The largest staple of the Thai and Lao diets is rice, by far. Steamed rice for the most part in Thailand, and the wonderful glutinous sticky rice in Lao (one of my absolute favorite foods in the world). The rice paddies canvas the landscape, most still plowed with the help of the revered water buffalos (although "Chinese water buffalos" - tractors - are starting to crop up more and more). People busy themselves with rice for hours a day: planting it, harvesting it, selling it, drying, preparing, cooking and eating it. It would be quite a different place without it.