Discover The Best Things To Do In Phu Quoc With Local Wellness Expert Lilly La

Welcome to the Vietnam Is Awesome Podcast. We’ll help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences.

I’m Niall Mackay, your host. I’ve lived in Vietnam since 2016, and I’m the host of a Vietnam podcast, A comedian, and now a brand ambassador for Vietnam Is Awesome.

I came to Vietnam for a two-week vacation and was immediately taken by the beauty, friendliness, energy, and even all the quirks of Vietnam. I came back in 2016 with my wife for just six weeks, and six years later we’re still here.

In this episode, I’m talking to Lilly from Valley Village Phu Quoc. Valley Village Phu Quoc is a small family resort located in the middle of the jungle, which focuses on mindfulness and well-being.

Lilly is German, Vietnamese and has been living on the island since the beginning of 2022. Prior to that, she worked in marketing for TikTok, but during the pandemic, she realized like many others how important it is to take care of yourself and your mental health.

In 2021, she quit her nine-to-five job at TikTok to return to her roots in Vietnam to create a yoga and wellbeing hub at Valley Village Phu Quoc.

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about why Phu Quoc has grown as a destination so much and why travelers choose to go there. The best attractions to visit, and what she suggests first-time travelers do when they visit Phu Quoc.

And also any hidden gems on the island that you can’t miss!

We also talk about a handful of unique brands, bars, and organizations in Phu Quoc dedicated to travelers.


Niall Mackay: 0:15

Welcome to the Vietnam Is Awesome podcast. We’ll help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences. I’m Niall Mackay, your host. I’ve lived in Vietnam since 2016, and I’m the host of a Vietnam podcast, A comedian, and now brand ambassador for Vietnam Is Awesome. I came to Vietnam for a two week vacation and was immediately taken by the beauty, friendliness, energy, and even all the quirks of Vietnam. I came back in 2016 with my wife for just six weeks, and six years later we’re still here. In this episode, I’m talking to Lily from Valley Village Phu Quoc. Valley Village Phu Quoc is a small family resort located in the middle of the jungle, which focuses on mindfulness and wellbeing. Lily is German, Vietnamese and has been living on the island since the beginning of 2022. Prior to that, she worked in marketing for TikTok, but during the pandemic she realized like many others how important it is to take care of yourself and your mental. In 2021, she decided to quit her nine to five job at TikTok to go back to her roots in Vietnam to create a yoga and wellbeing hub at Valley Village Phu Quoc. In this episode, we’re gonna be talking about why Phu Quoc has grown as a destination so much and why travelers choose to go there. The best attractions to. and what she suggests first time travelers do when they visit Phu Quoc. And also any hidden gems on the island that you can’t miss. So thank you very much for joining me today, Lilly.

Lilly: 1:52

Hi, I’m super excited to be here. Thanks so,

Niall Mackay: 1:56

You are very welcome. So tell us, what’s the island like today?

Lilly: 1:58

it’s currently very sunny. It’s, I would say the best time to visit the island right now. so it’s, yeah, the high season from November. I would say end of March, there’s no rain. it’s sunny and dry, so the best time to go a visit Phu Quoc Island.

Niall Mackay: 2:14

I wish I’d known that in the past because my wife and I went to Phu Quoc to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary, which is in July,

Lilly: 2:24

Oh, okay.

Niall Mackay: 2:26

we didn’t realize that was rainy season. And so we were there for five days and it did not stop raining for five days.

Lilly: 2:33

Oh, that sucks. But I hope you were still able to have a great time there. what? What did you do

Niall Mackay: 2:39

We still had a, we still had a beautiful time. We were actually staying at Fusion, which we were splashing out cause it was our anniversary.

Lilly: 2:45


Niall Mackay: 2:45

and so had an amazing time there, but it got a bit, a bit stir crazy after three days of basically not being able to go outside. we had our own pool, which we’d never really had before. We had our own villa, having a nice time for our anniversary and yeah, it just rained the whole time. So that is good to know. For our listeners, if you are gonna go to Phu Quoc, make sure you go November to March,

Lilly: 3:06


Niall Mackay: 3:07

Well, so tell me a bit about then, you have a yoga and wellbeing hub and you’ve created that on the back of leaving TikTok. So tell us a little bit about how you did that.

