DEPARTMENT OF FUN
Picture perfect at every turn, this whimsical resort located in Phu Quoc’s Emerald Bay, Vietnam, is second to none
If you love the sun, sand and sea but hate how crowded some popular beach destinations have become, head to Phu Quoc in Vietnam. Unlike the bustling cities of Ho Chi Minh or Danang, this island just off the coast of Cambodia is home to an impressive stretch of unspoilt “ice cream beaches”—so named because of its beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters. Although still largely considered an off-beat location by travellers, the island recently got a luxurious addition when JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay opened last year. The brainchild of acclaimed architect and interior designer Bill Bensley (the man behind St. Regis in Bali and The Siam in Bangkok), this JW Marriott property is unlike any other in the world. In fact, this fantastical resort, which takes its inspiration from a fictional school called Lamarck University, has been described by Bensley as having “stretched the boundaries of his imagination”. “I’ve always wanted to create a resort with this theme because of the profound influence that my university studies had on my design approach,” says Bensley. Each pastel-coloured building on this sprawling campus-inspired resort represents a different school, and even the bar has been cheekily named the Department of Chemistry Bar, while the fitness centre is fashioned after a school gym. Bensley’s eye for detail is remarkable, and there are no shortages of Instagram-worthy spots to be found. Case in point: the beautiful black-and-white lobby that greets guests is elaborately outfitted with bells, busts, books and twin giant swing sets. The main street, called Rue de Lamarck, which houses several shops and restaurants, is reminiscent of the ancient town of Hoi An with its colours and architecture. And the six villas, each christened a department—ranging from Astronomy, Insect Study to Mammal Study—is thematically decorated in a single colour palette and packed to the brim with curios sourced from Bensley’s personal collection.
LEFT TO RIGHT The shell-shaped swimming pool is one of many whimsical features at JW Marriott Phu Quoc; the grand hotel lobby; the Turquoise suite; the Chanterelle spa