When I visited Myanmar, I did not go anywhere off the tourist trail. I started with Bagan, then made my way down to Inle Lake, and wrapped it up in Yangon. I did not do much research prior to the trip, but that itinerary turned out to be sensible as the first two places, with their bucolic beauty and simplicity of life, gave me a smooth introduction to the country that would stir up a lot of mixed emotions in me.
Of those three places, I stayed in Inle Lake the longest. From the beginning up to one day after I arrived, I felt quite unsure about my decision to spend that amount of time there because unlike Bagan, which is unanimously praised, Inle seems to be a polarizing destination. I met and talked to a fair share of travelers who even skipped it entirely. People from my own country who had visited said it is not as impressive as some of our natural lakes while people from other parts of the world flat-out dismissed it as “just a lake”.
On my first day, I took a cookie-cutter boat tour with two lovely French ladies I met at my hotel and a Brazilian guy. It felt really great to be on the lake, inhaling fresh air again after so much dust in Bagan and seeing local fishermen row their canoes with one leg. My companions were interesting, and we have great conversations about our respective travels and life in general. However, by the end of that day, Inle still did not quite capture my heart.
It was not until the following day when I stopped expecting to be wowed by everything and started immersing myself more in the normal Inle that I felt head over heels for its charms.