Lilly: 3:16

so the Red Valley Village, actually, already existed since 16, but then, during the pandemic, the owner realized, that, and like the same experience I actually had in the introduction, that people really need this kinda, wellbeing wellness retreat where they can, yeah, find inner peace and focus on their own mental health and wellbeing. in the beginning of this year, we started offering free yoga meditation classes. We also collaborate with our wellbeing partner To focus, on Reiki healing, breath work and sound healing. And together we also organize our workshops and events, with, themes about mindfulness and wellbeing. We really hope that, people in Vietnam and then maybe also even quite load, know that there’s Welcoming and flourishing, yogi and spiritual community here on the island, where you can just detox your mind, body, and, soul. So yeah,

Niall Mackay: 4:15

Amazing, and it’s something that people associate with the island of Bali, right? When you think of mindfulness and yoga, is that what you’re trying to create then? A similar concept in Phu Quoc, so then people overseas will then think of Phu Quoc and think of those things.

Lilly: 4:30

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, because to be honest, if you compare, the wellbeing and wellness, offers here on the island, yet it’s still very small compared to, as you just mentioned, Bali or like the Thai islands like Koh Phangan. So our aim is to really, grow this community here and to bring wellness tourism to Island. yeah.

Niall Mackay: 4:53

That’s great. as I mentioned in the introduction, Phu Quoc, I’ve been here in Vietnam six years, and Phu Quoc has just grown and grown over that time. So why do you think it’s grown so much as a destination?

Lilly: 5:02

I would say one of the major reasons why it has grown so much is because of the huge investments made by, a lot of big corporations into the infrastructure, and especially into tourism infrastructure. And then also recent years. I know that a lot of airlines have opened up direct flights, from foreign countries such as South Korea or India to Phu Quoc Island, which I would say definitely led to an increase in the numbers of international tourists. but yeah, overall I would just say Phu Quoc is an amazing and beautiful island with stunning beaches. And, I’ve been to a lot of beaches here in Vietnam, and trust me, if I say that, you will have the best sunsets here on, Phu Quoc Island. and it’s possibly, also only the place in Vietnam where you can have both sunrise, and the sunset at the beach, which is amazing.

Niall Mackay: 5:52

That’s very true actually. Yeah, I normally can’t get up early enough to enjoy the sunrise, but I do love a sunset in Phu Quoc. Where’s your favorite place to watch Sunset?

Lilly: 6:01

Oh, there are so many places, which, where I love to watch the sunset and it’s really difficult to decide. And it also depends on what, what kind of my mood is, But usually because I work during the day, I like to prefer going to the most nearby beach at our, resort, which is, Phu Quoc Beach or Ong Lang beach. yeah. These are the nearest beaches to, to the red resort.

Niall Mackay: 6:24

Awesome. We’ll make sure that people check out those beaches. I, I should have asked this question right to the beginning, so clear something up for me. How do you pronounce Phu Quoc properly? Because I even had this discussion last week. I was in a bar here in Saigon and I got talking to a couple of Swiss travelers and I said, where are you going next? And they said, I can’t even remember what they said. They were like, something like this, like I can’t remember. And I was like, I don’t know this place. Where are you going? You had to say it a few times. I was like, oh,Phu Quoc But then I was like, some people say Phu Quoc Some people say as a German Vietnamese, how is, what is the pronunciation?

Lilly: 7:02

honestly, I would say I’m also not the best person to ask because I would definitely would say with a German accent, I think. but I think it’s pronunciated as, island. So I think you mentioned it in the second time when, where you just, introduced the pronunciation. So

Niall Mackay: 7:20

So my pronunciation isn’t too bad.

Lilly: 7:23

yeah, it’s not too bad.

