The internet is flooded with vloggers specializing in food and travel, but with many borders closed they now need to refocus their work. One such vlogger in Việt Nam has almost 2 million subscribers. Đinh Võ Hoài Phương goes by the name Khoai Lang Thang, and his videos specialise in the normal lives of Vietnamese people.
“Welcome to Khoai Lang Thang channel. And I'm Khoai," are the opening words of most of the young man's videos, which immediately attract audiences with his sweet Southwestern voice and bright smile. Through his videos, Phương leads us to visit various places in Việt Nam to get acquainted with the people, not to mention to see many delicious dishes.
Đinh Võ Hoài Phương is famous for his vlogs about the normal life of the Vietnamese people. Photo courtesy of Khoai Lang Thang
An article, a story or a dish can all be an inspiration for Phương to plan a trip. His videos give a true look at the idyllic working life of local people. The range of his content is wide: he follows people on boats to harvest bananas or lotus roots in U Minh forest, picks root vegetables in Đồng Tháp, or wanders around squid fishing boats at night, showing a slice of the country that many may not have ever seen.
Perhaps the attraction of Phương's work is his sincerity and the friendliness of the local people he meets. He often stays a long time in each location to get familiar with the locals and gain a deeper understanding of the area, and the natural bonds he forms with people are clear for all to see.
“When meeting a stranger, usually we will be a little shy. I always think that I need to be enthusiastic and honest with people first, then they will treat me warmly in return. Each of my trips lasts about one or two weeks. Sometimes I can stay for one or two months until I become a member of the local community, then I feel confident enough to make a video,” he says.
The vlogger loves to become a part of the community before creating a video. Photo courtesy of Khoai Lang Thang
“When I was newer, I was under a lot of pressure and always wanted to make a clip with a lot of knowledge, bringing many interesting and strange new knowledge to audiences. Now that I'm more mature, I just want to bring authenticity and give viewers a sense of comfort.”
Over time he has learnt to take a more relaxed approach with his videos and not try to do too much, this gives them a real feeling, which beguiles viewers far and wide.
“I don't want my videos to be too knowledgeable, or too academic. I just want people to enjoy and learn some information about those places. By watching our videos about food, people can learn how to use the ingredients. What is the life of the people there, what is their personality like? I want to integrate culture and people into the clips. I want my clips to be gentle and real,” he says.
Social distancing has restricted his travel for the time being, but his videos still have millions of views.
“I love to travel everywhere, from Asia to Europe. I travelled a lot in the northern mountainous area and in central Việt Nam. But due to the pandemic, for the past two years I could only go to the southwestern region in between periods of social distancing, especially my hometown Bến Tre. The place always brings me a feeling of peace,” Phương says.
Before becoming a travel vlogger, Phương was a construction engineer, but always felt the job was not for him, and that he just wanted to quit the job to spend time travelling. Despite objections from friends and relatives, Phương followed his true calling.
"I felt that I was no longer suitable for the job. In the past, I really wanted to do a creative job as an architect, but the reality was far from what I imagined. I quit my job because I realised that was not the place where I belonged,” Phương says.
As a full-time YouTuber, Phương admits his life has become more colourful.
"I have plenty of time, a lot of emotions and so many fascinating experiences from the trips," he says.
Đinh Võ Hoài Phương loves to share his special experiences with audiences. Photo courtesy of Khoai Lang Thang
“I hope to have sent a message about my country. Life in Việt Nam is full of beauty, with sincere and simple people. We have the advantage of the landscape, rich cuisine and diverse culture. If we exploit it carefully and respect nature, it will stand out in Southeast Asia.
“When the pandemic is over, I want to go abroad as well as to places in Việt Nam more. I hope the trips will be longer, and I will have more companions.”
While everyone has to limit their movement due to the pandemic, audiences say watching such realistic and human-friendly videos makes them feel strangely peaceful. And many thank Khoai Lang Thang for bringing them joy in the natural and simple things in life.
He knows as a vlogger, many tourists will follow his lead.
“The more followers I have, the more responsible I have to be. The pressure on my shoulders is also greater, so I always try to improve myself, trying to balance life and work. I hope everyone stays by my side and watches my upcoming trips.” VNS