From the Ship

Discovering the World through World Heritage Sites: Desiree Lu

Mar 23, 2024

The opportunity to see the beauty and wonder of our world by visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites is for many participants, a highlight of a global voyage. Desiree Lu joined Peace Boat’s 116th Global Voyage as a guest educator between Yokohama and Callao, Peru to share with participants her love of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and share some historical facts as well as personal experiences. 

In her first lecture, Desiree shared with participants her journey to discovering the wonder of the world’s heritage sites. She initially studied Atmospheric Physics at the National Central University in Taiwan and the Institute of Information Engineering at the University of California. Following over a decade in the United States, Desiree returned to Taiwan, transitioning from a successful career in finance to teaching Chinese at the university level.  But as she told participants, she knew that she wanted to do something different. Her love for meeting and interacting with people and for traveling was pushing her to pursue a different career and that is how she became interested in UNESCO sites. 

The popularity of Desiree's presentations continued in her second lecture in her UNESCO World Heritage Sites series, where she focused on ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations. The lecture theatre was full as people were fascinated by her stories which combined personal anecdotes from visits to the sites and historical facts as she spoke about iconic places including Isfahan, Persepolis, the Taj Mahal, and the temples and pyramids alongside the Nile River.


Desiree’s third lecture focused on the Incas. She used photographs to explain the origins of the Inca civilization, as well as its culture, religion, and way of life, including the Inca Empire. She focused on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Machu Picchu in Peru, which many participants visited during the port of call to Callao. She explained how people at that time constructed Machu Picchu and what kind of rituals were performed there using photos. Finally, she introduced the UNESCO World Heritage sites and famous tourist destinations in and around the world-famous Andean city of Cusco which was the capital the Inca Empire and Lima, Peru’s modern capital.

Her lectures continued with a focus on Mayan Civilisation. Desiree began by exploring the famous Day of the Dead which is celebrated throughout Mexico in November, explaining its unique customs were inherited from the ancient Mayan civilization. Using examples such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Tikal ruins in Guatemala and the pyramids of Chichen Itza in Mexico, she spoke about the social system and worldview of the ancient Mayans. 

In her discussion of Greek mythology, Desiree recounted tales of renowned gods and historical events, offering insights into UNESCO sites around Athens. With the 116th voyage, travelling through the Southern hemisphere, Athens was not one of the ports of call but nevertheless, Chinese-speaking participants enjoyed her lecture on the topic in Chinese.   

One of the ports of call on the 116th Global Voyage was Walvis Bay in Namibia. Even in Africa, Namibia is often one of the lesser visited countries. Nevertheless, it boasts the Namib Desert, which stretches for more than 2,000km along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and northwest South Africa, extending southward from the Carunjamba River in Angola, through Namibia and to the Olifants River in Western Cape, South Africa, The Namib is far older than the Sahara Desert meaning it is home to some of the oldest endemic species. Participants were amazed by photographs that Desiree shared of the desert and footage of the starry sky taken by the  According to the broadest definition, the Namib and has wonderful sand ridges, dunes. When the water architect showed desert photographs taken by her photographer friend and footage of the starry sky, the audience was consistently amazed and excited for the ship’s visit to Nambia.