Traffic, terrorism, TPP among top Google searches in Vietnam in 2015

By Thanh Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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A look at some of the most searched topics in the country this year
A file photo of students crowding an enrollment office of a university in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Like many other Asian countries, education is a big deal in Vietnam. It is believed that a university degree will not only be able to secure you a well-paid job but also earn you a lot of respect.
For the first time since Google first listed trending and top searches in Vietnam in 2012, the topic has made it to the year-end list. It peaked on July 19-25 when the exam scores were published.
This year the education ministry revised examination and enrollment rules, hoping to give students a better placement chance. However, the whole three-month process left hundreds of thousands of students and parents disgruntled.
Amid heavy criticism, the education minister made an appearance on a national TV network to "take responsibility" for the situation which was widely criticized as "messy" and "cruel."
 A car-bus collision in the central city of Da Nang on April 29, 2015. Photo: Nguyen Tu
With an average of 9,000 people killed in traffic accidents every year, the issue, often described as "a national disaster," is bound to be one of Vietnamese people's main interests.
The search peaked in April when nearly 1,730 accidents happened, leaving 682 people dead and more than 1,580 people injured.
The government is aiming to reduce the annual death toll to 5,000 over the next five years.  
 A gasoline station in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang
In a country where people heavily rely on their personal vehicles, fuel prices are one of the biggest public concerns.
The government has adjusted gasoline prices 17 times this year, including six hikes. That alone is enough to secure the phrase a place in the list of 2015's Google trends.
 Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province. Photo credit: Oxalis travel firm
This is without a doubt the new star of Vietnam's tourism industry.
Son Doong Cave in the central province of Quang Binh has been featured on global magazines and travel sites since it was named the world's largest cave in 2009.
When it was the main subject of the US number one morning show Good Morning America in May, the cave's reputation just skyrocketed.
More than 3,000 tourists visited the cave this year, and most of them were foreigners. A one-week expedition costs US$3,000 much higher than than most Vietnamese income. The limited opportunities to visit has apparently not reduced an inch of Vietnamese interests in the cave.
  A French policeman assists a blood-covered victim near the Bataclan concert hall following attacks in Paris, November 14, 2015. Photo: Reuters
A series of terror attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds in Paris in November too caught the attention of the Vietnamese public.
Many local Facebook users shared their condolences, joined the world trend of covering their profile pictures with the French flag, and ended up losing some of their friends who dismissed the trend as superficial and hypocrite.
"Pray for Paris" is also one of the most-searched definitions by Vietnamese.
6. IS
 A file photo of the Islamic State group's members Photo: AFP
The terrorism group known as Islamic State piqued the curiosity of many Vietnamese.
While most of Vietnamese limited their interest to looking up "What is IS" and checking the latest news about IS, a group of 13-14 year old students created several Facebook accounts under the names of an alleged member of IS.
Before police busted their prank, thousands of Facebook users followed their pages. The students' conversations with their followers which were full of challenges and threats sent the Ministry of Public Security scramble to end the jokes and issue a few warnings.
7. TPP
 Laborers work at a garment factory in Sai Dong, Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
"What is TPP" is the top searched definition by Vietnamese in 2015.
In October Vietnam finished negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with another 11 nations including Japan and the US. All the participants are now waiting for their legislatures' approval before signing the world's largest trade bloc.
Pros and cons of the deal from Vietnamese perspectives and many other related issues have been dominating local media for most of the year. 
 A poster of "Fast & Furious 7" movie in Vietnam. The film was premiered in Vietnam early April this year.
When it was premiered in April, the seventh installment of the Hollywood action series "Fast and Furious" broke Vietnamese box office's record with ticket sales of VND100 billion only after 12 days. The huge success has secured "Furious 7" the top position on the list of trending films in Vietnam.
It was, in fact, one of the only two Hollywood productions making it to the list, besides the erotic movie "50 Shades of Grey." This controversial movie had quite a rocky journey in Vietnam: it had its premiere delayed and finally only a clean cut with all steamy scenes removed could pass the country's censors. 
9. Paul Walker
 A still of Paul Walker's character in Furious 7
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can move over, at least for now. 
The "Fast and Furious" actor was the only Hollywood star in the list of top 10 trending people in Vietnam. His death was heavily reported by the local media and it was believed to be the main reason behind the huge success of "Furious 7" in Vietnam. 
"See You Again," a tribute song written for Walker, was also one of the most popular English songs in Vietnam in 2015. 
10. Balika Vadhu
 A still from Indian soap opera Balika Vadhu. Photo credit: TodayTV
You may have never heard about this Indian soap opera, but "Balika Vadhu" (Child Bride), often described as the world's longest running show with nearly 2,500 episodes, is currently the biggest TV hit in Vietnam. 
Local TV networks have for years thrived on series imported from East Asia, notably from China and South Korea. But a stronger demand from viewers for more diversity in programming has prompted them to turn to soap operas from India, Thailand and the Philippines. 
"Balika Vadhu", known in Vietnamese title as Co dau 8 tuoi, connects most strongly with older viewers. The series' stars also visited the country in overhyped events.
11. Sports and beauty pageants
A file photo of the Earth Hour 2015's launching ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on March 14. Photo: Le Thanh
Earth Hour, the annual environmental event held in Vietnam in March, was the only non-entertainment event in the list of top 10 trending events in 2015.
Sports events took up half of the list, including three tennis championships in Australia, the UK and the US.
The rest were two Vietnamese beauty contests (and yes, there were two) and one music award.

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