Niall Mackay: 7:25

I hear the I every day. I always hear, anytime I hear somebody mention, I hear a different pronunciation all the time, and I’m never too sure which one it is. So we, we talked about, the investment in infrastructure, again, which I’ve seen. just things like the roads being built, the new airport. One of my favorite things to do in Phu Quoc is drive through the old airport.

Lilly: 7:45

Oh yeah, it’s, yeah. I know what you mean. It’s super empty and it’s such a big place to just discover

Niall Mackay: 7:53

It’s such a, surreal feeling. The first time that we were in Phu Quoc and the driver took a turn off the highway and then suddenly we’re driving down the runway of a. An abandoned airport. Like it’s such a, feels unique experience. There’s not many places in the world you can do that, we’ve done it several times. The last time we were there, we’d hired motorbikes and we’re going around the island and drove down the runway on our motorbikes. like little scooters, not really a big like on our scooters as fast as we could. It’s just, it was one of the most amazing things. Where else in the world do you get to drive down an old runway and then you can actually go into the old terminal and see it. It’s all dilapidated and falling apart. are there any plans to re redo that or regenerate that? Cause it’s a massive piece of land right in the middle of Phu Quoc.

Lilly: 8:38

to be honest, I haven’t heard about any plants in yeah, rebuilding the place. But it’s also great to leave it empty because as you said, like you don’t have a lot of abandoned places, which you can discover by your own and then just freely roam around and drive scooters or cars. So I think if it’s still, if it’s still left empties, really cool hidden gem, I would say

Niall Mackay: 9:02

agree. And most in the world that would be locked up there would be big fences. You couldn’t get in. But, in Vietnam, things work a bit differently and it’s just open to go in apart from the abandoned airport, why do you think so many travelers are now choosing to go to Phu Quoc?

Lilly: 9:16

I would say, travelers choose to go to Phu Quoc, because first of all, I think I already mentioned that is because of the beaches and the best sunset views you have. And there’s just, I would say, things to do for every kind of traveler. If you are family, if you are a couple, if you’re a solo traveler, if you are a person who is interested in history or, partying or if you are a person, who likes to eat, seafood especially. so there are so many things to do for every kind of travel. touristy places, but also still a lot of hidden and raw places for the adventurous type of person.

Niall Mackay: 9:56

Yeah. The last time we were there last year, we wa we claimed up the, there’s a, I don’t wanna say a mountain,

Lilly: 10:03

yeah. I think you are referring to Núi Đá Bạc Mountain, where I think you can have Yeah. Such a beautiful, view over the island.

Niall Mackay: 10:11

Yeah. And I feel like that’s a real hidden spot because not, we were the only people there doing it. There was, and we took our dog with us, which was amazing. There was, there’s some ladders you have to climb up and we had to pass the dog up. And it’s true. There is so much to do on the island, like you’re saying, you can party, you can do mindfulness, you can go for hiking, you can just relax on the beach. really good. So if you’re a first time traveler, just got to Phu Quoc, you’ve been in the craziness of Saigon what do you suggest you do? If

Lilly: 10:38

if it’s your first time here in I would, definitely recommend visiting the beaches here. Of course, the most popular beaches are, for example, South Beach, which is in the south or the Ang Beach. you should also keep in mind that it can be quite crowded, especially in the high season. but yeah, if you don’t like beaches, then there are also so many other things you should, visit as a first timer. For example, fishing villages, in the north. I think Called Ham Ninh. and there you can just watch and observe the daily life of fishermen. And after work you can visit one of the floating, seafood restaurants to have really good and fresh seafood at a very reasonable price. other than that, Phu Quoc is also very famous for its, fish sauce and pepper. So if you have the time, you should, check out any of these local farms and to just see how it’s, produced and yeah, to try it out by yourself. then there’s a, prison, if you’re interested in history, especially it’s a little bit of. I would say like a dark history, but it’s very informative and, educative. So definitely check out Phu Quoc Prison if you’re interested in the history of the island. And then last but not least, I think which is also really popular in Phu Quoc is the cable ride. it’s, even I think the longest cable car ride in the world and, takes you to An Thoi island. if I’m being honest, because I’m like a more adventurous type of traveler, the experience of taking the cable, car right to An Thoi Island. Feels a little bit commercial, not commercialized, but if you are looking for the best view over the ocean and also, the fishing Village, then you should definitely, try this out and do not miss this cable car right to An Thoi Island. so yeah, I think these are like one of the major key attractions in Phu Quoc Island, which you should not miss as a first timer.

