4,000 years old but still in working order

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Quang Tri Province's best known tourist attractions are DMZ tours, Cam Lo Market, and relics of an uprising led by a man who was crowned as King Ham Nghi in 1885, becoming the eighth emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.

But the north central province also has some lesser known gems to offer to visitors, one of them being a network of wells that is said to be 4,000 years old.

The wells belong to the Neolithic period when wet rice cultivation was practiced.

During a recent visit to Hao Son Village in Gio Linh District, we saw the network of 14 shallow wells that the Ministry of Culture and Information recognized as "the nation's historic and cultural relic" in the early 1980s.

The wells are only about 20km northwest of the town of Dong Ha, and visitors can reach the place by car.

Professor Bui Huy Dap, who has researched wet rice farming civilization and rice farming in Vietnam for more than 30 years, said the system of irrigation in Gio Linh was built in the late Neolithic period.

"It is a sophisticated system that ensured water flowed automatically," he said.

"In the higher place is a large flat area used for collecting water. Then, there is a reservoir collecting water flowing from the higher place.

"The second reservoir, which is lower, collects water from the higher reservoir which runs down through a system of bamboo tubes. And the lowest part is a large pond with canals carrying water to the farms.

A revolution during the Neolithic era in Vietnam promoted the development of rice farming and innovations in water use.

Tran Thi Quynh Nga, a local socio-cultural official, said: "The wells today are perhaps shallower than they used to be, but the water is still clear, and we can see small crabs at the bottom."

Children from the village come and bathe in the wells.


From Dong Ha Town, go north for 10 kilometers to reach Gio Linh District. Then go west for another 10 kilometers to reach Gio An, the site of the 4,000-year-old wells.

Visitors can take a taxi or book a tour at Huong Giang Tourist Co. in Hue, Quang Tri Tourist Co. in Quang Tri, or Vitours in Da Nang. These companies provide cars and guides for visitors to see the ancient wells and go on DMZ (demilitarized zone) tours.

Sandstones are piled up around their edges, and sandstone-lined canals connect the wells to farms where watercress is grown.

The wells are situated at different levels and a dozen meters apart. Water keeps oozing out of cracks in the rock.

The villagers say the water is cool in summer and warm in winter. They used it not only for washing and irrigating, but also for drinking.

"Bamboo tubes are no longer used for carrying water. The water flows from one well to another and on to the farms along the canals," Nga said.

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