School’s out for summer!
By Ashima Sethi and Raksha Sachdev
Unlike competing luxury resorts, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa means business when it comes to curating a truly unique getaway for their guests, going so far as to create their own mythical history to add to the experience: Legend has it that the resort was formerly the fictional Lamarck University, a prestigious educational institute for island residents between the 1880s and the 1940s. Back then, Phu Quoc was a port town filled with sea merchants, but once sea trade was replaced by other industries, the town was left abandoned. After the university closed its doors, its spacious grounds were given a modern reimagining courtesy of real-estate developers, Sun Group. With the help of world-renowned architect Bill Bensley, well-regarded as the ‘king of exotic luxury resorts,’ the site was transformed
into one of the world’s most unique luxury properties.
Our adventure began with a short 1-hour flight from Bangkok to Phu Quoc International Airport on Bangkok Airways. With direct flights available, getting to Phu Quoc, also known as the ‘Pearl of Southern Vietnam,’ has never been easier. Once we arrived, we were swiftly shuttled to the resort in one of their comfortable vans. Upon reaching the resort gates, we were greeted by two towering Vietnamese Ridgeback dog statues, which we would soon learn represent the adored university mascot.
As we entered the airy lobby, we were immediately transported into a fairy tale world of patterned façades and intricate university-inspired décor. The elaborate architecture, coupled with the staff’s full commitment to the ‘history’, helped formed a cohesive story of a university-turned-hotel that absorbed us from the moment we checked-in. It felt like we had escaped somewhere equally as exciting as Hogwarts, but instead of Dumbledore at the helm, Dean Ty Collins, better known as the resort’s dynamic General Manager, was in charge.
The resort’s design aesthetic cleverly merges contemporary elements with old-world French architecture and subtle Vietnamese touches. Think charming colonial buildings painted in pastel palettes, and walking lanes adorned with colourful lanterns that create a dreamlike atmosphere. The guestrooms are housed in ‘Departments’ ranging from Zoology to Architecture, and feature accents like leather-bound books, patterned murals, and monogrammed furniture that allude to each subject.
We had the pleasure of staying in the Deluxe Emerald Bay View room in the Shell & Botany Department. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a large private terrace overlooking the pool and the ocean created a bright and breezy space we were more than happy to relax in, and the spacious bathroom featured an extra-large bathtub and rain shower for extra indulgence.
The resort also boasts luxurious one-bedroom to three-bedroom villas equipped with private pools. However, if you are travelling in a large group, we recommend booking the seven-bedroom beachfront Lamarck House with a seafront infinity pool, capacious marble bathrooms, and sprawling living and dining quarters.
The resort is situated on the Khem Beach coastline and has its own private beach with pristine white sand and glittering turquoise waters. In addition to lounging by the sea, guests can take a dip in one of three pools: The Sand Pool, The Sun Pool, and the Instagram-worthy Shell Pool, aptly named after its quirky shape.
The lush grounds also house a plethora of other facilities. The Physical Education Department is the resort’s fitness centre fitted with modern exercise equipment and varsity championship memorabilia that will uplift your school spirit. Moreover, the running track and football field is a stone’s throw away should you prefer to workout outdoors.
If you are looking to satisfy the senses, head to The Chanterelle Spa by JW. Themed after Lewis Carroll’s fantastical Alice in Wonderland, the lobby is adorned with suspended bicycles, antiques, and old books that will lead you down a rabbit hole of curiosity. Once you choose your favourite from a list of curated treatments, you will be led to either one of nine private treatment rooms, the sauna and steam rooms, or the tranquil foot massage lounge.
We recommend upgrading your ‘class schedule’ with some of the resort’s daily activities (listed in your ‘Student Book’). If you’re in the mood for adventure, opt for water sports such as surfing, kayaking, or paddle boarding, or go off the beaten path with a bike tour. For a glimpse into local life, sign up for a guided excursion that will take you to a nearby honey farm and beyond.
Prefer something more leisurely? Choose from options like Vietnamese calligraphy, lantern making, and mixology classes. We opted to join beachside Beer Yoga, where you can perfect easy-going yoga poses while getting buzzed off a selection of premium Vietnamese craft beer. For families, the Kids’ Club Team organise daily activities such as origami and pottery painting that can keep your little ones busy.
Be prepared to be spoilt for choice when it comes to drinking and dining. From a casual beachside bar to a fine dining experience in a flamingo-pink room, the resort has something for all discerning palates, and we recommend visiting all five outlets during your stay:
Tempus Fugit – the resort’s all-day dining outlet serving up authentic Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Western fare. Every morning, enjoy a fabulous breakfast buffet featuring continental favourites and local delights such as banh mi.
Red Rum – our favourite restaurant on the property. Enjoy the salty sea breeze with a margarita in one hand and a delicious Baja taco in the other, not to mention plenty of ultra-fresh seafood cooked to perfection on the barbecue. A special thanks to Carlos Bravo, former Head Chef of Mexicano at Rembrandt Hotel & Suites Bangkok, who made sure we never left unsatisfied.
Pink Pearl – Named in the Top 52 Restaurants and Bars by Marriott Bonvoy in the Asia-Pacific Region, the Pink Pearl is a French fine dining restaurant nestled inside an oceanfront mansion decorated in bright pink hues and embellished with glitzy furnishings. After your meal, follow the spiral staircase down into the impressive wine cellar.
French & Co. – embodying a classic French patisserie, this bakery offers fresh pastries, savoury treats, fresh coffee, and a foot-long, three-flavour bahn mi that’s a must-try.
The Department of Chemistry – guaranteed to be the most exciting chemistry class you’ll ever attend! Watch your ‘chemist’ concoct inventive cocktails and magical elixirs, or lounge around as you take in one of Phu Quoc’s jaw-dropping sunsets.
As an up-and-coming holiday destination, Phu Quoc still has the charm of an undisturbed paradise. Home
to the Phu Quoc National Park, which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2010, it covers over 314,000 square metres of evergreen forest and mountain ranges. However, if you’re interested in wandering off campus, we recommend taking the longest cable car in the world to Hon Thom Island. The ride allows you to soak in incredible 360 degree aerial views of the An Thoi Archipelago, as well as the charming fishing villages and vibrant coral reefs that surround it. On Hon Thom, an amusement park is currently under construction, but while waiting you can make a splash at the waterpark instead. TIP: leave the island by 5.30pm for a stunning sunset over Phu Quoc on your cable car journey back.
Offering over 12,000 square feet of versatile function space across six distinctive venues, the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa is a fabulous choice for a memorable event or wedding celebration. Its largest venue, the Grand Ballroom, can accommodate up to 400 guests for a banquet.
We could not get enough of the whimsical experiences that awaited us at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. Not only does the resort offer a playfulness perfect for families, but its unique mythos, charming amenities, and picturesque beachfront provide an ideal sanctuary for couples looking for a memorable private escape. With fun around every corner, it’s safe to say that this is one school we wouldn’t mind being held back at!