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Hit travel reality show ventures abroad to Laos

By Li Yingxue | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-05-24 07:39
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A view of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos, a famed tourist destination. CHINA DAILY

"We have many tourists coming to Laos, especially from Thailand, who prefer our railway line. We also have tourists from South Korea, some European countries and the United States," Yang adds.

Yang mentions that this railway line has also boosted economies along its route. For example, Laos' mangoes can now be transported via the China-Laos Railway to Kunming and then distributed to other cities in China.

Director of HAHAHAHAHA, Li Lin, traveled on the China-Laos Railway with her colleagues several times before filming. "Apart from Laotian signage, attendants and announcements on the train, it felt just like riding a high-speed train in China," Li Lin recalls.

Impressed by the railway's convenience and the stunning scenery and friendly locals along the route in Laos, she decided to make it the first stop of the new season of the show.

According to Li Lin, HAHAHAHAHA is all about exploring unique locations. The team's first trip to Laos for scouting happened in September last year. "Once we got to Laos, it felt like time stood still," she says. "Unlike domestic tourism, where we often find similar things in different places, Laos offers plenty of fresh, undiscovered spots."

Li Lin finds Laos to be incredibly relaxed. "Take Luang Prabang, for instance. It's small, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with no traffic lights. You can stroll around freely and the absence of big malls makes materialism seem to disappear."

She is particularly struck by a tiny village they visited in Vang Vieng. "It's astonishing to see so many young people from all over the world enjoying themselves, seeing it as a utopian paradise.

"It's an ideal destination for recent college graduates to explore abroad without breaking the bank. Laos is relatively unknown, offering a unique travel experience," she says.

As the fourth season of the show aired, Li Lin noticed from audience feedback that it is funnier than ever. With the same cast as the third season, the guests in the fourth season are more familiar with each other, making their travels more relaxed and enjoyable.

"Their bond is really strong. They have fun together during filming and even hang out during breaks. Audiences can feel their camaraderie," she says.

In the show, encounters with people and visits to shops happen spontaneously, without prior planning. In Laos, the guests met many Chinese businessmen.

One businessman from Hunan province even invited them to his restaurant, sharing the story of Hunan businesspeople entering Laos. For over 20 years, a lot of people from the area have come to Laos for business. Today, businesses and shops from Hunan are found all across Laos, dealing in sectors such as infrastructure, steel, automobiles, telecommunications and hardware trading.

"I hope the show spreads some goodwill. I want the encounters between guests and different people to reflect the relationships between individuals," Li Lin says.

Peng Kan, a lecturer at Beijing Normal University's School of Arts and Media, notes that the travel shows HAHAHAHAHA and Divas Hit the Road have focused on the Belt and Road Initiative in the past two years. This proves that as outdoor travel reality shows resume global journeys, they're also taking on bigger social roles.

Compared to studio-based shows of the same theme, outdoor travel shows offer a more relatable platform, Peng says. For example, following HAHAHAHAHA's guests from Yunnan to Laos via the China-Laos Railway helps viewers understand the project's impact and learn about the Laotian culture.

Content with both Chinese and international elements is popular with overseas audiences because of its intimacy and inclusiveness. The show's influence has even reached overseas, getting local media attention during filming and gaining fans abroad, Peng says.

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