The trend of making Youtube videos has become popular among many young people, even those in the more remote parts of Việt Nam.
Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng, 22, is among them. She hosts the Hướng Giáy Sa Pa channel.
As a member of the Giáy ethnic group, Hướng has created dozens of clips lasting between five and 10 minutes that showcase the landscapes, customs, and food in and around Sa Pa, a resort town in the northern province of Lào Cai.
It is the simple way she narrates her stories that adds charm to her clips.
Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng does everything for all of her clips. Photo Courtesy of Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng
Videos showing the black sticky rice cake of the Giáy, the offering of traditional food to their ancestors in festive events, traditional costumes, folk legends, folk songs and the joy of picking plums in local gardens are among the videos accruing thousands of views on her channel.
Born into a farming family in Tả Van Commune, some 8km south of central Sa Pa, her passion for folk culture has been nurtured by the songs and legends of her mother and grandmother.
“I have had a tranquil childhood in my village, by spectacular mountains and terraced rice fields,” Hướng told Việt Nam News. “I just want to preserve those beautiful memories and want to do something good for my homeland.”
Having just graduated from Hà Nội University where she majored in International Studies, she now runs a homestay, works as a tour guide, and sells local delicacies.
She said she has met many people investing in local tourism who do not understand the cultural features of the Giáy. For example, they build homestays in the form of the Giáy but decorate with patterns belonging to the ethnic Mông.
A photo of a local landscape taken by Hướng. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng
She also said that local tourism is lacking the original native features of the area even though Sa Pa has become more popular with numerous hotels, resorts and homestays.
“Many tourists still do not understand the native culture,” she said.
“I think I have a responsibility to do something about that, not just talking about it,” she said.
Her Youtube channel was published in August last year. She did everything by herself from preparing the script, to filming and editing.
“Though it requires lots of time and effort, I still want to offer the best clips of my ethnic group,” she said.
Hướng said the first videos she filmed were clumsy. In a clip that features the making of a traditional cake for the Mid-Autumn Festival, the tripod holding the camera fell down when she was busy picking leaves to dye the flour.
“I was afraid that the camera might have been broken and I had spent my savings on it,” she said. “Luckily, it was not damaged.”
Hướng (third right) poses for a photo with her family at her homestay. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng
She said that in order to improve locals’ lives, they should preserve the ethnic traditional features of their language and cuisine.
She has contacted a number of Giáy people to ask for information, to learn about legends, folk songs and language. She has even searched materials at the Lào Cai Ethnic Boarding Secondary School and the National Library in Hà Nội.
“Many young people in my hometown said they have not heard any folk stories from the Giáy, while some others speak only Vietnamese and cannot speak the Giáy language,” she said.
“I was surprised to receive feedback from young Giáy people after seeing my clips. I want to spread the cultural values and pride of a Giáy ethnic. Culture is a treasure we should maintain for future generations,” she added.
Quỳnh Hoàng, who follows Hướng’s channel, said she has seen all of the clips Hướng has released.
“In an environment like Youtube, where more experienced Youtubers have more view luring tricks, Hướng’s clips are like gentle musical notes offering people the opportunity to travel online,” she said.
“The clips are engaging, with their pristine landscape and simple stories about the locals,” Hoa Đào, another subscriber said.
This young girl wants to spread the love for her hometown and people on the net. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng
Hướng plans to make more regular clips on the culture of the Giáy and Sa Pa tourism. She has also put out the call for more Giáy people to contribute to the channel.
“I will also add English subtitles to attract foreigners,” she said.
Vàng Phúc, also a Giáy ethnic, residing in Tân Uyên District, Lai Châu Province, who sent audio of his flute sounds to play in the background of Hướng's first clips, said though Hướng is young, she is determined.
"I think the determination is worth respecting," he said. "I'm sure her channel will gather a bigger audience of not only the Giáy but also people from other groups."
Hướng said she plans to set up an enterprise offering a unique tourism experience to tourists that will involve Sa Pa locals.
“We will offer an interesting and unique experience to tourists,” she said.
The number of foreign visitors to Sa Pa has declined sharply due to the present COVID-19 pandemic. More and more Vietnamese visitors want to enjoy natural landscapes and the distinctive culture for a longer time, she said.
The young woman wants to do something to help people understand Sa Pa's native ethnic groups in general and her group in particular. Photo courtesy of Vũ Thị Ngọc Hướng