Though the distances you might wish to travel in Laos can seem small, don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to travel from point A to point B. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to slow down and enjoy the pace of life — the north is fascinating and one best not raced through.

The mountains, roads and limited tourist infrastructure have held mass tourism and change at bay. But change will hit northern Laos like a tsunami, very soon. Lands once used for rice paddies have been leased by Chinese companies and the land is engulfed with cash crops. Seven dams are being built on the Nam Ou River, affecting an untold number of villages that rely on the waterway. The massive Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong is set to be completed in 2019. A 23 billion dollar high-speed railway between Thailand and China (through Laos, of course) is a done deal. The country will undergo immense change.

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