The Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river. Starting in China, it passes through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before finally dumping into the ocean. Last Sunday I decided to swim a piddling part of it, 600 metres to be precise out of its total length of 4,350 kilometres.
The Mekong River Swim is an annual event organised iCan British International School. 180 intrepid souls from 22 countries turned up on Sunday morning to swim from bank to bank. I’m not a fast swimmer by any means, but I heard so much about the race that I thought I’d go and participate.
The event itself takes place just 6 kilometres upstream of Phnom Penh city. Despite it being out of the city’s way, there were still plenty of boats and dredgers right in the path of the course. Bathing upstream meant also there was the vague hope that we’d miss some of river’s urban pollution. Most of us didn’t want to think about what bacteria we’d pick up if we swallowed any of the river’s waters.
The event was well organised, with a boat bringing the swimmers over to the opposite bank. Then, on the sound of a gong, we all swam back to where we had started. The water itself was murky brown, visibility practically zero. And then there was the current that swept us sideways despite all our desperate efforts to keep our trajectories straight.
I came home in 12 minutes and 9th woman overall. Xavier Riblet won the overall race as usual with a time of 7 minutes 10 seconds.
I’m glad I went and swam in the river so that I could see what all the fuss was about. But from now I think I’ll content myself to the clean blue waters of my local swimming pool where there are no boats or faecal matter to contend with.