Niall Mackay: 12:35

Yeah, I. About the cable car. It’s the longest cable car in the world.

Lilly: 12:38

Yeah. Yeah.

Niall Mackay: 12:40

How long has it been open for?

Lilly: 12:42

not too long, to be honest, I don’t know. I just have to guess right now, I

Niall Mackay: 12:46

I think it’s few years. Yeah. Yeah. Something like that. And I definitely recommend that it’s, it’s pretty incredible. And then you get to the end and it’s everyone get there early like everything in Vietnam really. You want to get there early to beat the crowds. I’ve been there when the beaches, there’s almost not anywhere to go on the beach and, but you can get some hotdogs, which is random. They’ve got like a hotdog seller and some beer. Obviously always beer so get some hotdogs and some, the views are incredible. really you can get some beautiful pictures there because underneath the cable car there are lots of the traditional fishing boats sit underneath there. And and the colors are so amazing. So if you go on a nice clear day with the water and the beach and the boats and you can get some incredible pictures. Tell us a little bit more about the prison and just a little bit of the history of that. We don’t need to go into too much detail because actually haven’t been, and it’s like you said, it is, it’s a dark. and sometimes you wanna be away on holiday. If you’re in Phu Quoc, you want to go and be having drinks on the beach and enjoying the sunset, you might not want to explore that side of it. And that’s one of the reasons why I have not been. but just tell us a little bit, anyone listening who’s thinking, what is she talking about this prison in this dark history? So some people will have no knowledge of that. Just explain a little bit about what that.

Lilly: 13:57

just a disclaimer, I’m not an expert in history, so maybe I will get some things wrong because it has been a long time since I last visited this prison. But what I know is that, doing the war, the south, a lot of south, a lot of soldiers from the south were, brought to this island. and they were kept, on this island in a very big prison. And, they were tortured and, yeah, handled very, how do you say that in English? in a, in very bad and poor conditions. so that’s the main, thing about the prison. And then, usc, a lot sculptures and a lot of, Scenes, like actual scenes on how, on what kind of mess methods, were used to torture the soldiers. and it’s a little bit sad to see. so if you don’t have strong nerves, it can really get under your skin, yeah.

Niall Mackay: 14:54

They’re very similar to the War Remnants Museum here in Saigon, which is just an incredible museum. and I went there the first time I came to Vietnam. It is very harrowing and it is very, uh, emotionally difficult. So it’s not someone you, you’ll like run to go to. But it’s definitely something worth checking out. And I think I do need to go visit the one in full when, next time I’ll go back, which will be hopefully very soon. Now tell me, We touched on it as well, but what are some of the hidden gems then on Phu Quoc that people don’t know about? So we mentioned the mountain, which can, you can say the name again so we know the main attractions are like the cable car as we mentioned, and, but what are some of those hidden gems in Phu Quoc?

Lilly: 15:31

In terms of beaches, I would say my top insider tip is, Dragon Beach. It’s located in the north and it’s only accessible by boat, and I don’t think there’s even like a real Google location for this beach. So it’s a very. It’s literally like a hidden gem. And if you go there by boat, there’s no development, no infrastructure at all. But on the other hand, you will have the whole beach by yourself. It’s quite peaceful away from the crowd. And yeah, I would say it’s a really beautiful and amazing experience going to this, beach because, it’s not the easiest way and you have to go by boat, but it’s definitely worth it. Yeah.

Niall Mackay: 16:12

That’s a great one. next time I come, I’ll definitely be, sending you a message to get that pin.

