendous reputation driving in Thailand isn't quite as bad as many people would have you believe!!!! But, I would advise caution and it's not something to be undertaken lightly or by those of a weak constitution!!

I once vowed that I would never drive in Thailand, but, on my last trip to the Kingdom, I broke that promise and drove for the first time.

We travelled from Bangkok to Pai via Ayutthaya, Sukothai, Phitasanlouk, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, then back to our home in Banglamung near Pattaya, a road trip of several hundred kilometres!!!

Having returned in one piece and not having been forced to pay any "tea money" to the boys in brown, I can state categorically that this won't be the last time I get behind the wheel of a car in Thailand.

Unlike going on public transport or on an organised tour, driving gives you complete flexibility and control over your itinerary. It is also a good way to experience the country and culture. You will see lots of unexpected things and be able to interact with Thai people at roadside shops, restaurants, markets and when asking for directions. My girlfriend also likes to travel in the pick-up because it means we have more space for her shopping!!!

I would like to offer the following advice to anyone considering driving in Thailand.

1) Drive on the left. Although most other road users appear to drive anywhere they like, officially they're meant to be on the left!!!

2) Watch out for motorbikes. Even on a deserted country road, a motorcycle is quite likely to appear from behind a bush and pull out into the road without looking!!!! Also be aware of motorcycles when turning into side streets and at junctions.

3) Watch out for animals. In the more built-up areas the main culprits are dogs, they will run out into the traffic causing cars and bikes to swerve or stop suddenly. In more rural areas you have to watch for cows and buffalos grazing by the roadside!!!!

4) Try to stay calm and avoid confrontation. You will need plenty of "Jai jen"(or cool heart), as your patience will be sorely tested by other drivers, speeding, flashing their lights, constantly swapping lanes without indicating or using their mirrors and the general lack of courtesy!!! The last thing you want to do is give a Thai lorry driver the middle finger, only to find out that he is a complete maniac who lives on a diet of red bull and jaa ba and will think nothing of running you off the road!!!

5) Accidents. If there's an accident it's your fault. No, really, it's your fault!!! Trust me, this is the Thai way!!! As a foreigner you will be automatically blamed even if the other person was at fault. If you are involved in an accident you will almost certainly have to pay the other driver some compensation.

6) Police and "traffic fines". You will get stopped by the police eventually, this is an occupational hazard of driving in Thailand. In the event that it happens just pay up and get over it!!!!

A very good blog covering this topic can be found by clicking the link below.....

The following links also provide some more practical advice about driving and hiring vehicles.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day message for Apinya

Being quite a romantic chap, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my girlfriend, Apinya, a Happy Valentine's Day and to say....ผมรักคุณ
Your're my angel and I hope you like this poem!!!

You've given me a reason
For smiling once again,
You've filled my life with peaceful dreams
And you've become my closest friend.

You've shared your heartfelt secrets
And your trust you've given me
You showed me how to feel again
To laugh, and love, and see.

If life should end tomorrow
And from this world I should part,
I shall be forever young
For you have touched my heart.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Destination Profile: Hua Hin

The charming town of Hua Hin, located at the Northern end of the Malay penninsula, in the province of Prachuap Kiri Khan, is the oldest and most traditional of all the beach resorts in Thailand.

Being only 200 km South of Bangkok, it is easily accessible and has been a popular destination, among Thailand's Royal Family and high-society, for nearly 80 years.

The resort was founded in the early 1920s by King Rama VII and in 1928, construction began on on a Royal Palace, which was named Klai Kangwon, meaning "Far From Worries". The palace still remains an official residence and it's not uncommon to see Royal motorcades passing through the streets.

The building of a railway line from Bangkok ensured Hua Hin's accessibility and cemented its popularity with the general public.

I am well acquainted with Hua Hin having stayed there for over six months during 2006 and I have admit that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I also attended a friend's wedding at the Sofitel Hotel in August 2008 and my last trip there was in October 2009.

There are many ways to get to Hua Hin but when I am with my girlfriend we usually drive. The road links from Bangkok are quite good and the journey should only take about 4 hours. If you fancy taking a taxi it should cost no more than 1500-2000 baht.

There is also a domestic aiport in Hua Hin, but, from May 2009, the company that used to run flights from Bangkok has suspended all operations indefinitely. Not that that's neccessarily a bad thing, as a return flight used to cost about 8000 baht!!!!!

For those of you on a budget the best options for getting to Hua Hin are by public bus, minbus or train.

