New Student Journey At One-Of-A-Kind University-Themed Resort In Phu Quoc | Vietcetera
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Jun 25, 2024
CultureLife

New Student Journey At One-Of-A-Kind University-Themed Resort In Phu Quoc

Is it a university or a resort? Explore JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, where luxury and intriguing tales intertwine, offering an unforgettable stay on the captivating Phu Quoc Island.
New Student Journey At One-Of-A-Kind University-Themed Resort In Phu Quoc

Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

One early June day, a mysterious email landed in my inbox, inviting me to enroll in a school tucked away in the southern part of Phu Quoc Island. Alas, I am not Harry Potter, and this letter was no owl delivery from Hogwarts. Yet, Lamarck University was an intriguing name that ignited my curiosity, prompting an immediate search on Google Maps.

Strangely, there were no results.

Instead, I stumbled upon a five-star resort boasting 231 rooms, suites, and villas on Bai Khem beach, at the very location of this supposed school. To uncover the truth, I accepted the invitation, took a flight lasting just over an hour from Ho Chi Minh City, followed by a 20-minute car ride, eagerly anticipating a peculiar 3-day stay under the guise of a “new student.”

A School Not Found on Maps

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JW Marriott Phu Quoc sits in the southern part of Phu Quoc Island, right next to the pristine Bai Khem beach. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Lamarck University is a fictional creation by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley, brought to life through the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. Like an architectural J.K. Rowling, Bensley weaves an extraordinary tale through his designs, making it almost impossible to believe that Lamarck University exists only in… imagination.

Legend has it that Lamarck University, founded in 1880, was a bastion of Natural Sciences. The school closed in 1940 but stood still in time. In 2015, architect Bill Bensley transformed this abandoned institution into the current five-star JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa.

5,000 "Pieces" from 40 Countries

What makes the tale of Lamarck University so compelling is the collection of over 5,000 antiques meticulously curated throughout the resort. Bensley's team embarked on a global journey, traversing 40 countries to gather these pieces of history, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the Lamarck narrative.

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Each antique at JW Marriott Phu Quoc was meticulously collected by Bensley's team from 40 countries. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Every item at JW Marriott Phu Quoc narrates a chapter of the school's history. For instance, sports equipment like paddles, wooden tennis rackets, faded group photos lining the hallways, and tarnished trophies in glass cabinets—all these items recount the glory days of Lamarck’s renowned sports teams.

Named after the renowned French scientist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the university pays homage to its namesake with his image prominently displayed in communal areas, including the grand lobby, which was once the headmaster's library.

As a library, it naturally houses books. Over 1,500 titles, some up to 200 years old, from around the globe are stored here. Preserved in towering wooden bookshelves that reach the ceiling, they require a near 90-degree neck tilt to fully appreciate.

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The grand lobby is flooded with sunlight, with ceilings so high you have to crane your neck to see it all. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Enrollment Guide for New Students

Lamarck University boasts 18 faculties, from natural sciences, social sciences, agriculture, to zoology and chemistry. Each faculty corresponds to a uniquely colored architectural block.

As a new student, my first lesson was to explore the campus and its storied history. Spanning 9 hectares, the campus is too vast to traverse on foot, so electric vehicles are on standby to shuttle students around.

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Each architectural block, with its distinct color, represents a faculty of Lamarck University. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa
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The school features three outdoor swimming pools near the beach, along with a running track and sports field. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

From the grand lobby, the electric car whisked me along Rue De Lamarck—a miniature version of Hoi An's old town—past vibrant faculty buildings, an outdoor running track, and finally to the Architecture Faculty building atop a hill. This is where I would "enroll" and stay for my vacation.

My room for the next three days featured a small garden facing the tranquil Bai Khem. The interiors boasted luxurious wooden furniture in rich brown tones, combined with French classical architecture-inspired patterns and shutters. The bathroom, separated from the toilet, occupied significant space, reflecting the opulence of the upper class’s lifestyle.

As part of the Architecture Faculty, the room displayed numerous photos of famous architectural projects.