Lilly: 16:17

Exactly. and then, we already talked about it, but the inland of the island is also like a hidden gem because most of the people who go to Phu Quoc Island, they only go, they only discover the beaches. But, the inland of the island is mostly often missed, but it’s so beautiful. It’s full of valleys, hills, hidden waterfalls, and wide jungles. So if you have the time, I would recommend spending one day, hiking in, in the national park, or, yeah, in the inland area of the island.

Niall Mackay: 16:49

I definitely agree. It’s something that’s not promoted as much as it should be. I don’t really, when I’ve been, I’ve never, I’ve not really seen like tours being offered or, and I’m similar like what you just said. I’m gonna go to the beach and hang out and sunset, maybe the sunrise if I can wake up LA enough. But yeah. No, that’s definitely a good one. One of the ones I’ve been telling people about, it’s not really a hidden gem, but it’s on the other side of the island, is, Rory.

Lilly: 17:13

Oh yes. I love the bar.

Niall Mackay: 17:15

It tells a little bit about Rory’s then.

Lilly: 17:17

it’s located on the East coast, so it’s a little bit far from the center, but it’s a super cool sports bar located right to the beach. the owner is, is Australian. so it has a very, cool, laid back, open-minded vibe. If you enter this place, you will meet a lot of, locals, but also expats. So it’s a really cool mix of, tourists, expats, and locals. And it’s a place where you can meet easily, meet new people and just hang out, have good drinks, have a good view over the ocean. yeah, the owners are super lovely, you should definitely check it out. yeah. Yeah.

Niall Mackay: 17:54

But if you’re there, go check out. Rory is a bit, further out, you maybe 20 minutes, 25 minutes by bike or by taxi. What I love though, they’ve, they’ve built a natural swimming pool outside, is one of my favorite things. So they’ve used the existing rocks that were there, and then dug. And I remember going there before it was filled with water. I don’t know, there’s something really cool about seeing an empty swimming pool. I don’t know why, but, I was there when it was empty and it was still developing it. and so it was exciting to go back and then, be able to swim, it’s like natural. it’s so nice. and then they also have, what I love is like a mini golf course. they’ve got big screens for the tv. They got pool. A couple of my other favorite venues are the Rabbit hole Irish Sports. I’ve done some events. I’ve performed comedy there in Phu Quoc We did a really amazing comedy show there. We had about 30 or 40 people in there. It was really good fun. then the other one that’s down from there is the cheeky traveler. You know, this.

Lilly: 18:44

I heard about it, but I haven’t been, to be honest. Yeah.

Niall Mackay: 18:47

Yeah, that’s like a, it’s more of a backpacker kind of vibe almost. always got live music every night. The owners are so lovely. I’m gonna forget your name again, but she’s absolutely lovely English girl. If you’re listening, you can send a message and tell me your name, but she’s, I remember she’s from Leeds, she’s got an awesome Leeds accent and she’s so friendly. As soon as you come in, she greets you and make sure that everything’s all good. So I love the cheeky traveler, rabbit hole. if you want to get like, A backpacker feel almost, if you look into that. And then my, about one of my favorites. So for Sunset, you have to go to the Sailing Club Resort.

Lilly: 19:20

Oh, yes. yeah. Exactly.

Niall Mackay: 19:22

Beautiful, beautiful spot. so just before we move on to the final questions that we’re gonna ask every guest at the end of every episode, just quickly tell me a little bit more about your resort. What can you do there? What can you, what are the rooms like, and why people should go to Valley Village Phu Quoc.

Lilly: 19:37

So Valley Village is a small family, resort located in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by natural greenery. And what’s so unique about us is that we are a jungle retreat focusing on wellness tourism, which you cannot find that much on the island because most of the resorts are located right at the beach. And focus more on this. Yeah. Offering this kind of luxury experience. and what you can do at our resort is you can join our daily yoga meditation classes. We offer regular workshops and events about mindfulness and spirituality together with our wellbeing partner. and I would say people choose us because we offer this kind of environment where you can really relax and unwind. And if you are that kind of person who is really looking, for a place where you can escape from a stressful job or the hustle and bustle, in a big city. and just, want a weekend retreat. Then Valley Village definitely offers this place and this community where you can take it slow, reconnect with yourself and really focus on your own, wellbeing. So yeah, super happy, to be able to offer this space for anyone who’s interested in healthy lifestyle, wellbeing, yoga and mindfulness.

