Full throttle up the Mekong

Watching the ultra thin "longtail boat" blast up the Mekong river reminded me of Evil Knieval;  third world style. Both the driver and the passengers wore 1970's style motorcycle helmets, sun bleached life jackets and over sized goggles. Their large bulbous heads protruded above the gunwales. As they rocketed past, I could see the passenger's hands gripping the boat sides in an attempt to stay upright against the extraordinary acceleration. Their expressions were a combination of steely determination and sheer terror. The exhaust pipe extended from the engine above water line and roared with every twist of the throttle. This boat was a drag-racer on water, built to go straight and very fast. The upturned nose of the boat seemed ready to shoot skyward had it not been for the passenger's ballast.
The driver looked to be about 16. Primitive, powerful, and dangerous were the adjectives that came to mind.  A boatman by trade I understood all too well how fluctuations in water levels change constantly, sometimes daily. Obstacles that were not there one day could be the next.  This was rainy season and one flooded side stream could litter the river with logs and debris turning the water into a mine-field. Rock outcroppings can lurk inches below the waterline, invisible from the surface. One clip of a submerged rock or floating log and the speedy "long-tail"  boat would explode and disintegrate into splinters. An ugly mental picture to say the least. "Wow", I thought to myself, "things are a little loose around here."  I love a good adventure but this was sketchy.  
Our choices for traveling up the Mekong to the Laotian town of Luang Prabang was either that or the "slow boat". The age old adage of "there is a fine line between brave and stupid" kept playing through my head. "Maybe if I was traveling alone and not on my honeymoon I might go for it", I thought with the adolescent portion of my male brain. Alas, with age comes judgement, and besides, if we chose the fast boat and ended up on the rocks, the headlines back home would be embarrassing. My beautiful bride, the wiser of us, was not at all conflicted. She smiled dismissively and said " to each their own". We paid for our tickets and climbed aboard the slow boat. We were not alone in our choice as almost every seat was taken. Our fellow slow boat travelers were just as amazed by the long, fast boats as we were. They gawked, pointed and spoke in muffled tones. Their cameras pointed and clicked. The slow boat required no helmets, no goggles and no white knuckles. Life jackets were stowed on board but we were not required to be buckled in at all times. As we stepped from the dock on to the wide, more stable craft, I was OK with our decision. I felt confident we wouldn't be making headlines and our marriage would last longer than the honeymoon.
Full throttle on the Mekong
The slow boat on the Mekong