Travelers heading to Luang Prabang—the fabulous complex of temples in Laos—can choose to brave Highway 13, a serpentine, two-lane mountainous road prone to accidents and bandit attacks. Or they can do as the locals have for seven centuries: float.
Traditionally, this meant squeezing among livestock into a nook of a cargo boat, but these days you can sail in style. East-West Siam (mekongcruises.com
) operates the luxurious Luang Say
—a purpose-built passenger vessel that plies the waters between Luang Prabang and the Thai border crossing at Houeisay. It comes with padded benches, fresh coffee, a full bar and English-speaking staff who present you with a helpful guidebook for the two-day, one-night journey. Your overnight stop, after 10 hours on the water, is at the Luang Say Lodge in Pakbeng, where pastis on ice and a lazy dinner on a deck overlooking the Mekong River await. Those looking to maximize the tranquility should note that the boat is often nearly empty on the upriver run to Houeisay. Book a trip in this direction, after first seeing the temples, and you'll have the Luang Say
almost to yourself.