Five destinations you should know more about

These countries might not be on traveller’s bucket lists – but according to the people that live there, they should be.

Whether it is the notion that Brits only drink tea or that all Argentineans dance tango, cultural stereotypes can overshadow a country’s true nuances.

For a more authentic take on the world, we turned to question-and-answer site Quora.com to ask locals: “What do you think every foreigner should know about your country?” Whether to correct assumptions or share a bit of homeland pride, more than 600 users chimed in on behalf of their countries.

While it was hard to narrow the responses down, we wanted to highlight some of the residents who vouched for countries that might not be on traveller’s bucket lists – but, according to the people that live there, should be.

Zambia
Though his family comes from India, Praneet Vizzapu was born and lived most of his life in Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa. First, he wanted people to know the Zambia is safe (“no, you won’t get hacked to death walking on the road”) but above all, he encouraged visitors to get to know the country’s spectacular sites.

He shared an image of the native Termitomyces titanicus mushroom, believed to be the largest edible mushroom in the world. The fungus can reach almost a metre in diameter, and grows wild at the start of Zambia’s rainy season, which lasts from December to March. Foragers can trek the Mutinondo Wilderness, in the northern part of the country, for a chance to find the fungi.

While Zambia might be most famous for its Victoria Falls – "also known as Mosi-O-tunya, which translates to ‘Smoke that Thunders’” – Vizzapu suggested travellers expand their horizons to the northeast. “South Luangwa National Park is one of Africa’s best destinations,” he said. “The concentration of wildlife that lives around the Luangwa River is one of the highest in Africa.”

Mongolia
Amgalan Ganbat was quick to squash the stereotypes that come with Mongolia’s long history as a warrior nation founded by Genghis Khan. “We are not violent warriors anymore, like those guys who made the Chinese build the Great Wall,” he said. “Actually, Mongolians can be one of the most friendly and peaceful people.” 

Even still, Ganbat said visitors can catch a glimpse of the country’s ancient bow and arrow practices at Naadam, the country’s largest festival. Held annually in the capital city Ulaanbaatar in July, the festival showcases horse racing, archery and wresting.

The population remains connected to its traditional roots, with 10 to 15% of residents maintaining a traditional nomadic lifestyle. Even so, locals do not sacrifice modern conveniences. “Mongolians hate to be disconnected from the world,” Ganbat said. “For this reason, the internet connection speed is one of the fastest [in the world]” and those that live in the countryside still have cell phones, satellite TV and even solar panels.

Guyana
Dhanishry Narine reminded readers that her country was in South America, not in Africa as many think, perhaps due in part to Guyana's yellow, red, green and black flag, or its name’s similarity to Africa’s Guinea Bissau.

Located in the northern part of the continent, Guyana is “more culturally Caribbean than South American”, having been colonized by several nations, including England, France, Spain and the Netherlands. “We’re working on feeling more South American," Narine said. “By having roads that connect to Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil, this will change our culture again.”

The Guyanese cuisine reflects its history of so many ethnic groups. “[We have] Indian roti and curries, African meterngie (a soup with ground provisions and dumplings), European bread pudding and cheese rolls, and Chinese lowmein and chowmein,” Narine said.

Lucky for visitors, the Guyanese are also a food-sharing people. “If you’re ever over at one of our houses, we’ll probably have to fight the urge to feed you, and to insist that you take leftovers for your family as well.”

Kazakhstan
Thanks to the Sasha Baron Cohen film Borat, Kazakhstan residents felt like they needed to change a few of the misperceptions the film created.

“Kazakhstan actually exists and was not made up by Borat, and it is huge,” said Berik Dossayev. As proof, Dossayev shared photos of his modern city Almaty (the country’s largest city and bidder for the 2022 Olympics), fields of poppies, and rolling meadows and lakes with towering mountains in the distance.

Burma
This southeastern Asian country, also known as Myanmar, has seen its fair share of turmoil and government corruption, said Quora user Ei Wai. “The current government has improved, but they still can’t overcome many problems from the past,” she said.

Still, Wai said she is hopeful that leaders like Daw Aung Sann Suu Kyi, a parliament politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, can change the current situation. She also hopes the country’s history does not deter people from enjoying the hospitable culture and stunning historical sites. 

“Every part of our country has beautiful places,” she said. “I hope you will enjoy your holiday there.”

Her must-see list included Bagan, “an ancient and historic city”; the Shwedagon Pagoda, “famous for the over 40 tons of gold that people donated to the pagoda”; and Kyaik Htee Yo Pagada (or Golden Rock), a rock that “seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill”.