Air-conditioned buses cost about 180 baht and run from the Southern Terminal in Bangkok. Services start at about 5am and finish just before midnight. The journey takes 4+ hours and will normally stop en route at Cha Am.

Minibuses generally cost about 200 baht and can be caught opposite the Ratchawitee Hospital near the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Minibuses often make multiple stops to let people on and off and this can add to the journey time and if you have a lot of luggage they may ask you to buy an extra seat!!!!

The most scenic way of getting to Hua Hin has to be by train. Services run from Hualumphong Station in Bangkok and stop at Hua Hin en route to Surat Thani and other towns in the South. A 2nd class seat on an air-conditioned Express train costs about 350 Baht and 3rd class seat will set you back just over 100 Baht.

For up-to-date information and prices please visit the Thai Railways website at

Once you've arrived in Hua Hin, you won't have any difficulty in finding good quality hotels, great restaurants and plenty of things to do.

Firstly, I'd like to discuss accommodation and I am happy to share my secrets about the best places to stay!!!! The broad range of options, makes Hua Hin a great place to visit for both the budget and the luxury traveller.

At the top of my list of luxury properties are the elegant V Villas. The resort has a nice beachfront location and is situated at the Southern end of the Petchkasem road, in a relatively quiet part of town. It features 13 boutique villas each with a private pool and terrrace area.

Your personal butler is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and whether you want a cocktail at 3 in the morning, a romantic candle-lit dinner served on your terrace or you want to be woken by a choir of cherubs, they will indulge your every whim.

The resort also has a huge infinity pool and the Villazzo Restaurant serves excellent international and Thai dishes.

It is very easy to miss the V Villas and drive straight past the resort, as there is very little in the way of signage. However, this is keeping with the rest of the development, being elegantly understated and whose aim is to protect the privacy of guests.

The cost per night, for experiencing this little slice of paradise, is from 12,000 baht!!!!

If you want more information you can follow this link....

If your budget doesn't stretch that far then a good mid-range option is the Hua Hin White Sands Hotel (formerly the Hua Hin Suites). This is a small 3 star hotel, offering deluxe rooms together with 1 and 2 bedroom suites. It has recently been refurbished and there is also a nice pool area and restaurant. The prices start from about 1500 baht per night in the low season.

This is a popular hotel thanks to it being only 2 minutes walk from the beach and the main entertainment area of "Soi Bintabaht".

For any of you who would like to take a look, here is their website.....

In my opinion one of the best budget hotels in Hua Hin is the Blue Moon. It is centrally located along the Chomsin road and close to the station and night market. The rooms rates start at 550 baht for a standard room with a fan which is not likely to break the bank!!!!

Click here for their website.....

For me one of the most important aspects of travelling is enjoying the the food and embarking on new culianry experiences. Eating out in Hua Hin is a real joy and being a town that was built on fishing, it is best known for the delicious, freshly caught seafood. However, for those of you who are not enamoured with Thai food there are plenty of fast-food establishments and chain restaurants, not to mention a multiplicity of independent eateries, where you can find international cuisine including French, Italian, Japanese and Indian.

Located on the seafront along the Naresdamri road and close to the fishing piers you can find some excellent seafood places. My personal favourite is the Ketsarin. You can feast on lobsters, crabs, sea perch, King prawns, oysters and red snapper but of all the dishes I recommend the rock lobsters!!! The restaurant is built on stilts over the water meaning you can enjoy the sunsets and beautiful views of the Hua Hin coastline.

If you fancy a 10-15 minute journey by taxi to Khao Takiab Village Beach, the Madam Greene restaurant is a great option too.

Another restaurant which is well worth a visit is Hagi, a Japanese venue serving traditional fare including sashimi, teppanyaki and the famous sukiyaki hot pot. It is located on the corner of Damnernkasem and Naresdamri roads and close the beach and main entertainment areas.

I know sitting by the pool soaking up the sun can be very relaxing but I always encourage visitors to drag themselves away from their resorts and get out and about. If you take the time to explore Hua Hin and the surrounding areas you will be rewarded with some spectacular sites.

The nearby Khao Takiab, better known as Chopstick Hill, with its palm fringed sandy beach and eponymous "Monkey Mountain" which is home to the temple of Wat Khao Takiab is well worth a visit for the stunning views.

From Khao Takiab, it is possible to take a day trip to the pretty island of Koh Singto. It is accessible by boat and takes around 30 minutes. There are plenty of local operators who will be happy to arrange a trip for you.

