These days the town still has some old buildings, but there are newer buildings too. The town has cleaned up its litter and has far more shops, bars and cafes catering to the new influx of tourists. Most of the tourists are Chinese, but the westerners are coming too, so there are plenty of opportunities to eat and drink western style. Most of the loos are still just the holes in the ground though.
Sadly, based on a couple of our own experiences and some comments from those who have been in China longer, it does feel a little like China is doing a lot of this. They seem to take a genuine experience or sight, and make it into cleaned up tourist version. So the cormorant fishing becomes just a display, and the Stone Forest gets paved pathways, manicured lawns and golf buggies.
Still, we did discover a liking for Lao dark beer.