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One of China’s Most Influential Travel Show Hosts Right Now is a Fox Hand Puppet

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Filming vlogs, especially travel vlogs, has become one of the most trendy ways for China’s influencers to share their life and experiences on sites such as microblog platform Weibo, video site Bilibili and even short video sensation TikTok — similar to their Western equivalents on YouTube and Twitter. But have you ever seen a traveling vlogger fox puppet? Now we have one on the Chinese internet.

Hu Lai in the first season in Hong Kong (photo: Weibo)

Hu Lai Decides to Go Travel first aired on March 17 on Bilibili (and later appeared on Weibo and Tencent Video). The show has since attracted hundreds of thousands of views.

In the first season, Hu Lai, a hand puppet in the shape of a Tibetan sand fox whose poker face has long been used in popular memes on the Chinese internet, guides viewers through a 10-day-tour in Hong Kong. In addition to comparing the most visited tourism attractions, Hu Lai chooses adventure via some more local parts hidden in the metropolis — from a shabby hostel room in the infamous Chungking Mansions to the only on-boat restaurant left around the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter, and from the “Oriental Venice” of Tai O Fishing Village to the fortunetelling stands on Temple Street.

So why has Hu Lai become so popular? The dubbing performer is Liu Yang, a well-known stand-up comedian from Beijing’s Danliren stand-up club. As the director Wu Yerun predicted (interview in Chinese), years of comedic performances and writing enable Liu to improvise a lot during the trip, and therefore build a funny, kind of mean-yet-cute persona for Hu Lai who loves complaining about everything while also enjoying tasting foods and talking about life, history and culture with the locals.

Hu Lai in the fishing village

Hu Lai in a fishing village in Hong Kong (photo: Weibo)

In the production team’s eyes, Hu Lai Decides to Go Travel is seen as a “mini traveling variety show.” It is produced by professional content provider Be Wild Media. Before Be Wild was founded in 2016, the crew worked for the satellite Travel Television Channel for 15 years, working on flagship Chinese travel documentaries and shows, such as Traveler.

Inspired by Awkward Puppets on YouTube, CEO Liu Hang and his team came up with the idea of making a puppet host with a differentiated persona from other traveling videos. Be Wild Video’s professional filming technique guaranteed the quality of every 10-minute episode, which is also the start of them embracing the age of short videos.

Hu Lai Decides to Go Travel was screened on the satellite platform Travel Channel this month, and the second season looks set to air this summer due to the huge response (and subsequently a number of potential sponsors reaching out to Liu Hang). The show’s producers plan to introduce a family and even a nemesis for Hu Lai in the future, as well as making him able to roll his eyes and make more facial expressions. Danliren Club is also planning to send a whole screenwriting team to help Hu Lai improve his sense of humor in the next season.

All of which could well mean this unlikely travel host continues to be an internet sensation in China.

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van