A few kilometres further South you will find the beautiful Suan Son beach. It is owned by the Thai army which means development has been limited, but is open to the public. For those of you with an interest in flora and fauna, Suan Son is renowned for the rare tropical sea pines along the shore.

In my opnion some of the best beaches in the area are near the trditional fishing village of Khao Tao (not to be confused with Koh Tao, the island famous for diving!!!). The beaches of Hat Sai Noi and Hat Sai Yai are very quiet compared to Hua Hin and there are also some nice temples to visit.

Staying on the theme of nature, there is a lovely waterfall, called Namtok Pala U in the Kaeng Krachan National Park, about 50 kilometres West of Hua Hin. The best time of year to visit is from November to April when the water is running at its peak and the forest is at its most lush. If you are looking to get in touch with the natural world and fancy a night under the stars, you are able to hire a tent and camp in the park.

Like a lot of attractions in Thailand there is double pricing in operation here and whilst Thais are only charged 40 baht, admission for foreigners is 200 baht!!!

The most spectacular national park in the area is Khao Sam Roi Yot or the "300 Peaks Mountain". Visitors can explore towering limestone mountain ranges, deserted beaches, ancient mangrove swamps and deep caves with centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites. The park is only 65 kilometres from Hua Hin and can be reached by car in about an hour.

I can't mention Hua Hin without mentioning golf!!! Even for the uninitiated like me, it is obvious that golf plays an important part in the life of the town. During the month of August, Hua Hin & Cha Am, host an annual golf festival, with local courses offering vastly reduced green fees.

I have been reliably informed by golf playing chums that it is home to some of the best courses in Thailand, if not the whole of Asia.

I have only ever played on one course which was in August 2008, at the Black Mountain Golf Club. I was extremely impressed with the course, location and facilities, but, as I have not played at any of the other courses I have nothing to compare it with.

For 18 holes including a caddy, golf buggy and refreshments, my friends and I each paid about 3500 baht. For more information here is their weblink

There are some good websites covering Hua Hin and the environs and my favourites are listed below.

This seems the perfect place to end my review of Hua Hin and all that is left to say is "enjoy your trip to HH".

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Drugs in Thailand

It must be easy to buy and use drugs in Thailand, with all the full moon parties and relaxed holiday atmosphere, right?

The Police aren't going to worry about a foreigner smoking a few joints, right?

Thai Customs will turn a blind eye if I decide to bring a bit of weed with me, right?

Wrong, wrong and wrong again!!!!!

The penalties for possessing and using illegal drugs can be harsh and include heavy fines or long prison sentences. It is also important to remember that Thailand stills carries the death penalty for drug trafficking.

So you may want to think twice before lighting that spliff!!!

If you are considering trafficking drugs in or out of the country, then you are a complete f*ckstick and need your head examined. The only advice I can offer you is to read the book, "The Damage Done: Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison" by Warren Fellows and then read it again, just in case it didn't sink through your thick skull the first time.

If you are contemplating buying drugs for personal consumption in the Kingdom, then please be aware that it is illegal and you are playing with fire!!!! The dealer will probably be working as a police informant and there is a good chance you will be arrested in a "sting" operation and be forced to pay a significant amount to secure your release. In cases like this the money will usually be split between the police and the dealer.

In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of raids on discos, bars, or nightclubs looking for drug users. During the raids, Police will typically check the ID's of all customers in the establishment and then make each person provide a urine sample to be checked for narcotics. Foreign tourists are not excused from these checks, and anyone whose urine tests positive for drugs is arrested and charged. If you fail to co-operate, by refusing to provide a sample then you will also be arrested.

If you are particularly unlucky and are unable to bribe your way out of a drugs-related arrest then you will be looking at a lengthy stay in prison. Thai prisons are extremely unpleasant places and not like the holiday camps that masquerade as prisons in the UK!!!!

Once you have served your time or paid your fine, you will then be deported and the chances are you will also be blacklisted, which means you will never be able to visit Thailand again.

So, that £10 bag of weed could turn out to be quite costly!!!!

The following website and blog provides some very interesting perspectives about the Thai Penal system....

An equally informative site on this matter is......

I would like to add at this point, that I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who gets caught using drugs or trying to smuggle them into Thailand, they deserve everything they get!!!

As a word of caution to any travellers who are using prescribed drugs, it is always wise to have your doctor's prescription with you, to prove the medication is genuine, in the event of you being stopped and searched by law enforcement officials. This should hopefully prevent any squeeky-bum moments!!!!

If you are interested in finding out more about the penalties for drug smuggling in other parts of South East Asia the folloing link is well worth a read.....