In a remote part of northern Laos, the bamboo forest gives way to cranes. A city is being carved out of jungle: tower blocks cloaked in scaffolding loom over restaurants, karaoke bars and massage parlours. The beating heart of Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (so called because it sits at the point where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand converge) is the casino, a palatial confection featuring faux-Roman statuary and ceilings covered in frescoes. “Laos Vegas” does not cater to Laotians, however. Croupiers accept only Chinese yuan or Thai baht. Street signs are in Chinese and English. The city’s clocks are set to Chinese time, an hour ahead of the rest of Laos.