Kyle Le admits he never intended to build a Youtube career: “it happened accidentally,” he says with profound appreciation.
Kyle’s vlogging origins began with sharing clips of food and places with his family and friends while traveling in Vietnam. Viewers who happened to stumble upon his videos began sharing them with others, and encouraging him to produce more videos to satisfy their curiosity about the country.
Little did he know, however, that his hobby would eventually lead him to unique opportunities, including collaborating with one of his idols, Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods.
His path to success certainly did not happen overnight, but as he began finessing his technical skills in-front and behind the camera, he started to see the fruits of his labor. His honest, and informative perspective on Modern Vietnam has created a niche for him within an oversaturated market of online content.
Although he says his future is unclear, one thing is for sure: his passion for travel, discovery, and Vietnamese culture is slowly spreading, and he is quickly becoming a knowledgeable and credible source of information on the subject. With his own niche of content and unique personality, we’re sure he will find his subscribers and view counts grow even faster as he continues on with his journey in Vietnam.
Jackfroot- Who encouraged you to start Youtubing? How did you grow your viewership?
I made my first YouTube account in the 10th grade because I wanted my friends to see what my trip to Vietnam was like a few months earlier. I never stopped uploading videos, but I’ve never had any consistency until late November 2014, when I took this more seriously because viewers were encouraging me. It grew from just creating short clips for friends to actually having a loyal viewership. I never set out to create the channel that KyleLe.net is today. The viewership grew because I was more and more consistent. The quality improved. I invested more time with editing and audio. I purchased better cameras. I even expanded my audience by traveling to many countries around Vietnam. Content, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Getting more involved in social media–from Facebook to Instagram and more recently, Snapchat– has been pivotal to my growth. I’m sure my appearance on Bizarre Foods helped a little, but what really helped me get more viewers was a combination of higher quality, consistency, being more engaged, and being a better “Youtuber” as a whole.
Why did you first decide to move to Vietnam? Did you think you’d be there this long?
I first decided to move to Vietnam because Vietnam was constantly on my mind during my last year of University. I had traveled and saw parts of Vietnam beyond Saigon the year prior, and I constantly had Vietnam on my brain throughout the year. I even sat during lectures and wrote down imaginary itineraries of all the cities that I wanted to go to. Living in Vietnam was supposed to be a year only. I never had plans to stay for this long. I still don’t know how long I’ll be here, but everything comes to end eventually.
Have you ever felt that people take you less seriously because of your lifestyle/career choice, or do they admire you for it?
Youtube isn’t a career for me…at least not yet. Many people who just watch might believe that I travel all the time or run around eating street food whenever I want. But the truth is, I work all the time. There really isn’t a rest period. In order to support my travel costs, I have to work a regular job. In the evenings, I edit videos until I fall asleep. Everywhere else in-between, I’m on social media trying my best to promote my content and to promote Vietnam as a whole. For example, if I’m in the gym, on a treadmill, I’m on Instagram engaging with people. I write whenever I can and my mind constantly thinks about video ideas. I don’t really have a career yet; I’m still trying to figure it out by balancing the work load all by myself. But from what most people can see, they definitely admire my YouTube; and they do it because it’s a passion of mine and it shows, or else they wouldn’t watch.
What are the pros and cons for other Viet Kieu (Vietnamese-Americans) who want to move abroad for work and travel?
The pros and cons really depend on the line of work and the skills and maturity level of that person. Even, the city of residence completely matters. Everyone’s experiences are different. But overall, pros of living in Saigon include certain conveniences, like the availability and wide variety of food. Living costs, though, not as cheap as people think, still are cheaper than in the West. For example: you can live in a very comfortable and modern apartment in a safe area for as little as $600 dollars a month furnished. The travel potential of living in Saigon is also amazing. I’m writing this sitting in my hotel lobby in Berlin. Saigon is a hub for greater exploration within Asia and the rest of the world. And for me, I think the biggest pro is the fact that life isn’t boring. Adventures are just around the corner. Just the other day, I helped reunite a sister who hasn’t spoken to her sister in America in over ten years. There’s always something new, something exciting, and something different. You just have to be able to appreciate them. Certain cons include the fact that you’re far away from family and friends. It can be quite lonely at times, even if you have family around. So it’s important to make friends in the right groups. I’m not even going to mention traffic as a negative aspect, because there’s traffic in every major city, including Saigon, so it’s really not that bad. It might look intimidating with sea of motorbike helmets during rush hour, but there are ways around it, and I don’t mean by riding on the sidewalks. I’ve been to many cities with much worse rush hour traffic, so I won’t complain about Saigon’s traffic.