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The Deluxe Emerald Bay Front room overlooks Bai Khem beach. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

For me, the most striking aspect of the room upon entry is the abundant natural light flooding in from all directions. This feature is common in all rooms at JW Marriott Phu Quoc.

At night, the room is enveloped in a warm yellow glow. JW Marriott Phu Quoc eschews white lighting, opting for numerous yellow lights with appropriate brightness for each area (there were so many lights that I spent a while discovering all the switches).

With its prime location, attentive service, and luxurious amenities, JW Marriott Phu Quoc has been continuously recognized by the World Travel Awards as Asia and the world's leading resort and spa from 2017 to 2023.

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Rue De Lamarck evokes memories of Hoi An's old town. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Beyond Lamarck: What Other Stories Does JW Marriott Phu Quoc Tell?

From Farm and Sea to Table

I "enrolled" just in time for the resort's Sustainable Culinary Week - SEAGAN to celebrate World Ocean Day and Global Wellness Day.

Blessed with a front-facing ocean and a mountainous backdrop, JW Marriott Phu Quoc is endowed with fresh, abundant, and nutritious food sources for its "students."

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Chef Li harvesting ingredients from the organic garden (JW Garden). | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

From June 6-10, the event brought together talented chefs from JW Marriott hotels in Hanoi, Thailand, and Phu Quoc to create a healthy menu using locally-sourced ingredients: vegetables, herbs from the organic garden (JW Garden), and seafood generously provided by nature to the Pearl Island.

Throughout Sustainable Culinary Week, JW Marriott Phu Quoc's four signature restaurants—Tempus Fugit, Red Rum, Pink Pearl, and French & Co.—offered special menus featuring a blend of European and Asian cuisines. Each menu was not just a culinary feast but also a lesson in creativity and sustainability.

Tempus Fugit Restaurant

Located next to Bai Khem, Tempus Fugit serves all-day dining, offering breakfast buffets and À la carte menus for lunch and dinner. It's a favorite breakfast spot for many "students."

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Tempus Fugit. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Chef's suggestion: Start light with Green Mango Salad With Bonnet Snail; for the main course, indulge in Grilled Wagyu Beef With Wild Pepper Leaves; and finish with Mango Rice Pudding for dessert.

Red Rum Restaurant

Contrary to its name, Red Rum is not red but bathed in blue from its interior to the shimmering beach views and cool breezes.

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Red Rum is an open restaurant with a view of Bai Khem, specializing in Latin American cuisine. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Chefs Ata Dikenlitepe and Thai Thanh Tuan bring a twist to Red Rum’s SEAGAN menu: Nikkei cuisine—a fusion of Japanese and South American flavors.

Chef's suggestion: Start with Crispy Lobster Maki or Phu Quoc Cobia Sashimi; for the main course, savor Chizu Tonkatsu; and end with a not-too-sweet Chocolate Mousse (my favourite).

Pink Pearl Restaurant

Pink Pearl is a pink mansion reminiscent of the America's golden Jazz Age in the 1920s, also known as the Gatsby era. This used to be the residence of Pink Collins, the wife of the first principal of Lamarck University.

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A pink mansion, every lady’s dream. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Chef Danny and his team treat “students” to a seven-course dinner paired with a creative cocktail by mixologist Quang Anh from JW Marriott Hanoi.

French & Co.

Not a restaurant, French & Co. is an afternoon tea café, serving both sweet and savory pastries, each as delightful to the palate as it is pleasing to the eye.

At French & Co., Chef Gin sources natural honey from Phu Quoc along with ingredients picked directly from the organic garden (JW Garden). Here, Chef Ploy from JW Marriott Bangkok also taught me how to prepare Tom Yum, Thailand's signature dish.

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French & Co. is an afternoon tea café, serving both sweet and savory pastries, as delicious as they are beautiful. | Source: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Chef's suggestion: Experience the full sweet menu with an afternoon tea set for two, balanced with savory items like Fresh Spring Rolls and Scallops with Mango Tartar.

Discover the "university" of Phu Quoc and experience a unique combination of luxurious relaxation and captivating storytelling at JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa via website.