Detour

(NOT SO) SMOOTH SAILING It was the romance of it all that persuaded me to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang from Huay Xai, meandering down the Mekong through a veil of river mist like some intrepid adventurer of old ... Well, O.K., romance and fear: the fast boats have a reputation for dispatching passengers to the murky depths.

At $13, the slow boat was half the fare for the souped-up floating dragsters that rend the Mekong's serenity with their high-pitched whine—and probably 50 times safer. That it took two days to chug the 300 km downstream instead of six hours...

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