What are your top tips on traveling to Vietnam on a budget? (Let’s say, a 2-3 week trip?)
My top tip would be not to travel on a budget. People pay thousands of dollars for a ticket halfway around the world, and when they get to a destination, they penny-pinch more than they would in a typical day back home. I’ve seen tourists try too hard to save fifty cents in Vietnam, yet they never hesitate to spend five dollars on a cup of coffee back home. My advice would be to splurge and to enjoy yourself. It doesn’t take very much to splurge in Vietnam. You can stay in some luxurious resorts for $150 dollars a night or cheaper. And the line,” you get what you pay for,” really applies in Vietnam.
“I’m passionate about showing modern Vietnam to the rest of the world. I want people like me to realize that Vietnam today isn’t the Vietnam that their parents once lived in. I want more Americans and Vietnamese-Americans to travel to Vietnam.”
What are your top 5 destinations to see while in Vietnam?
Beyond the major cities of Saigon, Hanoi, and Da Nang, I highly recommend the following:
– Ninh Binh, for its truly beautiful limestone mountains and goat meat.
– Con Dao, for the best beaches in Vietnam, period.
– Pleiku, for its remoteness and the best chicken and rice in Vietnam.
– Ha Giang Province, for the chills you’ll get knowing you’re quite far from everything.
– Da Lat, for the climate and ease of being near Saigon. The best part of Da Lat is the landscape outside of the city.
What is your most memorable experience while in Vietnam?
I have too many memorable experiences, but they all have centered on people. One day I decided to fly down to Ca Mau because I wanted to see the very tip of South Vietnam. I didn’t have plans and just trusted random people I met in the streets to get me there from Ca Mau City. It wasn’t an easy trek. When I got to the tip, I was disappointed because it was pretty anti-climactic. But on the way back, the boatman unexpectedly stopped by a house and the rest of the afternoon was spent sipping on beers (even though I rarely drink) and snacking on little fried sweet balls and flat dried bananas. There were ducks directly underneath us and the river system acted as the perfect backdrop. These men were incredibly hospitable to a complete stranger.
Do you have any plans to return to the US or would you like to live in Vietnam long-term? Does your family support your desire to live abroad?
I would like to return to the US and I would also like to live in Vietnam long-term. I hope my life can be that flexible one day soon. My family and parents do not like the idea that I’m in Vietnam, but slowly, they’re getting more and more accepting of it. I think what really helped them somewhat understand the greater potential in this was when my videos aired on local TV in Southern California. But…I don’t think my parents will ever understand the significance of something so simple, yet complex–and that’s okay with me.
We saw some teaser images of a possible collaboration with Suboi and Kimmese. Are you able to tell us more about that project?
The images I posted with Suboi and Kimmese was during a time when I helped produce a Gregory Brothers video set in Saigon with Suboi and Kimmese. The Gregory Brothers are the people behind Autotune the News, Songify This, and many other popular viral music videos like Bed Intruder, Winning, and Double Rainbow. They traveled to six different countries and each country will be a video consisting of travel, music, food, life, and a lot of comedy. I’m looking forward to the Vietnam episode because fans of my channel will recognize my subtle and direct influences, especially with locations and a certain surprise character.
What are your biggest aspirations for your traveling/vlogging career?
My biggest aspiration for this traveling/vlogging career is to make it into a career. I just want to keep growing my channel so that more people out there know such a thing exists. I’m passionate about showing modern Vietnam to the rest of the world. I want people like me to realize that Vietnam today isn’t the Vietnam that their parents once lived in. I want more Americans and Vietnamese-Americans to travel to Vietnam. My aim is to maintain this channel so that it can keep bridging the gap between Vietnamese people abroad and the real Vietnam through food, travel, family, and daily life.