I had an ulterior motive for hunting out these Vann Molyvann buildings. In a city as spread-out as Sihanoukville, and with temperatures hovering above 30°C, there’s only so long you can wander around aimlessly. Looking for these buildings allowed me to see the city with purpose. Without them, I would have apathetically meandered down the interminable tourist drags before getting out as soon as possible.
That said, the buildings were well worth seeing in their own right and not just as a reason to get away from the beaches and bars. The first building I saw, a couple of kilometres northwest of the city centre, was St. Michael’s Catholic Church (above), my favourite of the Sihanoukville Molyvanns.
The church was built in 1960 and is unusual in that it survived the Khmer Rouge years unscathed – one of only two churches in Cambodia to do so.
The wall behind the alter allows in light to create an ethereal glow.
The back of the church:
My next stop took me from Jesus to another friend of the lonely and downtrodden – beer. The Cambrew Brewery (originally SKD Brewery), in the northeast of the city, is where Angkor beer is produced. Built in 1966, the brewery operated for almost a decade before being closed down by the Khmer Rouge. It eventually reopened in 1991.
I asked the security guard if I could step inside the gate to take a better picture but was shooed away.
Like many of the Molyvann buildings I’ve seen, the offices are on stilts. This is a common feature of Khmer homes – if protects the house from floodwater during the rainy season and creates a cool, shady area to escape from the heat.
The National Bank of Cambodia was harder to find so, again, I emailed Khmer Architecture Tours, who must be getting sick of me by now, as well as The Vann Molyvann Project, an organisation that is creating blueprints of the surviving Molyvann buildings (the architect’s original plans were all lost during the Khmer Rouge years). They sent me directions.
Under colonial rule, Cambodia’s money was printed in France before being shipped over, so it was necessary to build a branch of the bank close to the ports of Sihanoukville.
I don’t know to what extent it is still in use today. There were a couple of cars outside (and a sleeping security guard) but it didn’t look very busy.
The design on the building’s facade:
The incinerator for burning money:
To see St. Michael’s Catholic Church, head west out of the town centre along Ekareach Street. Take the second right after Canadia Bank, pass CT Clinic, and continue for about 1km. The church is on your right just before the T-junction. For more detail on the church’s history, see here.
The brewery is on road NH4 northeast of Sihanoukville.
The National Bank of Cambodia is next to Holiday Palace Casino and Hotel on Victory Beach. According to a sign on the side of the staff accommodation, they are available to rent.