Did you know that Asean celebrated its 50th anniversary on Aug 8? Yup it was the glint of gold for Asean yesterday!

Ten countries, many ethnicities, dozens of fables, scores of cultural symbols, hundreds of places to visit and thousands of delicacies to relish – diversity flourishes across this region of over 628 million people. Here are some, possibly lesser known, facts about the regional grouping.

Here are the first five countries with five more to come on Monday.

MALAYSIA

Catch the world’s biggest flower at Gunung Gading

Asean.

Enjoy the beauty of the Rafflesia in Sarawak’s rainforest at Gunung Gading National Park. Photo: The Star

Mount Kinabalu in Sabah comes to mind at the mention “mountains” and “Malaysia”. But Gunung Gading National Park in neighbouring Sarawak also warrants a visit.

The mountain – named after the legendary Princess Gading (a guardian of three mountain peaks) – is touted as one of the best places in the region to see a Rafflesia in bloom. This is said to be the largest and most beautiful flower in the world. Home to a range of wildlife, the park has three nature trails that weave through a rainforest. The park is accessible by car from Kuching, in a journey of about two hours.

‘Rice’ and shine at Kedah Paddy Museum

Malaysia’s agrarian history is carefully curated at the country’s premier paddy museum (and only fourth paddy museum in the world after Japan, Germany and the Philippines).

Located in Kedah, the country’s “rice bowl state”, this three-storey building features exhibitions on paddy cultivation in Malaysia and around the world. Apart from that, one can learn all about the taboos and legends of paddy-planting.

Food for thought artist

Asean.

Art you can eat: One of Samantha Lee’s creations. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

“Eye candy” would probably best represent what Malaysian food artist Samantha Lee does. A busy mother of young children, Lee started devising all sorts of quirky, cool lunchbox meals for her kids to encourage them to eat well, fashioning scenes from fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood and cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants from food. Lee has a over 700,000 followers on her Instagram account @leesamantha and she’s been featured on E! Online, The Rachael Ray Show, People magazine and Vogue.

The Jungle Bird cocktail

Asean.

Jungle Bird, a Malaysian classic cocktail. Photo: The Star

Rum, Campari, lime juice, pineapple juice and syrup. These five simple ingredients make up the Jungle Bird, an internationally-renowned classic cocktail that was created right here in Kuala Lumpur. Created in 1978 at the Aviary Bar in the old KL Hilton on Jalan Sultan Ismail, every cocktail bar in KL worth its salt (and bitters) knows how to serve it.

Cutting edge gaming connection

Malaysians are used to seeing local gamers compete in eSports tournaments around the world, but how many know that there’s a local connection to the gaming equipment they use?

The all-Malaysian Penang arm of Taiwanese company Pixart Imaging Inc designed the most important component in popular gaming mice such as the Logitech G502 and G900, as well as Razer’s Deathadder and Abyssus – the optical sensor that gives them the sheer accuracy needed for gaming. Aside from gaming, its sensors are also used in the Apple Magic mouse and the Microsoft Surface Dial and several drone brands for hover stabilisation.

BRUNEI

Why the name Brunei?

Local legend has it that the first settlers landed near the Brunei River and found an abundance of water and fish. One proclaimed baru nah! which loosely means “now we found it” which over time became Brunei.

A palace fit for every king

Asean.

File picture of Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Muizuddin Waddaulah delivering his speech before the Investiture ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman in conjunction with his 62nd birthday. Photo: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

The 1,788-room Bruneian palace, the Istana Nurul Iman, spanning a mind-boggling 120ha is the world’s largest residential palace, housing the Prime Minister’s office and the seat of the government of Brunei. It is also has a mosque that can hold 1,500 people, and has five swimming pools and even a helipad.

Venice of The East

Hospitals, petrol stations and even mosques on stilts might surprise those passing by Kampong Ayer, the water village along the banks of Brunei River. About 300,000 people live there and their village has been on stilts for 1,300 years.

Water or gasoline? The latter is cheaper

Crude and natural gas, two of Brunei’s main exports, account for half of its gross domestic product. While many associate crude oil as a product of other regions, crude oil and natural gas production account for 65% of GDP and 95% of exports. It costs more to buy a bottle of 1.5l drinking water (US$0.78 or RM3.34) than a litre of gasoline (US$0.38 or RM1.63), according to some reports.

A first for many

Asean.

Meet Maziah the first female athlete from Brunei to be an Olympian. Photo: ANN

Maziah Mahusin had the honour of being the country’s first female athlete to represent her country at the Olympics. In 2012’s London Olympics, Maziah represented Brunei in the women’s 400m race, and despite not being the fastest runner, it does not take away from the pride of being a pioneer for women in sports.