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Concierge.com's insider take:
The mighty Mekong, which courses the country's length, is a reliable route for transport, commerce—and adventure. The Luang Suay, a 100-foot-long steel-hulled river boat operated by Asian Oasis, makes two-day cruises through majestic mountain scenery from Ban Houay Xai, a Golden Triangle border town, to Luang Prabang (856-71-252-553; www.asian-oasis.com). A sister boat, Vat Phou, steams on three-day trips from Pakse to Si Phun Don archipelago, the "4,000 Islands'' of southern Laos. Every tour operator in Luang Prabang sells a trip to the Caves of Pak Ou, where devout pilgrims have placed 4,000 Buddha images inside a spectacular limestone mountain at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou rivers, 20 miles north of the city. The caverns quickly become loud and cramped when the tour boats arrive about 9 am; spend $35 ($25 in low season) and charter your own fast boat with Siphan Thong to beat the mobs (856-71-212-910).
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