The tourism opportunity represented by the rapid changes taking place in Laos is not lost on the people there. My monk and novice friends, for example, both said they imagined becoming tour guides in the future. This explains their eagerness to volunteer – they saw it as a training opportunity. I was lucky enough to be one of their beta testers.
As a side note, the monks I met in Laos seemed to treat their monastic choice as a friendlier and more enlightened version of the way many less privileged Americans view our armed services (specifically, the associated college fund). In other words, it is a way to gain access to travel and educational opportunities that would otherwise be unattainable. Phra Khanthong told me about several former monks who had disrobed and gone on to establish careers and families, and he predicted he would do the same within five years. It also bears mentioning that I saw very few elderly monks in either Laos or Thailand.
Anyway, back to my original topic… I hope the developing Laos tourist industry can find the balance needed to serve both the pleasure seekers and the adventure seekers.