The Murky Mekong River Swim

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 Logo - was just hoping that I wouldn't run into one of those creatures in the water.

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 start of the 2011 Mekong River Swim. Courtesy of

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.

Some of the swimmers battling across the mighty Mekong. Courtesy of

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.

4 thoughts on “The Murky Mekong River Swim

  1. Umm, not just any river – am torn between a big smile to think of you in the Mekong and shock that no-one collapses with some weird poisoning after the race! Sounds like a good adventure

    (and I thought to pop over today because one of the posts I did about you is gone back into the Top Three, I thought maybe you’d won a big race and I’d missed it! maybe readers from your book??)

    1. Photos aren’t mine unfortunately and could only find some from 2011. I emailed organisers for pics but no reply… Funny as I definitely saw photographers there. No matter. All it really involved was a bunch of people swimming in a river.

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