Niall Mackay: 20:58

That sounds amazing. Yeah, I’ll definitely be, coming over and checking it out next time I’m in Phu Quoc, which will hopefully be soon. So we’re gonna finish the podcast, with the final four questions that I’m gonna ask every guest at the end. So what is a good 24 hour itinerary in Phu

Lilly: 21:14

Okay. so for breakfast, definitely go to Nora’s, Cafe, as they offer super healthy smoothies and, drinks. And then, you should go to, nearby to Oxon Beach bar. And then have, yeah, a beautiful view of, the beach. Then for lunch, you should check out one of the seafood restaurants. you ba can basically just choose anyone on the street and just, experiment, try out by yourself. for lunch, then after lunch, go to, yeah, just hang out at the beach. I’ll yeah, go to the dragon beach, which I mentioned in the north. you can combine it with heading to, the Starfish Beach as well, where you can see a lot of starfishes, in the crystal clear water. And then afterwards we can, head to the dragon beach by boat then for dinner. head to the night market, where you have a different kinds of local food and then you can just choose any corner at the night market and have dinner there, and then end the day by heading to Rory’s Beach Bar on the west side.

Niall Mackay: 22:21

I I like it. good one. I was gonna say earlier, one of the things that, I always makes me laugh it’s an activity in Vietnam to eat seafood. So when I ask students sometimes they say, oh, they would go to or and go, what did you do? We ate seafood.

Lilly: 22:36

Yeah. Vietnamese people love seafood.

Niall Mackay: 22:38

Yeah, love it. I’m like, what else did you do? Did you go anywhere? Did you go to the beach and no, just ate seafood. And I’m like, okay,

Lilly: 22:45

Yeah, Vietnamese true foodies, foodies by heart.

Niall Mackay: 22:47

Tell me what is the local life like in Phu Quoc? Because obviously it’s not all tourism.

Lilly: 22:53

I would say it’s very laid back, compared to the big cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, there’s not too much traffic and you can actually breathe, if you’re, at the beach or in the jungle. And there’s also a super big expert community. and if you check out Facebook event, for example, locals and experts, organize and host regular workshops, meetups, and events, which I think is a great opportunity to get to know the local community and to deep dive into the culture. so yeah, check out Facebook events. But yeah, overall I would say it’s a very relaxing, laid back environment, on Island and, especially more on the west and north side. it’s even more, quiet, raw and yeah, like the hidden and authentic side of the island.

Niall Mackay: 23:41

so overall, would you say, is it a good place to live?

Lilly: 23:44

I’m biased, so I have to say yes. It’s a good place to live. I love it here. And I’m, I come from Germany and it’s so cold in Germany right now and in you have hot summer the whole year, so I cannot really complain. I love exotic fruits. For me compared to my life in Germany, it’s heaven,

Niall Mackay: 24:03

And where should Travelers go next?

Lilly: 24:06

It’s so difficult to decide, but recently I’ve been really interested about, exploring, the Mountain Northern mountains area of Vietnam. So Ha Giang would be my pick,

Niall Mackay: 24:16

Yep. That’s, definitely one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen in my life. And last question, So tell me what makes you think that Vietnam Is Awesome.

Lilly: 24:26

how do you answer that? There are so many reasons. great people, great food, great landscape. You have everything. Mountain and beaches and it’s just feels like home. It’s a home away from home for me.

Niall Mackay: 24:40

I love it. I love it. So Lily, thank you so much. You have been the first ever guest on Vietnam Is Awesome podcast, so thank you very much for coming on. I’m excited to go and visit you when I get there at the Valley Village Phu Quoc and have an amazing day.

Lilly: 24:54

Thank you so much for the opportunity. I’m super grateful to the first, guest podcast, Vietnam Is Awesome.